First Baptist Gulfport Meeting & Greeting New Neighbors

The congregation of First Baptist Church Gulfport is getting a jump start on being a good neighbor. The church won't move to its new location on Highway 605 until Spring, but church members are on a new neighborhood mission that includes the help of volunteers.

"Are y'all comfortable going two by two?," asked the sponsor.

Then two by two the Youth Group of First Baptist Church of Lake Alfred set out with questions in hand.

"Is there anything a volunteer team could do for you? Yard work? Construction?" a Florida teen asked.

The teenagers wanted to know how people in this Gulfport were doing nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina.

Marissa Fawcett said, "Passing out surveys to find out what we as a church can do everybody around this area."

The volunteers are working on behalf of First Baptist Gulfport the church that is moving to the area next year.

"We're trying to be a little strategic about targeting this area because there is such a need here right next to the river where they had so many houses washed out," said Rev. Brian Upshaw, an associate pastor of First Baptist Gulfport.

"We're trying to help this area by doing surveys in the community to see what needs to be done. To show that as we are relocating this way we're going to be good neighbors to the folks in this area."

Once the church finds out what the needs are, volunteers do their best to meet the needs.  The surveys not only ask whether people require physical labor like yard work but also if they have spiritual needs like prayer or a church home.

"We think it's important the people around this area of Gulfport don't see a church as a building they drive by, but they see a place where we want to build authentic relationships with our friends and neighbors and that our neighbors become our friends," said Rev. Upshaw. "So we can introduce them to the most important friend they can have and that's Jesus Christ."

The volunteers say it feels good to reach out to those who need a hand..

"I've gotten more confident to talk to people about Christ and it's been a very good experience," said Fawcett.

Another volunteer, Megan White, said, "It's been a big deal to be able to get out of that comfort zone and get out and share the news of God with everybody and how much he loves us."

The volunteers from First Baptist Church Lake Alfred have also been visiting nursing homes sprucing up a neighborhood park and playing with children living in FEMA trailer parks.