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On a Mission

Fresh faces were streaked with fresh paint.

Smiles beamed in the bright sunshine of a June day, its heat tempered by an occasional refreshing breeze.

For about 150 participants from area churches, Monday was the start of the 10th annual Mission: McDuffie -- an opportunity to serve the area's needy with paintbrushes, hammers and nails, saws and shingles.

For Mattie McGruder, the two adults and nine young people who showed up at her Poplar Street home to paint her deck and carport were heaven sent.

"This is a blessing from God. I just thank God for this," she said as the youths grabbed paintbrushes and began covering her deck in white.

Bill Beckum, an apprentice coordinator at Thomson High School and a member of Thomson First United Methodist Church, and Lindsay Dunn, youth minister of Sweetwater Baptist Church, tried -- with limited success -- to make sure their enthusiastic young workers got the paint where it was supposed to go. Some of it ended up on the grass, some of it on clothes, hair and faces.

"It's a lot of fun," said Paige Knox, a home-schooled senior and a member of Sweetwater Baptist. "It's one of my favorite activities with the church in the summer."

Anna Carrington, a rising freshman at Thomson High School and a member of Thomson First Methodist, was spending her second year with Mission: McDuffie.

"It makes me feel like I'm doing something good for the community," she said as she applied paint to latticework along the side of McGruder's deck.

Out on Hobbs Mill Road, Cedric Climons, a recent Thomson High School graduate, was part of a crew building a wheelchair ramp. Last year, he said, he worked on a roof.

Climons, who plans to enter the Marine Corps in August, said he welcomes the opportunity to help the needy.

"A lot of people are unable to do this," he said.

Abby Schaeffer, a home-school rising ninth-grader from Sweetwater Baptist, was one of three girls working on the wheelchair ramp.

"There are guys with muscles, and there's me," she said.

What motivates her to participate in Mission: McDuffie?

"Just being able to be God's hands and feet," she said.

The youth worked under the tutelage of Larry Kent, a former carpenter who gave instructions from his wheelchair.

Kent, who said he has been disabled for 30 years, was in his fourth year with the mission.

"I enjoy it," he said. He said the youths are taught skills they might not otherwise learn.

On Harrison Road, near Thomson High School, another crew was putting a new roof on the home of Marjorie and Henry Roberts. The group included Rebekah Bolton, a senior at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, who said she has seen changes during the eight years she has participated in Mission: McDuffie.

"The projects have changed a lot," she said, noting that in the early years the work consisted mostly of painting.

More people and more churches are participating, said Bolton, a member of Marshall Baptist.

At a kickoff rally at Thomson First United Methodist Church Sunday night, the Rev. Bruce Poss, a disaster relief coordinator for the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, also remarked on the growth of Mission: McDuffie.

"I was here when it started," said the former youth minister at Marshall Baptist. "It's good to see how it's grown and how the Lord has used it."

Poss, who was to speak to participants during worship services the first three nights, said the four-day mission brings the body of Christ together to serve, which is in reality a form of worship.

"Worship ... is actually submitting ourselves to God for his use," he said.

The Rev. David Harbeson, the minister of music and youth at Dearing Baptist Church and one of the project's principal organizers, said at least 15 churches were represented this year.

"I might have missed one or two," he said, "but I know there were 15."

Although the first day was a bit slow starting, organizers were generally pleased.

"It went pretty well," the Rev. David Lambert, the minister of youth and Christian activities at First Baptist of Thomson, said Monday. "The first day's always little hectic."

Harbeson said it was "a good day."

"Once we got started, things went good."

Web posted on Thursday, June 09, 2011

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