Church carries presents to children still feeling effects of Hurricane Michael

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Members of Faith Baptist Church, Bowman line up at the Hartwell Walmart with tubs containing toys for each child to be helped through Christmas for Gulf Coast Kids. In addition to a Bible, every child will also receive a new bicycle that will be taken to Callaway, Florida this Saturday. FBC/Special

BOWMAN — Jamie Callaway remembers joining fellow law officers in the fall of 2005. Hurricane Katrina had devastated New Orleans and surrounding Gulf areas. In the middle of getting supplies to stricken residents and building relationships, Callaway also took part in providing Christmas presents that year to some 100 children in Pass Christian, Miss.

Thirteen years later an even more powerful Gulf Coast storm, Hurricane Michael, would smash Florida before churning its way across southwest and central Georgia. Callaway, now pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Bowman, wanted to help. He proceeded to contact a friend he’d made through law enforcement who was now a minister in South Florida. That friend, in turn, connected the Georgia pastor with an Assembly of God congregation in the coincidently-named town of Callaway, Fla., just east of Panama City.

Pastor Jamie Callaway of Faith Baptist in Bowman stands with children at the church’s Dec. 9 Christmas celebration. Some of the children in the picture will be accompanying others this Saturday, Dec. 22, for the seven-hour trip to Florida to distribute toys. FBC/Special

“Their facility received a lot of damage and they needed a place to gather to worship, but also help in distributing goods to the community,” said Callaway. “I called around a found a tent that could help.”

David Boyd tries out a new bicycle that will find its way to a Callaway, Florida child. FBC/Special

Faith Baptist Church is a rural congregation of around 80 regular attendees in Sunday School. Nevertheless, the church bought a $9,000,40’ X 80’ tent that could help Floridians struggling in Michael’s wake. Once the Assembly of God church is back in its building, Callaway says Faith Baptist will keep the tent available for similar circumstances in addition to other uses.

A hand for Christmas

But Callaway wanted to continue to give in the same way hislaw enforcement brethren did post-Katrina. Enlisting the help of his Florida minister friend as well as other churches and businesses, Faith Baptist set a goal of raising $10,000-$15,000 toward Christmas for Gulf Coast Kids.

It began with a Nov. 18 Facebook post about the effort and has since smashed expectations, as $28,000 has come in.

“The church in Callaway had gotten 80 names of kids and families needing help,” said the pastor of Faith Baptist. “We went and bought presents for all of those kids, including a bicycle for each one. We’re also going to be giving gift cards to families. This Saturday about 40-50 of our church members, including some of our kids, will take the presents to Callaway where we’ll have a big celebration.”

This Saturday about 40-50 of our church members, including some of our kids, will take the presents to Callaway where we’ll have a big celebration.”

Alysa Brown helps load a bicycle onto the Faith Baptist Church trailer. FBC/Special

On Dec. 7 the Hartwell Walmart got to be a part of the outreach, as Faith Baptist members filled the aisles of the toy section and gathered $150-$175 worth of items for children. A special checkout line had to be created to accommodate the train of around 40 carts, each with a tub of toys and Bible. “The employees were so good to us,” praised Callaway. “They took their time to stand there and check out each toy.”

Callaway urges others to not forget about those still hurting from Michael’s damage. “I talked with a friend in the Chipola Baptist Association in Marianna, Florida. They still have trees down all over the place. Homes are severely damaged. Their community has lost over 1,000 jobs and they don’t know if those jobs will be coming back.

“They have a ministry center at the Association and are giving out toys as well. We’re going to try and buy as many toys as we can and take them some as well. I’d love to load an entire trailer to take to them.”

Callaway urges anyone wanting to help to reach him at (706) 988-9357.

“We want to continue to cultivate a spirit of generosity at Faith Baptist,” he added. “Missions is the heartbeat of our church and how the Lord leads us. I see God providing for others.”

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