CARTERSVILLE — Steve McCombs marks 2007 as the year a hunger for missions took over Tabernacle Baptist Church.
“Before that, our missions involvement consisted of some youth trips and a few other isolated ones. We didn’t have a strategy in place,” says McCombs. That year also marked when he switched from being the church’s student minister to singles and missions pastor.
Since then, Tabernacle has averaged 60 people going on an international mission trip annually. Counting local outreach and stateside efforts, approximately 400-500 members take part in missions each year.
In addition, six families from Tabernacle now minister on the field overseas. They include McCombs’ daughter, son-in-law, and their three children in an undisclosed area.
Where, when it changed
On the same day the church recognized Don Hattaway’s 15 years as senior pastor, a video rcommemorated a seminal moment in the congregation’s history. For on Feb. 6, 2007, church members Perry Goad and Ric Mason died when the truck transporting them to a work site while on a Honduras mission trip overturned.
“We had a decision to make after that accident,” remarks McCombs. “We were going to either be emboldened to become a missional church, or not.”
A missional spirit did, indeed, take hold of Tabernacle. However, there would be more challenges and tragedy. In 2014, Hattaway’s son, Daniel, underwent police interrogation and almost spent a night in jail in Trinidad after forgetting he’d left some spent shotgun shells in a bag he was using on a mission trip. In the eyes of the local authorities, the shells were live ammunition. Only after a well-known local attorney agreed to represent Daniel and much intercessory prayer was the younger Hattaway released.
In another missions-related tragedy, Southern Baptist missionary Kyra Carr, who had grown up at Tabernacle, died in a car crash while in Bartow County on furlough from Italy.
“She was one of the most wonderful, godly young ladies you could know,” said Hattaway at the time. “She was energetic, kind, articulate, beautiful, and a great mother and wife.”
Kyra and her husband, Reid, had been set to fly back to Italy with their three children the day after the accident. Their return to the field would have marked the couple’s third term of service.
“Those times were tough for the church,” McCombs remembers. “But, the Great Commission calls us to be committed and do what Scripture says. We’ve experienced heartache, but we’ve also experienced the blessing of being obedient to Christ.”
Opportunities born out of heartache
A mission fund set up in honor of Goad and Mason has drawn numerous people to Christ, said McCombs in a video marking the anniversary.
“Since that day we can celebrate what God has done,” he testified, adding that $662,109.47 has since then been collected for a missions fund. In return, it provides church members the opportunity to take part in missions and, more importantly, share the Gospel with more people worldwide.
“The mission ministry at Tabernacle Baptist Church is thriving,” McCombs added. “And as I think about … that many people have been introduced to Jesus Christ, the Ric Mason/Perry Goad Mission Fund has been a major part of that.”
Hattaway’s support and leadership has been instrumental, he added in a conversation with The Index.
“He’s a great companion in what we do and been involved in missions. Don has a real good relationship with the people we work with in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. He’s also invested in the families we have on the field, having provided encouraging messages to them last summer when we gathered those families in Italy.”
In the video Mason’s son, Scott, testified to how though he still misses his dad, it helps to see Ric’s earthly life bringing others to an eternal one as church members continue fulfilling the Great Commission a decade later.
“Ten years is a decade of growth and healing and God’s blessings over our lives,” he said. “To see what has become of the memory of my father in that time [brings] more healing as well.”