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Go Day

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By Brenda Locklear

One day last month, a group of men were in the bank parking lot, changing the oil in cars. Strangers were approaching customers at Bushnell laundromats and ... offering them free quarters.

There were strangers in the park too, cooking up hamburgers and hot dogs and inviting everyone to lunch - for free.

For the community, they were experiencing the annual First Baptist Church of Bushnell Go Day - a day to go, serve and teach. The day was designed to send members out to serve the community, reaching out to people they encountered and all based on verses from the Holy Bible's new testament, where Jesus sends the disciples into the world, according to Elliott Crandall - the church's student youth pastor.

He said it's based on the "parting words from the man and from the God, they call savior."

Crandall said it was Billy Ray who started the event and passed it down to him last year. Ray is the head of missions work for the church and is currently out of the country on a missions project.

Crandall said they did a little tweaking to the annual event and headed out to get to work.

"We started focusing more on the relationships with people," rather than the work they were doing for the people.

"A lot of our outreach focused on the work," he said.

So we have a team that went out to Kenny Dixon Sports Complex, led by Roy Ponder - they were serving up Fellowship in the Park with free lunch and conversation, he said.

Park visitors were invited to free hamburgers, hot dogs and plenty of fellowship.

Crandall said a number of families responded and the group even served dessert with ice cold popsicles.

"We're really just trying to connect with people and let people know we are here and that we're here to serve them," he said.

They had enough food to serve about 50 people a the park.

Another group gathered up their quarters and hung around the laundromats in Bushnell, giving them to customers to pay for their wash loads.

If you wanted to really save some time and cash, you could start the washer and head for the park to eat a free lunch, while your clothes were getting a free washing.

"Some people were set, some would just take enough for a load," said Crandall of the folks they encountered at the laundromat.

A little east of the park, some of the members where were offering free labor for those who needed an oil change. Drivers got an oil change for $19, after their $5 discount from Advance Discount Auto Parts, who works with them on the oil changes.

The crew changed the oil in the parking lot of the Center State Bank.

Crandall said they want to tweak that and really provide for people in need, so they're working toward being able to pay for the oil and do the labor, next year. He said they might do something like provide cards that can be turned in for the oil change.

Elsewhere in town, residents experienced lawn clean up and for others, it was an in-house concert.

There was also a group who went to visit at Osprey Point Nursing Center - whatever the need was, congregation members were working to help meet it.

"Overall, I think they really enjoyed it, I'm even just remembering some of what we heard last year," he said of the public's response.

He said one woman asked if they were going to be doing it every week.

And while they aren't able to do it every week, he agreed with the woman, who he quoted as saying, if they couldn't do it every week, they "should do this more often."

"I tend to agree," he said.

There was even a group of congregation members who headed to Bushnell Elementary School, where they cleaned moss and worked flower beds, as well as pressure cleaned.

Crandall said some of the participants had been keeping an eye out for other members who needed help, but wouldn't ask for it, so they even ended up helping some congregation members.

They had originally planned to do a sweep through the city, maybe just knocking on people's doors and they may do that next time, but this year, they were already aware of specific needs before they started out.

At the laundromat and park, they also gave out information and invited people to church.

"We kind of challenge people to try and experience something you've never done before," he said, explaining that one member learned all about one of the local agency after participating in Go Day.

Go Day helps congregation members come to know people in the groups they are serving, what their needs are and how to pray for them, he said.

As for the crew, "We planned to feed 80 workers," Crandall said of the volunteers.

"After church, we provide a meal," it saves folks from having to go home and they were set to work from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It's usually the last Sunday in September.

The church has two services and GO Day used to mark a change in their seasonal schedule, when they would move to two services, from one.

The services are at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.

The early services is blended and Sunday school follows at 9:45 a.m.

The 11 a.m. is a little more contemporary and where they're experimenting with new things, Crandall said.

Their pastor is Doug Watkins.