For the past eighteen years, a volunteer mission team from First Baptist Church (FBC) Orlando, Florida, have sacrificially given of their talents, time, and resources to serve on the campus of The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) in Graceville. Passionate about serving on mission at BCF, the volunteers worked at tasks such as pressure washing, painting, installing and finishing drywall, installing new tile in Graceville Hall, installing new windows, landscaping, organizing, and cleaning.
In addition to the yearly tasks the team completes, this year's team helped with several larger projects. The FBC Orlando team helped organize, box, and store over 80,000 books that were displaced from the Ida J. McMillan Library after damage from Hurricane Michael. The team also took on two projects related to campus housing as they replaced windows, painted, and remodeled the Eastlake dormitory and made repairs and improvements to the Lee House. Mission team volunteers made significant progress on new projects on campus such as helping construct dressing rooms in the campus store, Izzy's Isle. And just like in past years, the group provided Vacation Bible School (VBS), known as Graceville Bible School (GBS) in Graceville, for some of the younger team members on campus.
The FBC Orlando team not only worked hard, but were able to enjoy each other's company as well. Each year, the evenings of fellowship are a highlight among the team members. The evenings consisted of a "home-grown talent" show, a Tuesday night BBQ at the home of BCF President Thomas A. Kinchen and First-Lady Ruth Ann Kinchen, a worship service in which Kinchen detailed his vision for the college and encouraged the team, and a week-in-review slideshow highlighting the team's accomplishments.
After eighteen years of service to the BCF family, the FBC Orlando mission team is as passionate as when they began. The all-volunteer mission team started with twelve members and has now grown to almost seventy members this year, with some years as many as a hundred working on the campus. Members range in ages from three to their eighties, with some of the children having grown up coming to BCF each year. "We love coming to the campus. The passion is contagious," one team member stated. "It is so exciting to be a part of the vision that Dr. Kinchen has laid out," fourteen-year team member Pam Ward stated. Marilyn Withrow, a twelve-year veteran herself, agreed, "I'm so impressed with what the school does and what it stands for and if we can free them up to serve the students then that's great."
When asked why the team keeps coming back, team leader Pat Wortham said, "We keep coming back because we feel like we are needed and we realize the mission of the school, and we like to serve. It's a fun place to come." Others had a one-word answer, "Watermelon."
It is clear to all who witnessed their work, that the FBC Orlando team has a heart to serve and has left an undeniable mark on the BCF campus. "The volunteer group from the First Baptist Church Orlando has become legendary at The Baptist College of Florida," stated Kinchen. "Those of us who have the privilege of working with them, know these folks as family. We look forward to seeing them come to campus and hate to see them going back to Orlando. When the group packs up to leave, they leave us with many great memories and a greatly enhanced campus. One of the great things about being so close to this group is the opportunity to see the kids grow. We have met some of them when they were toddlers, and now they have grown up to become fine young adults. While the young folks have grown up over the years, the older members of the group have not aged at all! I thank our Lord for the loving hearts and working hands of these great family members of His Kingdom and our College."
The hard work and campus improvements completed by these volunteers save the college countless hours and resources that can now be focused on providing scholarships and meeting the needs of students as they prepare for areas of leadership and ministry.
For more information on campus mission projects or to learn about the exciting degrees offered through The Baptist College of Florida, please call 800-328-2660 or visit the website at www.baptistcollege.edu.