For twenty years, the motivated and deeply loved First Baptist Church (FBC) of Orlando Mission Team has sacrificed their vacation time and resources to faithfully come serve on The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) campus. This year, it was the second full week of June that the Orlando volunteers caravanned to Graceville filled with energy, sweet spirits, and enthusiasm. According to FBC Orlando Mission Team Coordinator Jim Wortham and his hardworking wife, Ms. Pat, this year’s Mission Team consisted of 77 volunteers. The driving force behind recruiting volunteers and encouraging participation, the Wortham’s wanted to make sure this year was special for the team based on the completion of twenty successful years serving on the campus.
Successful they were, starting each day with breakfast and a special time of prayer and devotion, followed by a few words of instruction from Wortham. The hard-working teams began their list of projects early as the sweltering heat of June greeted them each morning. From 8:30 a.m. until after 5:00 p.m. each day, with only a brief lunch break in the middle, the mission volunteers completed every task including cutting two large trees that unexpectedly fell during an afternoon thunderstorm. Their work ethic, cooperative efforts, and diligence in completing every task was incredible. It was truly a labor of love as adults and motivated young people tackled projects such as trimming and shaping bushes, cutting down trees, painting inside and out, remodeling buildings, pressure washing, cleaning apartments, and several getting up before everyone else to prepare cold rags, ice water, and Gatorade. From Christopher Martin’s “prayer partner” board to FBC Orlando’s Missions Pastor Patrick Barrett leaving his busy schedule drove up one day from Orlando to cheer on these faithful servants and jumped right in to work bringing his three children to serve as well. As a matter of practice, most of the team members have children who come along with their volunteer parents, learning first-hand the true meaning of mission mindedness.
FBC Orlando’s unique “family-oriented mission team” was able to enjoy several fun activities while serving on the BCF campus. During the mornings, all of the children participated in what they lovingly refer to as GBS (Graceville Bible School rather than the traditional VBS-Vacation Bible School). Their activities were held in the BCF Wellness Center and led by several team members and older children in the group. They learned more about Jesus who taught us to serve others. Additional fun activities were provided by everybody’s favorite Bill Keller to include a scavenger hunt, a Graceville 3K, and the incredible design of the team t-shirts!
Adding to the annual festivities, BCF President Thomas A. Kinchen and First Lady Ruth Ann host a dinner for the mission team at their home; however, this year with the thunderstorm overhead, it was quickly relocated to the campus dining facility, the Deese Center. This has always been a sweet time when the Kinchen’s show their appreciation for all of the hard work by the Orlando volunteers to include Ms. Ruth Ann’s famous fourteen-layered chocolate cake. “The visit from our FBC Orlando family is a homecoming in the best sense of the word,” stated Kinchen. “We have literally watched some of these children grow up during our journey together. Each year, we look forward to the time when we can renew old friendships and begin new ones. This year was especially bitter-sweet as we celebrate twenty years together.”
This year’s special time with Dr. and Mrs. Kinchen was filled with laughter and tears as the group celebrated twenty years and acknowledged Kinchen’s upcoming retirement in December 2022. The group presented Kinchen and Mrs. Ruth Ann with the annual team t-shirt (this year it had Kinchen and Wortham on it driving work vehicles) and a memory book of pictures taken over twenty years. Both gifts will be treasured for years to come.
As expected, the week brought much activity, sweat, long hours, sore muscles, aching feet, and major improvements to the BCF campus. The Orlando Mission Team was seen all over the campus working hard, dodging the rain, playing with the children, and efficiently checking projects off of their to-do list. The Orlando Mission Team always bring a smile and excitement to the BCF campus.
For twenty years, the hard work and campus improvements completed by these servant volunteers save the college enormous resources that can instead be reallocated to send more students on mission trips and provide scholarships to train those called to “go”. For more information on campus mission projects or to learn more about the degrees offered through The Baptist College of Florida, contact 800-328-2660 ext. 460 or visit the website at baptistcollege.edu.