Profiles in Faith: Hearts for missions at Etha Baptist Church

Etha Baptist Church

2016 mission trip to Nicaragua

CULLMAN – Etha Baptist Church can be a little hard to find: it has a Cullman address, but is located about midway between Fairview and Eva.  It may be a challenge to figure out where they are, but the people have a clear view of where they're going: to their neighbors' homes, to Fairview's schools and  park, and eventually to Nicaragua.

Etha, a congregation affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, is one of the older churches in the county, organized in 1883.  It currently averages 170-200 on Sundays, with an eight-member staff.  Its programs include active youth and children's ministries, along with addiction recovery on Thursdays and Bible college classes on Monday evenings.  The church even has teams specifically tasked with making new visitors feel welcome, and with staying in touch with those visitors afterwards.

Pastor Timothy Lipsey shared about his church:

"We're a growing church.  We've seen God do great things this year.  Since I've been here, we've been a pretty strong church.  We've been involved in the community; we've done free car washes for people, we've put on events like Rick Burgess, and we had several thousand show up for it at Fairview High School.  We do countless ministries.  We feed the teachers every year at Fairview High School, feed the football teams.  We put on a free movie at the park, and we're platinum helpers for the fireworks on the 4th of July at Fairview Park.  We do a lot of missions work.  We have a lot of missionaries that we support, on top of supporting the Southern Baptists.  The North Alabama Bible Institute's out from under Etha Baptist Church–me and Dr. Chambers (First Baptist Church Fairview) co-founded it.  We've just got a lot of positives going on."

Mission work is a big emphasis at Etha, and the church has members who believe in more than just signing checks.  In the last year, they have sent two teams to Nicaragua to support ministries in that country.

Lipsey explained, "We are working with Open Hearts Ministries.  We carried a team last year of about 15 that went to Nicaragua in the summer; and then in October me, my wife, my youngest son, Miss Jo Anna (church administrator) and her husband Bobby and daughter Shay, we traveled back to Nicaragua and stayed about five days on a mission trip."

This coming June, Etha will make another journey to the Central American country. 

"We're actually carrying two crews," said Lipsey.  "We're carrying a crew of 10 that's going to be a construction crew, and we're going to help build a feeding center, and we're going to help put water in.  It's actually a farm that'll supply the food for the feeding center.  We're going to build a bigger kitchen, put a whole new roof on this farm's house, and do some adding on to it, to where it is able to sustain what we're trying to do in growing that ministry down there.

"Then we're going to carry another team that will go down, and they're going to do door-to-door salvation stuff: they're going to present the Gospel.  That's a 20-person team."

Mission work takes prayer and commitment, but it also takes money; in this case about $5,000 to purchase needed construction materials and supplies.  In order to raise those funds, Etha will be holding a series of fundraising events, starting on Friday, Feb. 24 with a barbecue at the church.  Pulled pork or chicken dinners will be available for $10, and sandwich plates will be $8.  Meals will be served from 3-7 p.m.

Lipsey shared about his fundraising goal, "What we're trying to do is get all the construction material bought and finished; and when our team gets down there onsite, we want to be able to go to work, and in our week of being there we want to be able to finish it.  And then we've got other fundraisers that we're doing to help people get on the mission team, and be able to go if they can't afford to go on a missions trip."

Lipsey also spoke about the impact of mission trips on his church: "It is one of the best things to go.  As a pastor, it helps me to sit back and look at what we're not doing here in America.  We get over there and, man, it changes your life to see people really thankful and people not caring to minister.  The Christians really jump in there to minister.  Then we get back over here, and it shows us what we're not doing, because we're not trusting in God and we're not doing some things; we become more complacent.  I want to see our church come out of being complacent, and step out more into doing mission projects in the community.

"Our motto is 'A Real Church for Real People Serving Jesus,' and we want to be that.  We want to be a real church.  We don't want to be a church that's not doing nothing for the Lord, and sitting back and waiting on something to happen.  As pastor, it's just been a blessing to be here going on 13 years."

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