Community unites for in-county mission effort
by Marie Nesmith
Jul 13, 2014 | 2424 views | 0 0 comments | 70 70 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Logan Bearden and his mother, Debbie, share a laugh on the deck of their Cartersville home Wednesday afternoon. SPLASH Bartow participants are building a ramp to provide Bearden greater access to his gazebo’s swing, which is a source of relaxation for the 16-year-old, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Describing the construction gift as “life changing,” Debbie Bearden was overwhelmed with gratitude Wednesday as the sound of pounding hammers and power tools enveloped her Cartersville backyard. Last week, SPLASH Bartow volunteers built two wheelchair ramps to provide her son, Logan, greater access to their gazebo’s swing. The recreational activity is a source of relaxation for the 16-year old, who is nonverbal and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

“Logan loves to swing, so last year SPLASH Bartow actually came out and built him [what] looks kind of like a gazebo and that’s where we put his swing. But it didn’t have a floor in it, so it was just really muddy,” Bearden said. “So they’re putting a floor down now and they’re actually making him a ramp where I can just wheel his wheelchair right up to it. ... It’s such a blessing to me. It’s not only a blessing that they’re coming to help me — being a single mom, I’m so limited to what I can do — but it’s also the interaction with Logan. It’s amazing at how the kids have just taken to him and how he’s taken to them and these [volunteers] are kids his age.

“... It just means so much to me. I can’t even tell you in words what all it means really. Before they started work on it, the gentlemen had prayer. The kids even said that it’s a reality check for them because it makes them realize how important it is to help people that can’t help [themselves]. ... I just want them to know how grateful I am because without them this wouldn’t have happened.”

The 12 youth assisting at the Bearden residence were among 450 middle- and high-school students participating in SPLASH — Show People Love and Share Him — Bartow Tuesday through Friday. Along with conducting Backyard Bible Clubs, the in-county mission work ranged from visiting assisted living facilities, interacting with children at a special needs camp, and performing housekeeping, construction and yard maintenance tasks at residences and nonprofits.

In its seventh year, SPLASH featured participants from more than 40 churches of various sizes and denominations. With female volunteers taking shelter at The Church at Liberty Square and Oakland Heights Baptist and the males staying at Grace Baptist and Tabernacle Baptist, the young participants also attended evening worship services.

“SPLASH is a multi-generational, local missions experience to encourage primarily teenagers to get out and serve their community and to do it for a lifetime,” said the Rev. David Franklin, who serves as the SPLASH Bartow director and the associational missionary for Bartow Baptist Association. “It started in 2008 and we had 156 students sign up from 18 different churches and now we had 450 kids sign up in three hours from over 40 different churches, plus you have over 300 adults helping out.”

Since its inception, SPLASH has attracted about 2,550 volunteers participating in more than 650 projects. This year’s program consisted of 36 teams, with each group composed of 12 youth, two team leaders and a site coordinator. With an emphasis placed on inspiring students to assist others beyond SPLASH Bartow, Franklin said it is rewarding to see many former participants continue their volunteer efforts.

“I was in a meeting last night and here’s all these kids that started in SPLASH and now they’re back serving as team leaders, and that’s really fun [to see],” Franklin said. “We actually have a summer intern this year and he was in the very first SPLASH and he’s in college studying to be a student minister. ... [It] is really fun to see people continue to come back and serve in SPLASH that have started off in SPLASH.

“The world continually tells a teenager that you’re the center of the universe, but we don’t believe that. We believe that God says you are created for a special purpose. But it’s not for you to serve yourself, it’s for you to make an impact with others. Our theme this year is ‘remade.’ It talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, it says you may be in Christ ... a new creation. God has given him a ministry and we want every kid to think, ‘You know what, I’ve been made not to serve myself, but I’ve been made to make a difference in other people’s lives. So we want them to catch the idea of going out and serving.”

As referenced by Franklin, Daniel Nally — a former SPLASH Bartow participant who served as the effort’s intern this summer — found direction through his initial work with the local initiative. Helping plan the latest SPLASH Bartow, Nally, 19, hopes the mission experience continues to help its young volunteers understand the importance of helping others.

“As a student, I participated in four SPLASHes,” Nally said. “I attended the very first SPLASH in Bartow in 2008. What I most enjoyed was just the time where I could go out into the community and just see how [important it is to] give back to people’s lives, just see that the hard work we put in was definitely not in vain. It definitely touched people’s hearts. Just mowing the lawn and helping older ladies and going to nursing homes, just seeing the smiles on their faces, it just made it very encouraging to participate in it.”

A 2013 graduate of Cartersville High School, Nally is a rising sophomore at Toccoa Falls College, studying youth ministry.

“[SPLASH Bartow] actually gave me more of a heart for ministry and it was one of the key reasons that I decided I wanted to go into youth ministry, just to train young people and youth so they could go out and change the world, really,” Nally said. “So SPLASH was a key stepping stone for that, just being [able to help others] and wanting to do that for the rest of my life.

“... [I hope this year’s volunteers] take away that what they do and how they live their lives impacts others for Christ and what they do actually makes a difference in this world. I hope that what we do this week, [they] will be able to carry on throughout their entire lives, that every day they’re able to show people love and share the name Jesus Christ.”

While the concept of SPLASH originated in Bartow, the mission effort has inspired spinoff offerings in other areas, such as Macon, Carrollton, West Virginia and the Caribbean.

“One of the secrets to making an impact is people working together,” Franklin said. “To see something that is across denominational lines is very significant, but [it also is significant when] churches within a denomination [are] working together. So we have over 40 churches working together [in SPLASH]. When you take well over 300 volunteers from across denominational lines [from] all these different churches, [it] is really amazing. [SPLASH Bartow] is an all-volunteer force. Nobody got paid. All the people in Bartow County, they just did it for free, which is huge.

“One of the greatest stories that came out of SPLASH and there’s been a bunch of them [was] the kids were doing a $1 car wash where they advertise a car wash for $1. People show up and they wash their car and then the kids give them $1 instead of taking $1, which is really pretty funny. So they told [one man and he] was like, ‘No, you’ve got to take my money.’ And they said, ‘No, no, just give it to somebody else’ and the guy went into the Dollar General on [Highway] 113. ... Somebody didn’t have enough money in their account to pay [for] their food or [other items and] this guy bought this family the food they were trying to buy.”

Franklin continued, “So what we’re seeing is [it is fun] to see these [volunteers work] together and [when] it starts having an impact in the community where it catches on. ... And [when you see] different counties doing it, different places doing it, that’s a fun thing but that’s God’s [doing]. That’s just like [our SPLASH], that kind of [effort] is contagious.”