Volunteers rebuild burned church

Lynn Kutter
Arkansas Baptist News

PRAIRIE GROVE – Dark, cloudy skies on Saturday, Aug. 25, did not deter more than 45 volunteers from rebuilding a Baptist church destroyed by arson last spring.

The workers were on hand to build a new worship center for Illinois Chapel Baptist Church, located in a rural area about 15 miles from Fayetteville. The church’s historic sanctuary was destroyed by arson April 20.

Pastor Lynville Eaton stood amazed as volunteers from his own church and Prairie Grove Christian Church worked all day to rebuild the church’s worship center. The first volunteers showed up at 7 a.m., and many stayed until 5 p.m. By the end of the day, workers had framed the 1,400-square-foot building, covered the 12-foot walls with plywood and set trusses in place overhead.

Remains from the old sanctuary were hauled away, and the new building is located on the same site.
“It’s just awesome that so many people came out on a Saturday,” Eaton said. “It was fantastic seeing this take place.”

The church’s sanctuary was more than 100 years old. Della McKee and her husband, Coy McKee, are long-time members of the church, and she has an old photograph of her husband’s father going to school at the church in 1914.

Della McKee is looking forward to the new addition, but the loss of the sanctuary is still hard.

“There are a lot of memories there,” she said.

However, she said what one person told her is true: “The church will have a new worship center, and new people will come to it. That’s what we’re praying for.” Like Eaton, McKee was overwhelmed by the work of volunteers Saturday.

“Oh my, I cried a while, and chills went down me. We just have a lot of good people here,” McKee said.
She and other church members cooked breakfast for the volunteers, fed them ribs and barbeque for lunch and supplied them with snacks and cold drinks throughout the day.

Vance Eubanks, pastor of Prairie Grove Christian Church, said his church usually rebuilds two homes each year in areas struck by natural disasters. He said it was a natural extension of this ministry to help Illinois Chapel this year.

“This is a community effort. They are a part of our community, and we like to be involved in community,” Eubanks said. “We have lots of people who like to do this. As followers of Christ, it’s what we do.”

Eaton said the old sanctuary was insured for only $75,000. The church will have to rebuild the worship center with as much volunteer help as possible and through donations.

Already, many churches and individuals have donated money to help the church. And donations are still coming in, he said.

Just the week before, Eaton said a man handed him an envelope with two rolls of money. The donor did not give his name, just told the pastor, “Use this wherever it’s needed,” turned around and left.

One roll had $30 in it. The second roll had a $1 bill wrapped around other bills. When Eaton unwrapped the money, he counted $500.

“Where this all comes from, it’s a God thing,” Eaton said. “That’s all I know. It has to be the Lord.”

No arrests have been made, but the fire is still under investigation and remains at the top of the list, according to Washington County Fire Marshall Dennis Ledbetter. The suspects painted satanic symbols and sayings on the church before setting it on fire. Since the fire, the church has held its worship services in the youth building/fellowship hall.

Lynn Kutter is the at-large correspondent for the Arkansas Baptist News.

Arsonist strikes rural Prairie Grove church Read
Photo Gallery: Illinois Chapel Baptist Church View


Dixie Jackson: Generational poverty prevalent in Arkansas

Leah Fender
Arkansas Baptist News

LITTLE ROCK – In an effort to understand and minister to those who live in poverty, 150 people representing 60 churches across Arkansas attended the Poverty 101 conference Aug. 18 at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) Building.

“This was the first year we had a conference like this,” said Breck Freeman, ABSC missions ministries team member. “Poverty is prevalent across our state, and if we’re going to do anything about it, we need to understand it and learn how to minister to those who live in poverty.”

Mindy Jamison, who serves with the North American MissionBoard and the Baptist Convention of Iowa in inner city Des Moines, Iowa, as the state CCM consultant and the co-director of the Friendship Baptist Center, spoke at a recent Mississippi ministry meeting that Freeman attended.

“After hearing her (Jamison) speak on poverty, I felt led to educate Arkansas churches on poverty and in turn find out how we can minister to those people,” Freeman said.

Freeman even managed to get Jamison to serve as conference leader.

“I think the conference was a huge success. We’ve had lots of positive feedback,” Freeman said.

The goal of the conference, Jamison explained, was understanding poverty culture.

“Poverty can be defined in two ways. One is situational poverty when there’s a death, divorce or other event, and the other is generational poverty where two or more generations live in poverty and a mindset begins to develop,” she said.

Poverty 101 focused on generational poverty, rather than situational poverty.

Mike Prince, pastor of Garage Church, Hot Springs, and conference participant, said with generational poverty “the poverty has more to do with relationships than with money.”

“That’s where the real problem is, and that’s where we need to focus,” said Prince.

“This is a huge subject. We need to apply some wisdom to it, and I think that in the past we’ve thrown food and used clothing at it, but it’s so much deeper than that,” said Prince.

Prince explained that sometimes people have to step back and evaluate what’s working and what’s not.

“We don’t want to waste God’s resources that don’t actually help people. We are trying to evaluate all the parts of our ministry through those eyes,” said Prince.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s website, 18 percent of Arkansans are at or below the poverty line, compared to 13 percent nationwide. Since poverty is so prevalent in Arkansas, Freeman hopes this conference gave churches lots of ideas on how they could help those in their communities that are plagued by poverty.

“This conference was birthed out of our team’s vision and commitment to assist churches and associations to impact lostness from their doorstep to the ends of the earth, but more importantly Arkansas Baptists who continue to support ministries such as this by giving to the Cooperative Program and the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering. We were thrilled that churches left the conference thinking of additional ways they can impact lostness in their communities with the gospel. We look forward to hearing how these churches continue to make a difference,” said Robby Tingle, ABSC missions ministries team leader.

Contact Leah Fender at


Mountain Home pastor Mike Shy dies in motorcycle accident on Labor Day

From KTLO radio:

ShyA motorcycle accident yesterday on State Highway 235 in Marion County claimed the life of a well known Mountain Home minister. Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery confirmed this morning that the department's long-time Chaplain Dr. Michael Shy, who is senior pastor at the East Side Baptist Church, was killed in the accident yesterday.

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Groups ask Arkansas court to strike marijuana measure from November ballot

LITTLE ROCK – A lawsuit has been filed to get the medical marijuana proposal off Arkansas's November ballot. The Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values filed a lawsuit with the Arkansas Supreme Court today, asking the court to remove the measure. Coalition members include Larry Page of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, Jerry Cox of the Family Council Action Committee, Bill Wheeler and Alan Talburt of Families First Foundation, and Bob Hester of the Arkansas Family Coalition.

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Arkansas Baptist disaster relief units deploying to Louisiana following Isaac

ARKANSAS BAPTIST State Convention disaster relief units will be some of the first to serve in Louisiana as a result of Isaac – the tropical storm turned hurricane.

As of press time, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) disaster relief feeding unit No. 1 was being deployed to the aftermath of Isaac to Kenner, La., according to Don Pucik, ABSC associate executive director. The shower unit from Geyer Springs First Baptist Church, Little Rock, is expected to be located at Kenner, along with the recovery unit from The Church at Rock Creek, Little Rock.

Additionally, volunteers from Red River Baptist Association, Arkadelphia, and Liberty Baptist Association, El Dorado, along with the First Baptist Church, Ozark, shower unit and Caroline Baptist Association recovery unit are expected to serve at Gentilly Baptist Church, located near the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary campus.

In addition to providing up to 50,000 meals a day, volunteers will be sending out recovery and chainsaw crews and providing shower and laundry units for people displaced by the hurricane in the New Orleans area, said Pucik.

Related story: Southern Baptist respond to Isaac Read