Teenagers lend a hand
By By Janet Little Cooper
Atmore's population has grown in number this week as 36 children, teenagers and adults from Blue Ball, Pa., have converged on our fair city to lend a helping hand.
The group from Blue Ball Church of the Brethren is in town for the churches annual summer mission trip.
The group has been to Montana, Canada, South Dakota and Haiti in summers past helping to build and rebuild churches, but this week's trip to Atmore could possibly be the best mission yet.
This particular mission is special because they are working side by side with their own youth leader's parents while being able to explore his old stomping grounds as well.
Atmore native Dale Gehman and his wife Darlene have been living in Pennsylvania for 13 years now while working with the church youth group.
Gehman's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Marty Gehman, a pastor and business owner in Atmore just happen to be a part of their son's mission trip this year.
"Each year the youth take a week out of their summer to participate in a summer mission trip," Dale Gehman said. "This year's trip was scheduled for Pass Christian, Miss. I had not been to Atmore since the hurricanes and we came home recently for my parent's 50th wedding anniversary and realized the extent of the damage to the city. At that point I realized that we should be helping our own people and town instead of in Mississippi. It ended up that the area we were scheduled to go to had more than enough help and we were able to be released from that assignment."
Gehman had to work fast to get the trips itinerary changed for the new location. The youth didn't mind the change of venue – just as long as they were able to help someone out.
The group traveled from Pennsylvania in a charter bus they rented from the Mennonite Disaster Service arriving in Atmore Saturday afternoon to begin work on their youth leader's home church – Gospel Light Church located on North Trammel Street.
Gehman's father Marty, is also the pastor of the church, living in the church parsonage located adjacent to the church.
The group plans to work all week replacing the windows in the parsonage as well as refurbishing the windows in the church.
"I was amazed at how Atmore has changed," Dale Gehman said. "It was surprising to see how the hurricanes affected the area. We are here to help my home church restore itself physically, but our main goal is to also encourage our fellow believers. It is really good to be home and to be able to help my hometown."
The teenagers are excited about helping out Gehman's family as well and are learning new things each day about their leaders southern heritage.
"It has been nice for the group to see the rich heritage here," Gehman's wife Darlene said. "Sunday they were treated to a pure southern lunch after church. They were able to try foods they had never even heard of before and it was really neat to see them experiencing these things for the first time."
This week is Jordan Brubacker's first mission trip. The 15-year-old said that he has always wanted to visit the south.
Atmore has proved to be the perfect stop for Brubacker to get a good dose of southern living.
In addition to working full days at the church, the group has also gone to Perdido Key to swim at the beach and is going tubing down the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Magnolia Reserve in Flomaton.
"This is my first mission trip," Brubacker said. "It has really been fun to be together as a group helping people. We can get more done as a group and hopefully have a bigger effect."
Gospel Light pastor Marty Gehman certainly agrees with Brubacker. He believes that his church body would have taken all week to accomplish what this group of teenagers has done in a days work.
"The storm really damaged the windows of the parsonage and church causing leakage and would easily blow out if we didn't get something done," Gehman said. "This is every bit of an answered prayer. We don't cease to marvel at the speed this group of teens is working. They are working together so beautifully. Whatever they are told to do they do."
"We wondered if they would get all the windows done and they are doing it," Gehman said. "They have already replaced the parsonage windows and are doing repairs inside the house now.
Gehman believes that the group has taken on an overwhelming job that most people would not be able to endure.
"To see young people giving of themselves in this way is wonderful," Gehman said. "This is not fun, but they are making it fun. It shows the characteristics of the families they come from. They are making me young again. I am a 70-year old pappy feeling young again because of these young people and their enthusiasm. It has rekindled an admiration for the oncoming generations that there are still some young out there who care.
The members of Gospel Light Church cannot believe what they are seeing.
"What these children are doing is just a tremendous witness of what Christ has done for us."
The Pennsylvania groups work has not gone unnoticed. Channel 10 News featured the group on their Tuesday evening broadcast.