Southern Baptists offer yard work, gospel message to East Topeka residents

Southern Baptists offer yard work, gospel message to East Topeka residents

Most folks try like the dickens to get out of work on Saturday mornings in the summer. 


Yet a group of around 150 Southern Baptists from Topeka and northeast and east-central Kansas turned out for their annual Serve Day this past Saturday in the capital city, doing work for people they didn’t even know.

In spite of the effort entailed in Serve Day, those who took part seemed glad to be at the event.

What was the best part of the day?

That might be hard to nail down.

First, there was the weather — a cool, pleasant day for June 24 in Kansas, and with low humidity, a joy to be working outdoors.

Then there were the abundant sunshine and sparkling blue skies overhead.

Food was in abundance for both volunteers and neighborhood folks who showed up for a large block party in the parking lot of True Light Baptist Church, 2046 S.E. California Ave., which served as headquarters for the event.

Then, there was the feeling of accomplishment that came from getting some work done around the church and in neighborhoods in the East Topeka community.

But if you asked those who took part in Serve Day, most would probably tell you the best part came from getting to share their love for Christ with the Topeka community in real, practical ways — while working side-by-side with other like-minded people.

Serve Day is sponsored by the Flint Hills Association of Southern Baptists, which includes churches in the Topeka area.

It has been held each summer for the past five years, moving to a different town each year in northeast Kansas. Previous serve days were held in La Harpe, Atchison, Madison and Lyndon.

Those who volunteered on Saturday wore brightly colored green shirts with “Serve Day” printed on the front.

The project is similar to other endeavors in which various churches come together to serve the Topeka community.

Except in this case, all the churches were members of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15 million members in the United States.

“The main goal is to share the love of Christ within this community,” said the Rev. Gregory Durant, pastor of the True Light church, as the event was just about to begin. “So we’re going to be doing things like prayer walking, yard work and clean-up in various houses and even apartment complexes within the community.

“We’ll also do some things around the church property here, and then we’re going to have a big block party that’s open to the whole community.”

In advance of Serve Day, organizers drove through neighborhoods in the vicinity of S.E. 21st and California Avenue to identify locations where help may be needed. Organizers knocked on doors to see if volunteers could do yard work once Serve Day rolled around.

The Rev. Doyle Pryor, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Topeka, said organizers had identified 16 homes where chores such as lawn-mowing would take place.

Additionally, Serve Day organizers joined forces with the American Red Cross to install smoke detectors free of charge in homes that needed them.

In the process of the work, Pryor said, volunteers would look for opportunities to share their faith in Jesus Christ with people they met during Serve Day.

“Jesus never did miracles without message,” Pryor said. “Miracle was always attached to message. Our goal is that, today, we would be able to go out, do some good, but then let them know the reason we do that good is because Jesus has done good for us. And because he changed us, it makes us want to serve them.”

Pryor noted the multicultural component of Serve Day, as the host church, True Light, is a predominantly black congregation.

Also serving as a host congregation was a new church that held its first service on Easter, a Spanish-language congregation called Centro Biblico el Camino, located across the back parking lot southeast of the True Light church. The Rev. Jonathan Castillo is pastor of the church.

Caleb Smith, a member of Lakeside Southern Baptist Church in Silver Lake, echoed Pryor in saying the goal of Serve Day was to help people in practical ways while also sharing the Gospel.

“I hope that we’re able to meet people where they are and find needs — tangible, touchable needs,” Smith said as the event got underway. “We just want to be able to bless them by helping with the skills that we have, the abilities that God has given to us, and through that, be able to start a relationship and open a conversation that hopefully will lead to telling them what we know about God.”

About 20 members of the Lawrence First Southern Baptist Church assisted with Serve Day, as they were headed home after a week-long mission trip in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Members of the Lawrence group helped with various projects, from yard work to prayer walking to setting up for the block party.

Loki Wilson, 14, a member of the Lawrence group, said he was looking forward to getting started on his Serve Day projects.

“I hope that we’ll reach some people with the Gospel and show Christ through our actions,” Wilson said. “I’m going to be prayer walking, where we walk up and down the street and pray for all the houses we go by. If we have chances, we’ll hand out fliers about the church and about the Gospel.”

The event lasted into Saturday afternoon, and by the time it was finished at 4 p.m, many volunteers were looking forward to doing it all over again next year.

“It was good,” said Richard Taylor, director of missions for the Flint Hills Association of Southern Baptists, which covers a 21-county area in northeast and east-central Kansas. “I’ve already had a lot of people asking where we going next year.”

Taylor said a date and location haven’t been set at this point, but he hopes to have those details decided in the near future.

Contact Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195 or follow live reports @Philreports on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at