Ted Burnsed, director of missions at First Baptist Church of Richmond Hill, answers the questions this week:
Q: What has your experience been in regards to outreach locally and globally?
A: I have learned that no matter where you go, whether around the Richmond Hill/Savannah area or globally, that people are the same, with dreams, hopes, and needs and struggles. We may come from different backgrounds or cultures, but we are a lot more alike that we would imagine. Things that we might do for someone that seems insignificant, like giving someone a bottle of water, a child a piece of candy, or someone a piece of clothing or a sandwich and just telling them that you care about them and their well-being can have a lasting impact. You can run into someone who you helped once years later and they still bring up the encounter when you first met them and did something for them.
Q: How has Eleos evolved over the past few years?
A: Eleos began in 2010 as an idea we had been considering for a couple of years. There are several great service resources in Bryan County that have been operating for some time and we didn’t want to duplicate an outreach that already existed in our community. However, we began seeing more and more people showing up on our doorstep due to the recession a few years ago and felt like there apparently was a need for additional resources in our community. In 2009, like a lot of people in our community, I would have thought it impossible that homelessness and true poverty exists in our community. It didn’t take long for me to see that this was not the case. The need for these services continues to grow. Our Senior Pastor Scott Speer returned to Richmond Hill in 2010, and also brought a vision for serving our community providing basic resources and services for those struggling to provide for their families both materially and spiritually. We chose the name "Eleos" because it is the Greek word for mercy and compassion and believed that it fit with what we hope to accomplish, to not just feel sorry for someone who is struggling, but to truly do what we can to help them through a difficult time and hopefully move on to something better for themselves and their family. Eleos also encompasses our global outreach ministries including a 16-year partnership with an organization working in Jamaica and a new initiative that we began in 2014 in Haiti.
Q: How does this impact those in our community?
A: We believe that the impact of our ministry has been a success. Many times, it seems as though serving the community in this way doesn’t work, since many of those we serve are suffering from a cycle of poverty and need that has been generational, within a family, and not situational due to a medical catastrophe or job loss, or maybe divorce. However, we have seen people who have come back to us with stories of how the assistance they received helped them, sort of like a stepping stone, to a better life situation. The opportunity to connect and work with other groups providing services in our community has also helped as we receive donations and referrals from other groups who may not provide the same services that we do.
Q: What is the glue that holds this element of service together?
A: Besides the success stories that we hear, the greatest thing about Eleos is volunteer participation from our church and community. Volunteering at Eleos is not restricted to members of First Baptist Church. We have some volunteers from the community which is great and we would love to have more if anyone is interested in serving. Without our volunteers, there would be no Eleos.
Q: What do you hope to see for the outreach missions here in Bryan County?
A: In the future, we would like to see a greater availability of services in our community. The needs are here and will grow as our community continues to grow. Right now, there are a lot of services that we have to send people to Savannah for. Hopefully the various groups in the community can continue to work to see this happen. We have a great community, and a lot of people willing to help when there’s a need. Having a United Way office in Richmond Hill the past few years has been great.