By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

On Saturday, November 3, all of Athens has an opportunity to come together and build community by serving each other. The rallying point will be a wonderful event sponsored by Athens-Limestone Ministerial Alliance (ALMA) in connection with local churches, organizations, businesses, and a international charitable organization called Convoy of Hope.

By way of history, Convoy of Hope has been serving people in the states as well as abroad since 1994. It was started by the Donaldson family in order to show gratitude for the way people ministered to them after their father, Harold, was killed by a drunk driver in 1969. Now it is part of the missions focus of the Assemblies of God denomination, and as I sat in the planning meeting held at New Life Assembly here in Athens, my heart rejoiced over the fact that people of faith from all over our area are coming together in order to work together. About two years ago, ALMA members began to talk about doing something together to show the love of God in a practical way to people in Athens-Limestone County. ALMA’s slogan is “Unity, Community, and Fellowship,” and they were putting the finishing touches on all the details that go into making a community outreach event successful. The local Convoy event is being headed up by New Life’s pastor, Jason Parnell. Jason was already very familiar with Convoy of Hope, and told me that he was so glad that “ALMA’s desire to do something together” was just about to come to fruition. Put another way, “It’s more than a moment, it’s a movement.”

Since Convoy was formed nearly 25 years ago, over 100 million people have been helped world-wide. As this article goes to press, they are part of the response teams helping in the aftermath of Hurricanes Florence and Michael, as well as the tsunami in Indonesia. Thankfully, in Athens we are not in the middle of recovering from any disasters, but that does not mean that there are not people all around us needing help. Freddy Leonard, a life-long resident of Athens and member of Lindsay Lane Baptist Church, told me that he had realized in a whole new way how important Convoy’s work is, and said simply, “It’s time to give back.” He has been heading up marketing for the event. Everyone at the planning meeting made it quite clear that this is about “us serving the community together, not about any one church.” They also were quick to thank the City of Athens for how supportive and gracious their involvement has been.

The 2018 event is going to be held at Swan Creek Park, 101 Swan Creek Dr. in Athens, beginning at 10 a.m. and going to 3 p.m. Convoy always refers to those who attend the event as “Guests of Honor,” and there will be a number of goods and services available and ready to be distributed. These include groceries, a hot lunch, and free shoes for kids. Convoy of Hope has donated 1500 pairs of shoes just for this outreach, and someone has also anonymously donated 150 more pairs of shoes which will be arriving soon. There will be flu shots, blood pressure screenings, dental screenings, and HIV/Hepatitis C tests. There will also be staff from Bradford Health Services for those struggling with substance abuse. There will be representatives who will focus on the needs of veterans, people who can give haircuts, and folks who will be ready to pray with and for anyone who asks for it. There will also be employment information for those seeking jobs.

In order for an event like this to roll like a “well-oiled machine,” there is always a need for an army of volunteers, and while the response so far has been encouraging, ALMA is still looking for people of all ages to come out and help. If you are interested in volunteering, you can go to the Convoy of Hope Limestone County Facebook page, go to the Event webpage www.convoy.org/limestonecounty, or call the New Life Assembly of God church office at 256-232-6119. To quote the page, “Hope starts here in Limestone County — your community, your neighborhood. The Convoy of Hope Community Event in Limestone County is just the beginning of a long-lasting movement that has the power to transform people's lives, inspire compassion and service, and bring people and organizations together like never before.”

Come and join hundreds of helpers and Guests of Honor on November 3, and discover the “blessing of blessing and being blessed.” Or, as Pastor Jason says, “It’s a relational event—if you love on folks, lives will be changed.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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Athens Now Online 2019