Central Baptist Church in Decatur celebrated two milestones Jan. 16 — the 75th anniversary of the church’s Serving Center and the commitment of its longtime director.
Eva Nell Hunter was recognized for 64 years of service to the church’s library ministry (now called the Serving Center because the resources have expanded beyond books).
Hunter, who served 61 of those 64 years as director, recently retired from the full-time post but plans to volunteer occasionally under current librarian Patty Easterling.
“It has been a joy,” Hunter said. “All I’ve done is what I figured the Lord wanted me to do.”
Lonette Berg, executive director of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, said Hunter “did the thing that people think cannot be done, not for herself — she did it for children, she did it for young people, she did it for adults, she did it for the community — but most of all, she did it for the honor and glory of God.”
‘Faithful to the work’
Berg presented a plaque to Rob Hatfield, senior pastor of Central Baptist, during the special service.
“You have an amazing library, an amazing service center,” she said. “In fact, I would venture to say that it’s unmatched in all of the churches that I’ve been in, and that is because you have been faithful. You’ve been faithful to giving, to providing volunteers, to doing the work.”
More than 30 ministries are housed in the Serving Center, including die-cutting, displays of dolls and items from around the world, lamination, a card ministry and a church history collection.
It is open to the public, and local educators and classes make use of the services.
One unique ministry is Bible repair for well-used Bibles, fixing the pages back in place and providing a new leather cover at no charge.
Berg showed the church her repaired Bible.
“This Bible is my favorite Bible — 30-plus years old,” Berg explained.
“I found out that one of the things that they did in the Serving Center is to repair Bibles. [Mine] was worn out; the pages were coming loose and would get out of order, and the cover was worn. It just looked awful,” she said.
“I brought it up here and asked Miss Eva Nell, ‘Would you repair my Bible for me?’ They did that and now it looks beautiful, and I’m sure it will hold up for another 30-something years. I just hope I do!”
Another example of Hunter’s dedication is her work with Jonathan Spears, executive pastor of Central Baptist.
Spears had only been at the church a year when he approached Hunter about including more information about discipleship.
Upon hearing that, Hunter jumped in and offered to create a special area of the library just for disciple-making resources.
“She quickly got two shelves put up and got some signs made that designate that as the disciple-making area of the library,” Spears remembered. “We worked together to figure out what books need to go in that section.
“She has such an eagerness and willingness to come alongside the church as a whole.
“She’s always gracious and appreciative,” Spears said. “Her passion for the Lord and for His Kingdom work is evident in everything she does.”
Hunter also organizes the North Alabama Church Library Conference every year, with at least 100 attending from Alabama and surrounding states, and she has started libraries for missionaries overseas in years past.
“When [my husband and I] knew we were going to another country, we would look up the missionaries there, and then we would call them and ask, ‘What is your greatest need?’ and invariably — they had no idea what we did — (they’d say), ‘We’d love to have a church library,’” Hunter related.
And because of her perseverance, noted by several as the main attribute they learned from her, she always got those libraries started.
Amanda Thompson, assistant librarian at the Serving Center since 2005, shared about one library at a seminary in the Ivory Coast.
“Since she wasn’t going to be able to go on that particular trip, we were going to try to help with some of the cataloging,” Thompson recalled.
“We had the computer program they were going to be using and a list of the books they had. The only problem was all the titles were in French. We went through the list and translated all the titles into English so we could get the right Dewey number for them.”
Rob Jackson, director of the office of church health for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and former pastor of Central Baptist, also participated in the January service.
“Eva Nell is one of the most Christ-loving, missions-minded, pastor-supporting and diligent-serving persons that I know,” Jackson said.
“She has given her life to furthering the gospel through her library ministry. As she served with me at Central Baptist Church, I was often amazed at her tireless work ethic. Everything she does is always with excellence.”