From the rural backroads to the ends of the earth, Randolph Baptist Church has discovered joy in going “beyond the walls of the building” to share God’s love.
Church member Kim Milstead said, “It is important for a church to show God’s love beyond the walls of the building,” even in something as simple as a shoebox. The more than 150-year-old church is located in a small community of around 1,000 residents in central Alabama about 50 miles south of Birmingham.
For several years Milstead had been actively involved in the church’s collection of Christmas shoeboxes, which are distributed through Samaritan’s Purse. Even community residents have participated in filling shoeboxes with gifts for needy children in the world. From 2015 until 2019, the church has donated between 150 and close to 300 shoeboxes annually.
Taking a different approach
“Then, COVID hit, and we had to take a different approach,” she said. Prior to COVID-19, the church drew a regular attendance of about 120.
In 2020, when pandemic restrictions halted the church’s collection of Christmas shoeboxes, the church rallied around a $20,000 goal to help construct a church building in Bolivia. The effort was a “monumental challenge” for the rural church with a post-pandemic worship attendance of about 80 people, said Pastor Tony Reynolds, who has served the church bivocationally for 11 years.
“It’s not the size of the church, it’s the size of our God that matters,” Reynolds said.
If church members reached the goal, the church would match the funds collected. “God showed out,” and church members gave $22,000, Reynolds reported.
This year, the church in Bibb Baptist Association is doing even more. In addition to collecting Christmas shoeboxes, the church is also collecting funds for construction of another church building and giving generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
“God does mighty things through the least likely vessel,” Reynolds said. “It’s not about us; it’s about Him. It’s amazing what God has done through our church.”
Church member Judy Miller agrees. “I think this is a tremendous witness as to what a rural church can accomplish,” she said.
“The dedication and generosity of Randolph Baptist Church are evidence of a church with a heart for God ready to help spread the gospel.
“We are the church. We are so blessed. Take the gospel to the people,” she said.
As church members have been challenged in their generosity, they have been strengthened in their faith.
“It seems like God is working on us,” Reynolds said.
One year, the number of Christmas shoeboxes was lower than Milstead’s expectations. “That year was probably the year I learned the most. My focus was not on God but on the number of boxes. I was strengthened in my faith by learning that God was in control, not me.”
Partner in the gospel
Randolph Baptist Church is “a great partner in kingdom work,” said Bill Russell, associational missionary for Bibb Baptist Association.
“This body of believers is faithfully doing its part to fulfill Acts 1:8,” using “its time, talents and treasures to reach, teach, win and develop” people in the local community and rippling out into the world, he said.
“This congregation is faithful to support Alabama Baptists’ and Southern Baptists’ efforts to make a difference in our world.
“It doesn’t seem to be a matter of size as much as a matter of being obedient to the Lord and discovering what He will do with obedience,” Russell said.