East Ridge Church of Christ has taken up the challenge by Jesus in the book of Matthew to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”
To date, the congregation has begun 40 churches in Nicaragua, Panama and Russia.
Last month, they supplied one of those — in Niquinohomo, Nicaragua — with a permanent home, the 18th it has built for churches it has helped start.
“We had a small congregation there,” said Allen Womack, an elder at East Ridge Church of God. “When it gets large enough, we try to build a building for them.”
The building is 21 feet by 60 feet, regulation size for approval by the Nicaraguan government, with an auditorium and a classroom taking up the majority of the space. The auditorium will seat 150, he said.
The congregation, Mr. Womack said, takes three annual mission trips. One, in February, is a building trip. The two others are in June, one involving medical assistance and one providing a vacation Bible school for Nicaraguan children.
Twenty-three people went on the most recent trip to the town, which is in the eastern half of the Central American country.
The McBrien Road church had been working with the Niquinohomo congregation for about five years, Mr. Womack said. The Nicaraguan congregation, which numbers about 20, had been renting a building prior to the recent work, he said.
Most of the mission trip volunteers were East Ridge Church of Christ members. Two were from Dothan (Ala.) Church of Christ and one each from Chattanooga Valley and Red Bank churches of Christ.
A small crew of Nicaraguan workers had started the building, laying its foundation, Mr. Womack said, but the Chattanooga area crew laid concrete blocks, bent rebar and did other jobs to further the effort during its week there. The Nicaraguan crew will finish the work, he said.
The mission trip was the first for five members of the crew. One of those was Georgia state trooper Joe Gass, whose wife and daughter had been on previous trips with the church.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “The living conditions of the people kind of shocked me, but it’s surprising how happy you see the people (are). It makes some of the things you worry about and gripe about seem kind of trivial.”
Mr. Gass, 44, said he helped hand concrete blocks and form rebar to solidify the construction.
“I enjoyed being with the other (team members),” he said. “I enjoyed making things better for somebody. It really made me have a different view on things. I appreciate what I have a lot more.”
Mr. Womack said the Nicaraguans love to see the teams come and still look up to Americans, but the team members often get more out of the trip than the people they serve.
“The people that go, it really makes a difference in their life,” he said. “We try to get as many young people as we can to go on the campaigns to see ... how poor they are but how happy they are. It also lets us realize how blessed we are with what we have.”
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...