Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Demolition + Teenagers + God + Civil Rights History = An Awesome Week

Today's Wonder of the World is...A Work Trip to Farmville, Virginia!

Tell me, please, what teenager doesn't love hanging out with a bunch of other kids for a week, tearing down buildings and building them back, eating too much fast food, and seeing history first hand?
Okay, so the kids could probably skip the history part. Unless they went with Todd and Sarah on a mission trip to Farmville!
Ever since Todd and Sarah returned home and started telling me about the life stories they found there, I knew I had to share it with you. I'm not even a history buff--that's Todd's department, yawn yawn--but what happened there moved me. It may move you too.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the Beulah African Methodist Episcopal Church of Farmville, Virginia.

Flickr photo by Ireed7649
A few months ago, our youth minister, Frank Smith, went to Farmville and asked a group of pastors if any area churches could use some help with construction needs. The kids were coming to the area anyway for youth camp the week before and would welcome the opportunity for five more days of service. Anyone need 100 kids and chaperones?
Reverend Wade of Beulah AME raised his hand.
He wasn't kidding. There was a lot of work to be done.

Little did our kids know that they were about to get a history lesson. A lesson in which Beulah AME played a major part!
Back in the fifties, all the black students in Farmville went to R.R. Moton High School. Much of the school consisted of tarpaper shacks with no running water or central heat. Barbara Johns, a brave young girl, organized a protest, which led to a strike.

The families finally filed a suit against Prince Edward County which was later incorporated into Brown vs. Board of Education.

After Brown vs Board of Education ruled segregation unlawful, the Board of Supervisors for Prince Edward County refused to give any funds to the county school board for five years, thus CLOSING ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS!
They chose to close all public schools rather than integrate! FOR FIVE YEARS! Isn't that unbelievable?

Private schools sprung up all over for white families. Where would black children go to school?
This is where Beulah AME stepped in.

Young children went to school in church basements, but what about the older kids?
The ministers worked with the administration of Kittrell Junior College, an A.M.E. supported institution in North Carolina, to enroll students from Prince Edward County. They could graduate after all!

Now, back to the work to be done.
Here's the parsonage, the oldest piece of African American property in the county built by and for African Americans.

As you can see, it needed a lot of work.

There were other work sites too. The church itself needed quite a bit of repair, and a public elementary school had a project for our kids as well.

One of the highlights of the week was the Sunday morning service at Beulah. Everyone LOVED the music and the preaching...

Not to mention the amazing lunch prepared by the ladies of the church.

It was their favorite meal of the week.
The passersby couldn't get over the huge group of teens descending on their town. They kept asking, "Why are you doing this?" A couple folks even asked, "Why are you doing this for them?"
They answered, "Don't you think everyone deserves a nice place to worship?" After all, aren't we supposed to follow the example of another carpenter?
I guess even amongst all the goodwill present today, pockets of prejudice still fester. When Todd asked a funeral home if they would loan them one of their tents in order to shade the water coolers for the workers, the lady said, "Go ask the colored funeral home for theirs." Who still uses the word colored, anyway?

It amazes me how blind people of God can be to the humanity and pain of others. My beloved church has its own dark history. At one time years ago, black students were turned away on the front steps. Things are different now, thank goodness, but there are pockets of prejudice in our town too. It's good to be reminded of the history we share.

Have a wonder-full Wednesday, everybody!
Love, Becky


a Tonggu Momma said...

I have been to Farmville. It's a lovely town, but just as you found...

You start to see things differently when you are parenting a child of another race. Five years ago, your story would have shocked me. Now it doesn't. I am prepared for it to happen anywhere now.

And that is a very sad thing.

Family Life said...

Moving. It never ceases to amaze me, the ignorance of adults versus the open-mindedness of children. I've seen it in instances such as your describing, I've seen it during WWII in Germany where nazi children assisted Jews despite the consequences, but adults turned their heads. I've even seen it in my own church when a lady walked up to me one day and told me my violin didn't belong in a chuch, that it's satan's music. I kindly asked her to read her Bible and then started quoting Psalms, to rejoice in God with strings, trumpet and lyre. I'm sure I'm ignorant in many ways myself, as we are all, but this is just a very sad, that it still exists today.

Kudos to the children on the mission trip. Very proud of them!

Suzie said...

Thanks you for that very interesting history lesson. I cant imagine 5 years without public school. How crazy

serenity said...

That "colored" comment really surprises me too. And saddens me! I love the story of these teens helping out though, and I'm sure it's a history lesson they'll never forget. I'm not sure I'll forget it!

LW said...


When I read the first two words of your title, I was not sure I wanted to read on…
Demolition + Teenagers rather stopped in my tracks….
However I am glad I did, your story shows two sides, one side I am sadden still exist
I too am a parent of child of another race, she 23 and beautiful. You would not believe some of things people have said to me and things that were done.

It seems people need to pick on others to build their own self-esteem…


Sherry at EX Marks the Spot said...

What a way to learn history -- and so many other important life lessons. That's tremendous.

Susan said...

Being a Virginia girl, I want to stress that while there are still some older folks in the state, especially in a small town like Farmville, that have not changed their way of speaking and unfortunately, thinking...we know you don't want to paint the Commonwealth with too broad a brush. Farmville is home to two of the finest Universities around, and Virginia itself, boasts over 120 colleges and universities, showing me how important education is to The Old Dominion.

Small town life is now and probably always be different from that of a larger city, and will, most likely, be slower to progress.

All this being said, perhaps the most important lessons learned, are taught by parents and loved ones that care enough to show their youngsters what is right and how to love and make a difference.

Good for those young people for doing their part. They made a difference and that is a wonderful thing.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Aw dang, I'm all choked up. How fantastic that they did this. That is AWESOME.

Felicity said...

I love, love, love this story! Thanks for sharing!

TattingChic said...

Becky, that is a beautiful story about the kids going to help and the Minister of the other church not being afraid to ask for help!

I literally have tears streaming down my face! It is very touching.

It is terrible that the county closed down the schools rather than integrate. That is TERRIBLE!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Susan, I certainly would never want people to think that this sort of behavior was still normal in Virginia--or even in Farmville! Believe me as a South Carolinian (whose state still has the confederate flag on display outside the statehouse building!) that though we can still find prejudice lurking most everywhere in the South, people are learning and changing and broadening their views. Virginia is a gorgeous place with very kind, generous people. I'd be happy to call it home. No harm meant, of course!

Silicon Valley Diva said...

What a summer vacation!

I cannot get over the ignorance of some people either. Makes me so mad and sad. Thankfully there are still such giving and nice people in this world. (But still, grrrrr!)

My mother's side hails from Danville, VA. They have family reunions there quite often. We even have our ancestors still buried on a big plot of land there.

I'm jealous of your trip. It sounds like so much fun. Anyhow, your post fascinated me. I love love history.

Pocket Full of Prettys said...

Hi Rebecca, sorry I haven't been by in awhile. Thank you for the birthday wishes, so sweet. Your storey is so heart retching. I'm sure your children have been very blessed by this experience. Bless them for their kindness and love. Hugs***Renea

May Vanderbilt said...

I'm just about to bawl like a big old baby sitting right here at my desk. What an awesome post!

And I'm so proud of your church for giving back and breaking down racial barriers.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I just realized that I left out an important fact about the trip: the group of teens also included youth from First Baptist of High Point, NC as well as from two other NC churches, in addition to our kids. (First Baptist Greenville, SC.)
Yey kids!

Gary and Elizabeth~ said...

What a great trip for all the kids. How wonderful they were able to lend a hand in restoring this church that has so much history behind it. Such joy and friendship your kids experienced.
My niece went several times to Mexico to help build playgrounds for the children with her church group and she said it was one of the best experiences of her her young life.
Great job kids!!

Cathy ~ Tadpoles and Teacups said...

Lovely, poignant post. My kids have done similar projects through an organization called World Changers Missions.

Susan Sandmore said...

Great post, Becky! What a gorgeous little house that parsonage is, huh?