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!