In-county mission effort inspires students to serve for a lifetime
by Marie Nesmith
Jul 15, 2012 | 3412 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sarah Justus, a SPLASH Bartow student leader, sits with Cal Miller, 6, at storytime during The Church at the Well’s Vacation Bible School Thursday morning. Justus is a junior at the University of Alabama studying music education.
DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
Sarah Justus, a SPLASH Bartow student leader, sits with Cal Miller, 6, at storytime during The Church at the Well’s Vacation Bible School Thursday morning. Justus is a junior at the University of Alabama studying music education. DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
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Brian Gomez, from left, Phillip Looney and Ryan Fithian lay top caps on a retaining wall SPLASH Bartow volunteers are building for Cartersville resident Betty Cagle.
DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
Brian Gomez, from left, Phillip Looney and Ryan Fithian lay top caps on a retaining wall SPLASH Bartow volunteers are building for Cartersville resident Betty Cagle. DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
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Cody Mullinax, a SPLASH Bartow volunteer, inspects jeans for stains and tears while sorting clothing at the Cartersville-Bartow Community Church Shop Thursday.
DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
Cody Mullinax, a SPLASH Bartow volunteer, inspects jeans for stains and tears while sorting clothing at the Cartersville-Bartow Community Church Shop Thursday. DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
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Taylor Miller, a rising freshman at Cass High School and SPLASH Bartow volunteer, flexes her muscles and shows off the muddy T-shirt of a working girl.
DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
Taylor Miller, a rising freshman at Cass High School and SPLASH Bartow volunteer, flexes her muscles and shows off the muddy T-shirt of a working girl. DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
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SPLASH Bartow volunteers Caitlyn Gallagher, from left, Laura Beth Garrett and Erin Hightower listen to a friend prior to the start of a program at The Church at the Well’s Vacation Bible School Thursday.
DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
SPLASH Bartow volunteers Caitlyn Gallagher, from left, Laura Beth Garrett and Erin Hightower listen to a friend prior to the start of a program at The Church at the Well’s Vacation Bible School Thursday. DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
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Phillip Looney, left, and volunteers with SPLASH Bartow, put top caps on a retaining wall Thursday.
DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
Phillip Looney, left, and volunteers with SPLASH Bartow, put top caps on a retaining wall Thursday. DAYTON P. STRICKLAND/The Daily Tribune News
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While some of her neighbors may savor the sound of a steady rain, Betty Cagle is just beginning to feel its benefits.

With downpours flooding her backyard and transforming it into an inhospitable planting area, the Cartersville resident turned to SPLASH Bartow for needed assistance. Tackling her problem, participants in the multi-generational, in-county mission effort last week built a retaining wall across the end of her property to keep the runoff at bay.

"Whenever we had [a rain] like the [one over] the weekend, water would come down from that bank over there," said Cagle, who resides in the Liberty Crossing neighborhood, which was developed by The Church at Liberty Square in Cartersville. "And, if we had a whole lot, it would almost come in my back door. Then it would bring that slate from up there down to my yard, which [made it so] I couldn't grow grass or have a garden.

"... I never could have had it done, me being a widow," she said about installing a retaining wall. "And it's just been fun watching [the young volunteers] play and know that they could [build] something like that. And I said, 'Well, it's kids but yet they're getting it done.' ... [This will definitely help] keep the water from coming in the house. Like I said, I never could have done it on my own. [They] don't know how much I appreciate it."

The 11 youths at the Cagle residence, who were supervised by two team leaders and a site coordinator, were among 450 middle- and high-school students participating in SPLASH Bartow Tuesday through Friday. Along with Backyard Bible Clubs and sports camps, the in-county mission effort provided assistance, ranging from construction projects to yard maintenance at residences and nonprofits, such as The Salvation Army, North Bartow Community Services Inc. and Cartersville-Bartow Community Church Shop.

In its fifth year, SPLASH -- Show People Love and Share Him -- also featured more than 300 adult volunteers and participants from 48 churches of various sizes and denominations. With the female volunteers taking shelter at the Church at Liberty Square and Oakland Heights Baptist and the males staying at Grace Baptist and Tabernacle Baptist, the young participants also attended nightly worship services.

For University of Alabama junior Sarah Justus, serving as a SPLASH team leader was an opportunity to serve others and meet fellow youth in the community. During the week, her 13-member team provided assistance at Tomorrow's Child day care center and The Church at the Well's Vacation Bible School, and completed chores at a senior community in Cartersville.

"This is my second year as a team leader but the fourth year that I've participated in SPLASH. ... There's so many things that I really like about [SPLASH Bartow]," Justus said. "One thing is getting to know a completely new group of people every year. This is the second year in a row that I haven't known a single person on my team.

"It's just really cool to watch them grow to become friends with each other throughout the couple days that we're together and to see how God works individually within certain groups within the team. ... [You can] watch them come out of their shells as they work and talk to people that they don't know about Christ. It's really cool to watch and very rewarding."

Justus' experience is common among many SPLASH participants, who annually voice intentions to continue their volunteer work beyond the July offering, said SPLASH Executive Director David Franklin.

"SPLASH is [an effort] to help people get out and serve their communities, specifically teenagers. So we're trying to teach these teenagers that life is not about them," Franklin said. "There's a higher calling and we want them to go serve others for a lifetime. We hope they walk away from SPLASH with a commitment to serve others [in the community] -- [that] they take it to their house and begin at home, that they go into their schools and do this, that they don't wait till they're 30 or 40 or 60.

"They do it now, and [then] they serve others and their community for the rest of their life. A number of the kids that have been doing SPLASH, they have done all kinds of [mission work]. They showed up [for] the tornado recovery [last year]. They have gone overseas. Some of them just got back from Alaska. So they have much more of a mind-set that says, 'Hey, we'll go anyplace, anytime to help somebody else out.'"

Even though the concept of SPLASH originated in Bartow County, the mission effort has inspired spin-off offerings in other areas such as Macon, West Virginia and the Caribbean.

"The first year we had 168 students. This year we have 450, so it has grown tremendously," said Franklin, who also serves as the associational missionary for Bartow Baptist Association. "This is the fifth year and each year more and more communities are picking this up and doing it. Like, I know Henry County is doing it for the first time [this year]. Carrollton is doing it for the first time. Other places have been doing it, like Macon is actually doing SPLASH right now. ... The [meaning of] SPLASH is Show People Love and Share Him, talking about Jesus.

"So Christians in other communities have thought this is a great way to do this in a local community, especially using teenagers. ... It's very humbling [how this idea has spread]. You think that's pretty impressive that God would do something, but Cartersville -- Bartow County -- has the [evangelism and missionary] history of a Sam Jones and a Lottie Moon. God has done things here before that have spread across a much broader area. So, while it's humbling, it's very consistent with what God's done before."