“We just had some extra time at the end of the day, at the end of our time there, before we went to eat lunch,” said Emily Apple, a 22-year-old team leader for 12 youths involved in SPLASH Bartow, a local multigenerational mission offering. “We just decided that we needed to close the place in prayer, just because we’re going to be doing ministry there all week, and because it’s a place that you drive by a million times and you never realize that you have all these families living there.
“And they’re not just spending one night, they’re living there full time. These families are lost and we just wanted to lift these families up in prayer, just asking that he could be at work in their lives not only this week but forever, and praying for the impact that it will have on their lives this week and our lives as well.”
From Wednesday to Friday, the SPLASH volunteers began their day by engaging the children — drawing in even the shyest youth — with Bible stories and songs.
“There’s people who live there longterm for weeks and months at a time. And they have tons of kids so we just went and put on a Backyard Bible Club for these kids and played some games with them, told some Bible stories, sang some songs, made some crafts,” said Apple, who attends Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville. “We just interacted with the kids and met some of the parents and interacted with them and tried to build some relationships with them.
“As a team leader, it’s just always encouraging to see the difference that your youth can make and to see the impact that youth can have on someone’s life when they don’t even think that they can. So it was just really neat. And there [was] a little boy who’s 3. At the beginning, he wouldn’t talk to any of us and tried to shun us away. We tried to include him. We tried to talk him into it and finally [we were] able to sit down with him and get him involved and build that trust and caring relationship. And he finally got involved and was playing with all of us. So it’s just really neat to see immediate changes when you show someone you care. They definitely respond to that.”
The 12 youth assisting residents at the Red Carpet Inn on Cass-White Road in Cartersville were among 400 middle- and high-school students participating in SPLASH Bartow Tuesday through Friday. Along with Backyard Bible Clubs, the in-county mission work provided assistance, ranging from serving food to painting to yard maintenance at residences and nonprofits, such as Bartow County Women’s Resource Center, Community Christian Church’s soup kitchen and the Cartersville-Bartow Community Church Shop.
In its fourth year, SPLASH — Show People Love and Share Him — featured 340 adult volunteers and about 40 churches of various sizes and denominations. Taking shelter at The Church at Liberty Square, Grace Baptist and Tabernacle Baptist at night, the participants also attended worship services.
“[Our goal] number one, is we want kids to know that God can use them,” SPLASH Executive Director David Franklin said. “Number two is that they can make a commitment to do this for a lifetime, and that is to serve and help people out for a lifetime. We want this to become their way of life.
“And number three, we believe this is part of the way [to unite] a community. We would have never thought it would have been this big or had this big of impact. When you do something you don’t know the ramifications of it, but it’s been much bigger than we would have ever imagined.”
Compared to its first year in which Franklin said the event was comprised of 156 youth, about 100 adults and 18 churches, SPLASH Bartow has grown exponentially, inspiring spin-off offerings in other areas such as Macon, West Virginia and the Caribbean. For Franklin, one of the most exciting parts is seeing this effort impact the lives of its participants as well as those that they touch in the community.
“We’ve got kids that started out in SPLASH and now they’ve gone to Africa,” said Franklin, who also serves as the associational missionary for Bartow Baptist Association. “They’ve gone to the Caribbean and they’ve gone to Russia. Locally, they’ve gone back into their schools and tried to really make a difference. We had the largest attendance this year in the Southeast on the National Day of Prayer. We had 4,000 people. Teenagers were very much at the forefront of that. They’re doing all kinds of things at school.
“So it really has made a huge impact in the community. Individually, we’ve seen kids’ lives just dramatically changed. And then where they work [during SPLASH], we’ve seen some really exciting things, where people’s lives have been really enhanced because kids have done something like putting in a handicapped ramp. It’s made a huge difference in some people’s lives.”
As the SPLASH coordinator, Pam Loy is overwhelmed by the youth volunteers’ service and how they are warmly being received in the community.
“The Hillendale community, they were just so happy that we [were] coming. ... These seniors [are] 50, 60 and up and a lot of them are in their 80s and their 90s [and are] in wheelchairs. They’re walking in walkers,” said Loy, referring to elderly residents that SPLASH teams assisted throughout Bartow County, including those living at The Cove Apartments in Cartersville. “They cannot [do] the simple things we take for granted — changing a light bulb, cleaning their ceiling fans. [So] we’re dusting their mini blinds, cleaning their molding around the edges of carpeting. We’re cleaning their carports. Hillendale is required by their homeowners’ association to have their carports cleaned at least once a year.
“So we’re cleaning those for them. And it is things that these folks just absolutely cannot do themselves. And they are just ecstatic to have a group of young boys and girls come into their community and help. ... [The SPLASH recipients are] from the young to the very old. It’s from little babies to the senior citizens that we see are being so blessed by SPLASH and again, it’s not just them. They’re receiving but we’re receiving [too] because we can minister to these folks.”