Rural church plant reaches out to poor with ‘Easter Xtreme’ event
Apr 16, 2013

BULLRIDE Fun and games highlight Good Friday activities at rural Connections Fellowship in Tallahassee. FBW photo by James A. Smith Sr.
TALLAHASSEE (FBW)—The postal address of Connections Fellowship places the congregation in Tallahassee, but the poor community it serves might as well as be light years from the state capital.

In order to reach impoverished people—more than 90 percent of school age children in the western section of Leon County qualify for government-subsidized meals—Pastor Michael Murray has moved into the community to start the church, which began in January.

On Good Friday, Connections held an “Easter Xtreme” free event for the community, attracting about 500 people—adults and children—offering free food, games and spiritual literature, including Bibles and Gospel tracts.

Meeting at the Fort Braden Community Center on the busy Blounts­town Highway, Murray told Florida Baptist Witness only about three percent of the 6,000 people within a five-mile radius attend church.

“This area needed the Gospel,” he said.

It’s difficult to plant a church in a rural, poor area that is “very set in sin,” he said, but the community’s problem of sin is like every other community.

In order to introduce the community to the new congregation, Connections sponsored the Good Friday event.

“We want to make a difference,” he said.

During 2012 before formally launching in January, Connections had 22 professions of faith and 14 baptisms through weekly Bible studies, Murray said. Connections currently has about 40 members, he said.

“There are a lot of miracles about this church, but one of them is that every single thing we have was given to us,” Murray said, citing its sound system and photocopier as examples.

Murray takes 19th century missionary to China Hudson Taylor as a model who “became Chinese for the sake of the Chinese,” he said.

“We’ve tried to live here as best we can,” he said. “We struggle with everyone else because they need to hear the Gospel and they need to know that it comes from an authentic faith, not just because someone financed me and paid for me to be here. But because God called us to be here.”

A bivocational school teacher, Murray said his work in school “lets me be in a place where I can work with kids, make a difference.”

The church is sponsored by Grand Ridge Baptist Church in Marianna, which is part of the Chipola Baptist Association. Grand Ridge supplied 140 cupcakes for the Good Friday event. 

Chipola Director of Missions Coba Beasley has been an “awesome” assistant to the congregation, Murray said.

Beasley, who was on-hand to volunteer at the event, told the Witness, “We’re trying to reach out to those who are lost in the community and bring them to church.”

Eric Durham, pastor of Telogia Baptist Church—located about 25 miles from Connections, brought a newly created puppet ministry of his congregation, led by the church’s youth.

Asked why his church is involved, Durham said, “We’re Southern Baptists. We’re supposed to be partnering together to do ministry.”

Since Telogia is part of Appalachee Baptist Association, Durham said his work with Connections “gives me a chance to continue to partner with Chipola and do some cross-associational ministry.”

Donations from businesses, churches and other ministries made the Good Friday event possible, Murray said.

“All the little things that come together makes a big thing for us,” he said.

In addition to making Gospel presentations, Murray said his hope for the event is “we have an opportunity to introduce a love relationship to the community—that we’re here because we care and that the church can now begin building bridges into people’s lives.”

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