Home is where the heart (and help) is

This time, the church decided to look inward instead of outward.

Each year for the past three years, Williston United Methodist Church sent members out of state on mission projects. The projects involved house renovations in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, said the Rev. Cindy Fuller, the pastor for Williston United Methodist Church.

Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast states in 2005.

This year, the church stayed home.

"This church usually works in Mississippi, but this year, we decided to work in the community," Fuller said.

That decision led a team of a dozen people crawling inside and out of a home in the Williston area for about a week.

On Jan. 24, the volunteers met in the rain to work. One crew was in the kitchen, replacing the ceiling. Another crew repaired roof leaks. Others outside cleaned the yard.

The church learned of a family in need through the Williston school district, Fuller said.

This is the first work mission project the church has done in-county, she said.

"Each Sunday, we pray for the area, but also we need to be the hands and heart of Christ. Being involved in the community is a part of being the faith of the community," she said.

Fuller doesn't regret past mission projects out-of-state even though there are plenty of needs here in Barnwell County, she said.

Having a change of scenery, it can refresh her parishioners visions for local needs, Fuller said.

"It's wonderful to do missions away from home, but its good to help your neighbors," she said.

Community volunteerism has come into vogue since President Obama touted it on his campaign, said Laura Buice, a church member and a mission volunteer.

"It's one of the buzzwords of the moment. I hope it lasts," she said.

Stephen Braxton was busy lending a hand with the others. The house being repaired is where his girlfriend lives.

"It's beautiful," he said of the help. "Especially help like this."