BANGS — The Baptist church in San Carlos, Ariz., looks like any other building. Passersby on the Apache reservation see no outward indication that it is a place of worship. There’s no steeple, and not even a sign announcing service times.
That will change by the end of July, thanks to a community mission project headed by members of Bangs First Baptist Church. Members plan to spend a week working to renovate the church building, including placing a steeple on the roof.
“As a community, we saw we could really minister to this reservation,” said Bangs FBC member Teresa Contreras, who is helping coordinate a July trip to Arizona. “We’re going to put up a steeple, install a playground, repair the roof and do landscaping. It can be simple things, too.”
Ron Geiger, associational director of Baptist missions for the area that includes San Carlos Apache Baptist Church, will speak to the Bangs church congregation at Sunday’s morning’s worship service.
“The people are so appreciative,” Contreras said.
She said the road to San Carlos started a year ago when the Bangs church’s mission was to reach out to the church, community and the world. Geiger was new to the Arizona area and contacted the Bangs church for help.
“We were excited to be able to come and show God’s love in any way needed,” Contreras said.
Church members are soliciting help from members of the Bangs community as well as their congregation. The mission trip is scheduled for July 21-28, and the work agenda will include painting the building inside and out, laying vinyl tile on about 3,000 square feet of floor space, repairing the roof, remodeling the kitchen cabinets and bathrooms, setting the steeple on the roof, replacing glass windows with a plexiglas product, erecting a sign on poles, clean up the yard and installing basketball hoops and a volleyball net.
Support volunteers to assist with meals and other duties will also be needed in addition to workers, Contreras said. The team will be lodged in the Baptist Missions Center, about 28 miles from the church, so their efforts are expected to be crucial to the group’s ability to maximize their time.
Contreras hopes at least 50 people will be able to make the trip.
The steeple was a secondary item on the “wish list” of items compiled by Pastor Leroy Elgo and Geiger, Contreras said. But in a development that church members said confirms God’s hand in their efforts, a steeple valued at $3,000 taken from a former church building in Brownwood was given to them.
Lynn and Linda Mitchell of Bangs donated the steeple after it was removed from a building they purchased near the intersection of Austin Avenue and Magnolia Street in Brownwood, Contreras said.
“We didn’t think a steeple needed to be on top of a beauty salon and spa,” Mitchell said, “so we took it down. We had several people ask about it, but it just didn’t seem right for some reason.”
The steeple was stored in the rear of the building, where Linda Mitchell said someone must have seen it. When the Mitchells were approached several months later by First Baptist members about donating it, Linda Mitchell said this seemed like what God wanted them to do.
“I feel that God will continue to use this as a blessing,” she said.
The Mitchells don’t attend Bangs First Baptist, but when they learned of the Arizona church’s need, a family connection was made. Their daughter is a member.
The steeple, along with cabinets, tools and other items, will be driven to Arizona in July by caravan using vans, trucks and other vehicles.
“Ron (Geiger) said this reservation is among the poorest in the country,” Contreras said.
“I don’t know about other reservations’ poverty level, but this one is very poor, even with their casino,” Geiger wrote in an e-mail to Contreras.
“The 1999 per capita income in the town of San Carlos was $4,614 and in the Peridot community where the church site is located, it was $5,765. That compares to the national average per capita income at that time of $21,587.”
The church membership includes about 25 families, but many of them are large, with as many as 18 people living in the same home.