Retired pastor comes home to plant church
ELDON – For Earl Wood, coming home has become his biggest mission field. Wood, a retired pastor and former Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board member, is bringing Jesus to the area where he first found Christ.
Wood grew up in Miller County, located in the Lake of the Ozarks region. He attended Flatwoods Baptist Church as a child and was saved there in 1953. As Wood grew into adulthood and accepted the call to preach, he moved away from the area in 1959 and preached faithfully until he retired from First Baptist Church, Lousiana, in 2005.
God began to place in his heart a desire to reach out to his childhood community. He accepted two calls as interim pastor for a little over a year. During this time of transition, God continued to move Wood and his wife, Ruth, toward the Flatwoods area.
“We prayed for two to three years about this before retiring,” he said.
At the beginning of this year, Wood began to focus on his vision: to plant a church in Miller County. The 25-mile area between Eldon and Tuscumbia had grown in population but did not have a church to meet the needs of the people. Working alongside a team made up of Dennis Manley, director of missions, Miller County Baptist Association, and members of Aurora Springs Baptist Church in Eldon, Wood canvassed the area for three months.
“We took the most populated road and started canvassing,” he said. “I also made personal phone calls to relatives and friends that were not going to church anywhere and told them what I was doing here… that’s how we got started.”
On March 18, a group of people met in Wood’s home for worship. They were “people that had been connected to church off and on or didn’t have a church to commit to,” he said. The group decided to name the church Flatwoods Baptist Church, after the church Woods was saved in that had closed its doors many years ago. “We chose the name because of the sentimentality of the old name,” Wood said. “Some people had parents that went to the old church and others were saved there…the name drew them.”
Area churches have supported the work through giving and serving. Flatwoods’ primary support has come from First Louisiana, Aurora Springs Baptist and Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Lake Ozark. Aurora Springs has partnered with the association and provided literature and canvassing teams to help in the mission. Mount Carmel recently moved to a larger building and has given Flatwoods their old building lease-free for as long as the new church needs it.
“God has really surrounded this place with churches that have joined hands in the mission,” Manley said. “They are employing the Acts 1:8 strategy through local missions.”
Flatwoods met in the new building April 1 with 24 people in attendance. Wood preached and taught Sunday School while Manley led the singing. So the second Sunday in the new building was an observation of Easter.
Wood and the supporters of Flatwoods Baptist Church continue a vision to reach the lost people of the area. The goal is to use this summer to witness to young families through block parties and Back Yard Bible Clubs.
“We are praying for the Lord to send us workers, money, everything,” Wood said. “We feel good…God has been blessing us.”
Missouri Baptists can support Wood and the mission at Flatwoods through prayer.
“Starting a new church is like starting a new family,” he said. “People can pray that we have the energy and perseverance to start this new work.”