By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
WOODWORTH – A two-year effort to raise funds for the construction of the Georgia Barnette Conference Center and Missionary/Volunteer Training Center is nearing completion.
Through March 19, Louisiana Baptists have raised close to $1 million of the $1.2 million needed to build the facility located at Tall Timbers Conference Center in Woodworth. Once complete, the center will house information about influential early-day Louisiana Baptists and become a state-of-the art training facility for the future of missions in Louisiana.
The 8,400-square-foot center is to have six small group rooms and a large auditorium that can be arranged for up to 580 participants. Also included is a state-of-the-art sound system and lighting.
The center is named after Georgia Barnette, the first elected and paid Woman’s Missionary Union executive director/treasurer in Louisiana. Every year Louisiana Baptists collect the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering.
Since early 2013, the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s missions and ministry team led by John Hebert has raised money for the new center, making hundreds of presentations in a combination of churches, Woman’s Missionary Union groups, individuals, missions education groups, associational groups and annual meetings of associations.
“Louisiana Baptists should be ecstatic we will have a conference center like this,” Hebert said. “The size of the thing, the technology inside it and the missions theme it represents make it unlike any other facility in Louisiana Baptist life. This center allows everyone to be in touch with the history of Louisiana Baptists and the future of Louisiana Baptist work.”
Hebert anticipates once the foundation is finished, the work will take 9 months to complete and is hopeful the Louisiana Baptist Executive Board can hold its first meeting there in May 2016.
He said for that to happen by the target date, participation by volunteers will be crucial.
With the exception of using professional subcontractors to pour concrete for the foundation, a force of volunteers will build the center. Once the foundation work is complete in June, volunteers are needed beginning in July to perform a wide range of jobs, including painting, plumbing, woodworking, cabinetry, building walls and hanging sheetrock.
Throughout the two months volunteers are needed, lunch and snacks will be provided. For those with RVs, a campground with 24 spaces is available at Tall Timbers, with some lodging possible depending on availability due to summer camps that may already have booked rooms on the grounds.
Robert Woods, missions builder strategist for Louisiana Baptists, estimates the volunteers will save Louisiana Baptists costs of between 50 and 60 percent.
“You can’t imagine what a blessing they are to us,” Woods said. “The main qualifications you have to have for this project are a willing heart and an ability to take off however long you want to volunteer, from just a few days to the entirety of the project. If you come, we will find something for you to do.”
Woods is hoping for a large turnout from Louisiana Baptists.
“We will try to recruit help from all over the nation but I would like the people of Louisiana to step up and help with this,” Woods said. “Not only is this a Louisiana Baptist camp but participating in this is helping to build a place where people can come and see our heritage.”
To volunteer, call Woods at 225.975.0848 or email Robert.Woods@LouisianaBaptists.org.
Donations for the center should be sent by check to the Louisiana Baptist Convention, designation of GBCC, PO Box 311, Alexandria, LA 71309.