Bainbridge First UMC is Miss Georgia's "village"
An oft-repeated African proverb states that “It takes a village to raise a child.”
While parents obviously bear the primary responsibility for raising their children, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, pastors, teachers, and many others support and strengthen the family and provide loving, Godly examples for children to follow.
And during services of Holy Baptism and Confirmation, United Methodists respond to those who declare their faith in Christ by vowing to nurture and support them.
For newly crowned Miss Georgia Maggie Bridges, the Bainbridge First United Methodist Church congregation has been her “village.”
Bridges, a 21-year-old Georgia Tech senior and Bainbridge First UMC member, will on Sunday, Sept. 14, represent her home state at the 2015 Miss America Competition.
With a platform of “Impacting Others Through Volunteerism,” Bridges advocates volunteering with any organization. Her passion for service was fostered at the church and she credits her family and the congregation for inspiring and teaching her to help others.
“My volunteering started out just trying to help in any way that I could,” she said. “My parents taught me that if anyone needs help, you go do it. That’s what you do; you help.”
Some of Bridges’ earliest memories of serving others are of the hours she and other Bainbridge First UMC youth spent organizing supplies and packing and shipping shoeboxes for Samaritan's Purse’s Operation Christmas Child ministry.
“It was a great experience and it also was one of the first times that I understood what service was about,” she said. “Everything I did that related to volunteering started in church.”
As a high school student, Bridges went on a youth mission trip to Mexico where they stayed in an orphanage and helped build a church. That experience helped her realize the importance of serving both at home and abroad.
“I learned then how fortunate we are here and how important it is to give back not just to your local community but to also find a way to give to the international community,” she said. “And I learned that it was not only important to give financially, but to give of your time and talents, too.”
Bainbridge First UMC has a culture of service. From small children to seasoned adults, all have the opportunity to become involved in ministry.
“This church is very involved in outreach and mission in the community and elsewhere,” said senior pastor Rev. Randy Mosley. “Students have opportunities to lead and to be involved in the life and ministry of the church and to help, serve, and volunteer.”
The church and congregation take seriously Proverbs 22:1, which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” and provide all ages with countless opportunities to mature and grow in faith.
“It is a very caring church; it is a very loving and nurturing church that wants to do its best for God, the community and for its body, God’s people,” Rev. Mosley said. “We want everyone to be well versed, established and strong in the faith and to have a great foundation.”
The faith foundation that the congregation helped lay in Bridges’ life was crucial to her decision to accept Christ as her savior.
“It really laid the cornerstone for my faith,” she said. “Growing up at Bainbridge First UMC … is where I was really introduced to who Jesus Christ is. That was the foundation for my education about Christianity. It was a big part of laying the foundation for me becoming a Christian.”
The list of Bainbridge First UMC people who loved, nurtured and cared for Bridges is long. Sharing memories of playing in the church nursery and being chastised for talking during a sermon, she gives credit to a host of servants who were influential in her life – Sunday school teachers, youth ministers, pastors, and more.
“We have so many role models and examples of wonderful Christian leaders in my church,” she said.
Maybe the most influential is longtime Music Director Gaye Herndon. A “quiet leader,” according to Bridges, Herndon taught more than music.
“She’s the person who taught me how to sing,” Bridges said. “I don’t know that I could get up on stage and do what I do now if not for her. As a child I always wanted the spotlight and the solo, but she taught me patience and that I couldn’t always have that and that’s not what it’s all about.”
Bridges says that she wouldn’t be who she is today without the Godly witnesses who impacted her life.
“Jesus said somewhere that you become like the people you’re surrounded by, and I think that’s what I’ve become,” she said. “I’m really proud to say that I represent Southwest Georgia and now the state. I also represent the people at Bainbridge First UMC because they are in part the people who raised me.
“They are upholding the vows they made to take care of me when I was baptized and confirmed, and they helped me become a young women who cares about her faith and helping our society.”