With 151 volunteers, 16 ministry projects, seven denominations and 27 churches, the Love Out Loud Neshoba work project last week was a sign of unity in divisive times. DeeDee Bailey was a volunteer.
With 151 volunteers, 16 ministry projects, seven denominations and 27 churches, the Love Out Loud Neshoba work project last week was a sign of unity in divisive times. DeeDee Bailey was a volunteer.
With 151 volunteers, 16 ministry projects, seven denominations and 27 churches, the Love Out Loud Neshoba work project last week was a sign of unity in divisive times, and its organizers assured unity was the intention from the get-go. 

They came together to work on projects ranging from moving furniture at Philadelphia High to cleaning up sticks in Northside Park. 

The event, co-directed by the Rev. Dan Howard of First Baptist Church and David Addy of the Neshoba Baptist Association, was a resounding success, organizers said, and completed all the service it set out to do a day earlier than expected. 

“Even though we’re different denominations, we came together to share the love of Christ, and even though we’re different in the way we worship a lot of times, there’s common ground in Christ,” Howard said. “Christ is about unity. He’s not about division; he’s not about trying to make somebody feel inferior to anybody. He’s about saying, ‘Hey, there’s a level ground there at the cross.”

Though the process of planning and the event’s eventual size was marred by COVID-19 obstructions, the weather was unusually cool for Mississippi in June, and even if some people did not come out physically, the event saw substantial monetary support from the congregations of churches. 

Originally planned to last from June 15 to June 19, the organizers announced on June 17 the event would be cut short one day, as all the work had already been completed.

As Howard puts it, the idea sprouted from it being placed on his heart by God. At the time of Love Out Loud’s inception, the Neshoba Baptist Association did not have a Director of Missions, but shortly after Howard began considering the idea, Brother Addy was called to fill the position. The two began to put together a leadership team from across Neshoba, hoping to involve as many churches and as many denominations as possible.

The event was originally supposed to be much bigger, with several worship services at the Neshoba County Coliseum planned, but due to coronavirus restrictions, the coliseum was no longer viable. The virus put the entire event into question for some time because Howard and Addy had no way of knowing whether it would even be allowed to happen. The leadership team was adamant they wanted to push forward.

The two are already planning next year’s Love Out Loud, tentatively set for June 21 to June 25 and without the side effects of coronavirus. Howard and Addy hope next year’s event will be bigger and better than before. Additionally, the practical example of this year’s events gives a better representation of what Love Out Loud is setting out to do than any theoretical explanation, which Addy hopes will make the event seem more straightforward in the future.

Both Addy and Howard were blown away by the, from their perspective, providentially good weather and organizational success of the event. Blessed with temperate weather, the workers signed up for their spaces individually, and like pieces of a puzzle snapping into place, Howard and Addy were surprised by how intuitive the work was for the participants. Only one worker, experienced with carpentry, was reassigned to better facilitate the work’s completion. 

Courtney Smith, a member of FBC and who helped with the worship services, worked at Philadelphia High moving desks around to allow the school to wax and deep clean. According to Howard, the schools usually would hire high school students to do the work over the summer, but it had been unable to because of coronavirus. Love Out Loud stepped in to help. 

“We definitely live in a broken world,” Smith said. “It’s just obvious when you go on social media or the news that there’s a lot of broken people, and I feel like it’s important to show people that you’re there for them in acts of kindness.”

Tim Moore, the Chamber/Main Street director and the minister of music at Grace Baptist Church, was a team leader for thosee working at the Philadelphia school throughout the week, believing that was where he could best serve in his position. 

“It’s one of those things,” Moore said. “You share the Gospel; you share by doing. I do not necessarily have to tell you about Jesus, but I can show you through the work that we do that I love Jesus. And then that opens the doors to other conversations.”

Both Smith and Moore shared excitement about the chance to return to the ministry at the same time next year. 

The philosophy of Love Out Loud was never to be contained within one week, and Howard and Addy emphasized their desire for Love Out Love is a starting point for grassroots service efforts across Neshoba. 

Addy recounted how he was told one of the groups which had finished their work for the day went on to find a local who needed their grass cut, and the group decided, being already together and in the service mindset, to go ahead and help where they could. 

“So it jumpstarted something in their local communities, and they went out and cut some grass and did some things for the people,” Addy said. “And next year, we hope that we can do more of that type stuff.”

As the planning for the next Love Out Loud Neshoba moves forward, Addy reflected on the success of this year’s event and hopes it bodes well for the body of Christ in Neshoba County.

“I hope we all learned … what it’s like to work together as the body of Christ,” Addy said. “That’s been my goal since I got here is just for kingdom. You know, my verse, as Director of Missions, is ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God,’ Matthew 6:33. I hope that they saw a little bit of that of working together, not as Baptists or Methodists, but as the kingdom of God coming together for a common purpose and serving him.”