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Bethel AME members' sacrifices pay off
In the pulpit
Bethel AME Pastor Richie Williams and his wife, Dessa Williams, appreciate their congregants’ sacrifices and donations, which helped the church pay off its mortgage early. - photo by Photo provided.
Through prayer, hard work, unity, love and sacrifices, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Chruch of Hinesville paid off its mortgage ahead of schedule. It only took 16 years.
Members of the church are celebrating at 4 p.m. today with a “mortgage burning.”
In 1994, Bethel AME congregants gathered to dedicate the church at 233 Gause St. It was a time of celebration and excitement. More than a decade and a half later, members are again celebrating.
The guest speaker for today’s “mortgage burning” service is Bishop William P. Deveaux Sr., the presiding bishop of Georgia’s Sixth Episcopal District. The district includes approximately  586 churches.
“It’s a blessing from the Lord. We got together and did extra giving,” Bethel AME Senior Pastor Richie Williams said. “July is a historical time for us. We had the church’s dedication in July 1994. We dedicated our fellowship hall in July 1997. We bought our church parsonage in July 2000, and now we are having our mortgage burning in July 2010.”
Sharon Terry, a longtime member and church administrator said, “We are really excited. Retired Elder Henry Frasier, who was the pastor at the time the church was built, had a vision and the people had a mind to work.
“We are tithers, and realize that is the only way to be blessed. While paying for the church, fellowship hall and parsonage, we also bought a church bus and additional property behind the church and paid cash for them during that time. The church, fellowship hall and parsonage are now all paid for,” she said.  
Williams knows the accomplishment is no small feat. “I appreciate the hard work and sacrifices of all the members,” he said. “The whole church came on board, lending their love, support and sacrifice. The church is being paid off six years ahead of schedule.
“We are now preparing for the next level of ministry. Plans are to build a resource center that will be multi-purpose to aid and assist the community. We want to help young males, have a temporary shelter and have marital and drug/alcoholic counseling programs. The center will also be used for conferences and workshops,” Williams said.   
Bethel AME members are active in the community. On the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, the church’s cross ministry has food and clothing giveaways.
Additional ministries include a bus ministry, couples ministry, lay organization, lunch for the soul, Mary Singleton WMS, Arrie Mae Jones YWI, media ministry, physical wellness ministry, singles on a mission, YPD department, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Williams and Bethel AME members invite the public to today’s celebratory service. For information, call 369-2437.

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