Whitelaw Avenue Baptist Church (WABC) is located in Wood River, Illinois about 20 miles north of St. Louis, Missouri with an average Sunday attendance of 100 people. The church members have historically supported mission work locally and globally with contributions to the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention but have also taken a “hands-on” approach through mission trips.

While seeking mission opportunities in 2011, Pastor Richard Newcom heard about the work of Pastor Tony Duckworth, Sr. and his wife, Shannon in Mount Olive, Mississippi, from a former church member who recently moved from Wood River, Illinois to Madison, Mississippi. “Our church completed a study entitled Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby,” said Pastor Newcom. “One of the main themes is to identify where God is at work and join Him there. After talking with Pastor Tony and MS Shannon, it was obvious that God is working and changing lives through Mount Olive Community Church and Mount Olive Ministries.”

The purpose of Mount Olive Ministries (MOM) is to evangelize, equip, and empower the Mount Olive community and neighboring counties through spiritual and community development. MOM is helping young people break away from street life, such as gangs, drugs, and school drop-out. Working with students and families through after school and summer programs as well as family development, Mount Olive Ministries is impacting the community.

In May 2012, a mission team came from WABC to complete the installation of a kitchen in the ministry building and assist with tutoring during the summer program. After the mission trip was over, the relationship continued to grow between the two churches. Pastor Tony and Shannon visited WABC in Wood River, IL in August of that year. “After hearing from the returning mission team and Pastor Tony himself about the life-changing work of the ministry and impact on the community, our church wanted to continue to support the ministry and return this summer.

When we asked how we could help, Shannon said she would love to have a playground for the children. The church rose to the challenge. From January to June, church members contributed a total of $10,600 for the project. The contributions were able to go even further because Sullivan Enterprises Fence Company in Magee, MS generously donated the fencing materials.

Dennis Schillinger, mission team project coordinator said, “Although we brought a team of 19 people aged 16 to 69 for the construction part of the project, our entire church is part of the mission team. Our church feels connected to the Mount Olive church family and feels privileged to serve alongside them. It’s amazing how God assembles the mission team so that the combined skills and abilities of the individual members are sufficient to meet the unknown challenges that arise during the project.”

Pastor Tony Duckworth said, “This is more than a playground… it’s a tool. The playground not only provides a safe place for our children to play, it provides an opportunity for us to serve God and His people and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We strive to carry out the purpose of our mission statement: We exist for the purpose of worshiping and glorifying God through Teaching, Training, and Transforming communities through evangelism and making disciples. It all begins with sharing the love of Jesus.”