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From the Pastor’s Heart
By Brenda Gibson
When the six-member pulpit search committee from Gassaway Baptist Church traveled through a snowstorm Jan. 18, 1983, to hear one of their prospective candidates, the Rev. Mark Stump, preach a sermon, they had no idea that this night would bring them a pastor who would still be leading their congregation 35 years later.
Despite the frigid, blizzard-like weather outside, Stump, who was serving as youth pastor at Little Union Baptist Church at Calvin, WV, set the souls inside Little Union Church ablaze that night with his message of God’s saving grace—the grace that had just brought the 25-year-old pastor and his young wife, Darlene, through the greatest test of their faith following the death of their only child, 2-year-old Jessica.
One member of that Gassaway Baptist Pulpit Committee, Ben Harris, still recalls the vivid details surrounding that eventful evening. “As we crossed Powell Mountain, the weather worsened, and the roads were getting really slick,” Harris said. “We stopped once and talked about turning around. Someone commented that the service would likely be cancelled, and if it were not, the committee might be the only ones there.”
The group decided, however, to journey on to Little Union. “We arrived a little late because of the bad roads, and the service had already started,” Harris recalled. “When we walked into the sanctuary, we could hardly believe our eyes; there was no place to sit. Even the extra chairs provided for our group were already occupied in the fairly large sanctuary.”
“Mark preached a rousing sermon that evening,” Harris said. The young pastor did so again when he was invited to deliver a sermon to the congregation at GBC on Super Bowl Sunday. And that was the end of Stump’s being a prospective candidate and the beginning of his serving as senior pastor of the Gassaway Baptist Church.
Looking back on that time, Stump says he knew this [Gassaway Baptist Church] was the place God wanted him to be. In fact, he recalls an earlier drive to Gassaway in the summer of 1982 following a visit with his sister Marla Floyd and her husband Pug, who lived at Little Birch. At the end of their drive, Stump and his wife stopped in front of Gassaway Baptist Church.
“I don’t know when or how, but I know that God is calling us to pastor here,” he told Darlene. “I knew nobody in Gassaway at the time.”
Pastor Stump says his three years of youth ministry at Little Union helped him to formulate his vision for GBC when he became senior pastor. “I began to pray about it. I saw that there was a real need to minister to young families. We were young too, so young families were our target group. I feel very strongly about the family unit.”
In terms of the driving principle that has forged his ministry, Pastor Stump readily asserted, “God’s love is for everyone.” Continuing, he explained, “God is not so much concerned about where you’ve been and what you’ve done, but where you are and where you’re going. The ground is level at the cross. Jesus died for everyone.”
Pastor Stump said he has also been guided in the pastorate by his life verse, which is found in Psalm 78:72, KJV, “So He fed them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of His hands.”
Elaborating on that scripture, he noted, “I have staunchly guarded my integrity during my ministry. I have always believed in developing my skillset. Integrity does not change, but the skillfulness of our hands does.”
Another scripture that is of utmost importance to Pastor Stump’s ministry is Acts 5:29, KJV, which reads, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” “All the glory goes to Him [God],” Stump said.
Vision also plays an integral role in Pastor Stump’s ministry. He defines vision as “seeing the finished product before it’s built.” “I determined a long time ago that I wanted Gassaway Baptist Church to become what God wanted it to become—regardless of outside opinion.”
The critical role of vision in ministry, he affirmed, is expressed in Proverbs 29:18, KJV, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” Stump wants his congregation to have that mental perception of “what can be.”
“I want us to look like the body of Christ,” he said. “For that to happen, vision is a necessity.”
Change is also a necessity, Stump contends. “We have to change our skillset for the vision to become reality. If the horse has died, we need to dismount.”
Would Pastor Stump have envisioned still serving at GBC for 35 years after he was visited by that pulpit committee?
“Yes!” he responded unequivocally. “When the committee asked me how long I intended to stay if I were hired,” my response was forever. I came for the long haul. This is where God sent me. It’s totally up to Him to send me elsewhere.”
Pastor Stump recalls one denominational leader advising him that he would be at GBC for a year to eighteen months at most, and a friend saying (after twenty years) that he couldn’t possibly retire at GBC.
“That’s up to God,” Stump said. “We can’t place parameters and boundaries on God. I knew God was not going to be dictated by our box and our boundaries.
“People allow their future to be dictated by their past. If God says to do this now, I believe He will supply that need for the future. I trust God’s economy, not man’s. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He owns the thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10, KJV).
Has the veteran GBC pastor been tempted to accept invitations to pastor other churches?
“There have been a lot of offers from churches with larger congregations and larger facilities,” he admits, “but there is no offer that can compete with where God wants you to be. There is no amount of money that can buy your peace and security in knowing you’re where God wants you to be. You can’t put a price on that.”
The ministry at Gassaway Baptist Church has grown in many directions since Pastor Stump’s arrival back in 1983. The church facility expanded to create a new sanctuary and fellowship hall in 1990. Soon thereafter, even the expanded sanctuary could not accommodate the growing congregation, and one Sunday morning service increased to two services, and within a few more years, three services. Ultimately, the vision for a new facility became reality when the congregation of Gassaway Baptist Church gathered at their new church site on Beall Drive to celebrate their first Easter service in 2014.
Pastor Stump is quick to point out that the physical changes in the church are not what brings him the most satisfaction in ministry. His sense of fulfillment comes from “seeing what God has done in the lives of people.” “The rest,” he says, “is just the vehicle through which God has worked to do that.”
In terms of his duties as senior pastor, Stump believes his major role is to see the accomplishment of the mission of this church as stated in the GBC Vision Statement: To lovingly and boldly win the lost to Jesus Christ while helping believers experience their full Kingdom potential through worship, discipleship, and service for God’s glory.”
“This is one of those changes that had to be made,” he said. “I moved from being a shepherd to being a rancher due to the growth we experienced over the years. A shepherd can pastor 75-100 people, but we minister to 600 people, so I cannot minister in the same way that I did 35 years ago. I have become an overseer of the church.”
In taking on this ever-changing role, Pastor Stump describes his greatest challenges as “making hard decisions” and “asking hard questions” that come with his position. “My job is to feed, to guide, to protect, and above all, to love this flock. Sometimes the hard decisions and hard questions can be offensive to people, but I still have to do it.
“I’ve wrestled through the night in making some of those decisions. In the end, I will stand before God, not my congregation,” he explained, citing Romans 14:12, KJV: ‘So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.’”
Stump believes one of the most difficult challenges facing pastors today lies in the “unrealistic expectations” placed upon them. “This is an age of entitlement that we live in,” he said. “That filters into the church; people come in wondering what they can get rather than how they can serve.”
Yet another formidable challenge facing pastors, according to Stump, is “being able to adequately describe the destructive nature of sin, as opposed to the beauty of holiness. Sin kills; God gives life. Getting people to see that God’s design for our life, in every aspect, is the best design—that is difficult.”
Despite the challenges he faces as senior pastor, Stump says, “Seeing people’s lives changed as they begin living for the Lord—the salvation of people, the healing of relationships”—this is why he leads his flock.
“Jesus Christ came into this world for people,” Pastor Stump said. “Our ministry has to be for people—people meeting God and knowing God.”
This pastor has not faced the challenges and elations of his ministry alone. “The greatest support I have is Darlene,” he said. “Early on, she sacrificed a lot. She gave up her home to come here with me within fourteen months after losing our daughter Jessica.
“In my entire 38 years of ministry, I have never had to deal with an issue that Darlene created. I have never met anybody who has a greater love for God’s Word than Darlene.”
GBC’s senior pastor also expressed his appreciation to his church body for their support. “This church has allowed me to be a dad,” he said. “My kids were active athletically, and this church allowed me to serve as a pastor and a father to my children too. I have a huge appreciation for that.”
Expanding on the support of his church body, the veteran pastor noted, “It’s a testament to the hearts of the people of this congregation and to the grace of God that in 35 years and the multiple major changes that have taken place, we have worked together to see the Kingdom grow. You can’t stay 35 years unless everybody is working together. We have been wonderfully blessed in that regard.”
Although his church has enjoyed much expansion during his tenure, Pastor Stump’s vision for the future involves even greater expansion.
“Ministrywise, I would like for us to reach the point that we have a separate building to house the Pregnancy Center and a counseling center,” he said. “I’d also like to see a network of care developed wherein a care leader would oversee each community in the area. I envision GBC becoming the hub of ministry with spokes reaching out into the community.
“I think my role will continue to evolve as well. All of these changes will be for the care of people. It’s not about me. Everything is for His glory. ‘…whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God’” (I Cor. 10:31, KJV).
Gassaway Baptist Church will host an evening of celebration for Pastor Stump and Darlene on Sunday, March 18 at 7 p.m. Following a time of sharing testimonies in the sanctuary, the congregation will enjoy, in Baptist tradition, a buffet-style feast in the fellowship hall. Everyone is invited to attend.
Braxton County schools open as strike ends
By Shirley Shuman
Normalcy seems to rule
After nine consecutive days of closure because of the statewide strike of school employees, schools opened in Braxton County and throughout the state last Wednesday. While the return to school brought relief to educators and parents alike, it could also have brought difficulties for those making decisions about possible lost time.
Superintendent David Dilly is still working on necessary adjustments to the calendar for the remainder of the school term. A spokesperson from his office explained that he had waited for the results of an online survey and that he wants to take his decisions on changes to the board of education before announcing them.
In addition to calendar changes, however, several other changes may be necessary even though the missed days will be made up. For example, Braxton County High principal Jessica Pierson and assistant principal Flora Cox noted that the third nine-weeks had been shortened because of snow days and the work stoppage. In a release, they noted that it is difficult for teachers to cover all their required content standards in a timely manner, but they “have extended the nine-weeks period to provide additional time to cover the material.”
One high school teacher did say she has found herself “teaching a little harder and faster.” She also will have to cut out a few projects she had planned. Another noted that he will have no problems covering what he had planned to cover. High school students asked about any problems they have encountered have seen nothing rushed and no real adjustments. One young woman, a senior, did mention that she feels the days out “hurt the kids in grade school.” Another said, “We just picked up where we left off like nothing even happened.” Still another reported, “Everything is normal.”
Basically, this is what Pierson and Cox reported. They noted that the work stoppage “was anticipated and teachers were able to prepare students ahead of time with
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some work and extending time to complete makeup work.” The two administrators also stressed that everyone “is working together to assure learning is taking place” and promised “to continue to provide a quality education for all students as we finish out the school year.”
Most elementary school administrators are concerned about preparing for standardized testing and providing quality instructional time. For example, Dr. Tony Minney, principal of Davis Elementary, explained that the testing window for the required standardized tests starts in April. “We have to get our practice session in,” he said, “so that we can analyze the results and review skills students need for the tests.”
Frametown principal Linda Sears also appears to be looking toward test preparation. She said she and her staff “are actually hoping to lose spring break so [they] can have straight instructional time before the tests and the end of school.” Currently, at Frametown, the staff “is putting more emphasis on math because math requires so many foundational skills.”
On the other hand, Kyre-anna Minney, principal at Sutton Elementary, seems to be taking a different approach. On Friday, SES was having a restart assembly “to remind and reset.” Minney wants to emphasize that the students should strive to do their best. The upcoming week will be Spirit Week of coming back, she noted, with a theme of Aim High/Climb Back. Minney said they will be focusing on five habits—execution, vision, mutual benefit, creative consideration, and mutual understanding. She did mention that they will be making some adjustments regarding lost instructional time.
Greg Ball, Flatwoods Elementary principal, was one of the school leaders who focused more on testing. He noted that, if the testing window remains the same, it will be more difficult to get the practice test in and check “to see where the kids struggled” and go from there.
At Burnsville Elementary, Dr. Robin Lewis explained that they would have finished up practice testing by last Friday had there been no missed days. Now, she explained, they are making adjustments. “I can’t imagine planning extracurricular activities during the day,” she said. “Instruction is the top priority.”
Sandy Post, principal at Little Birch Elementary, discussed practice tests and said, “We are rushing around trying to get our training done. We’re playing catch up, and of course we’re delaying things a couple of weeks.” Post also mentioned an intervention which she had planned before the strike but which hasn’t begun yet. “Each elementary school has a set number of intervention hours, but Little Birch hadn’t used any,” she explained. “[To make up for that], I have hired two people to come in all day every day for the rest of the year,” she said.
Middle school principal Michelle Gorby mentioned having to retrain students but said they are doing “only what the calendar calls for.” She did say the middle school staff “is having to adjust benchmarks.”
Obviously, administrators in Braxton County Schools are working to ensure that their students receive the instruction that parents expect them to have. Other adjustments may, of course, be made once they receive the revised calendar.
Parole check leads to arrest of
On Mondy, March 5, local law enforcement were conducting a parole home check on of an individual residing on Dessie Clem Road in Frametown which led to the arrest of Edwin Earl O’Neal, 46 and Tonya Elisa Haley, 39. Both individuals have been charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, felon in possession of a firearm, and conspiracy.
Braxton County Sheriff’s Department Deputy A.L. Groves, Deputy C.E. Westfall, West Virginia State Police CPL P.A. Huff, and TPR W.C. Heaster assisted Parole Officer L.M. Thompson in conducting the home check at the residence of parolee O’Neal and his girlfriend Haley. While the officers were conducting a search of the home they located in the upstairs bedroom a pistol with ammunition, multiple smoking devices for both meth and marijuana, multiple baggies used to package controlled substances for distribution and two bags containing a white crystal like substance that field tested positive for methamphetamine, along with a large sum of cash.
Both suspects are convicted felons and O’Neal is currently on parole from a conviction of manufacturing drugs in Braxton County on December 28, 2016. Haley was previously convicted of obtaining a prescription by fraud on September 19, 2013.
Arraignment was conducted by Braxton County Magistrate Beth Smith who placed both individuals on $30,000 cash only bonds. The suspects are currently lodged in the Central Regional Jail awaiting further court hearings.
Eagle boys are Regional Champs,
head to States
The Braxton County Eagles Boys Basketball team walked away with the win against the Robert C. Byrd Eagles, Thursday night, March 8 to become Region 2 Section 2 Champions with a final score of 67-62. The Eagles now head to the Boys Basketball State Tournament in Charleston. The first round of play will be Wednesday, March 14 at 5:30 pm against Fairmont Senior. This is only the third time in school history the Eagles have made it to the state tournament; the last time was in 2005.
By Shirley Shuman
For the first time since the 2004-2005 season---and only the third time in school history, the BCHS boys’ basketball team will play in the state tournament. The Eagles, playing to an Armory packed with fans from both schools, defeated Robert C. Byrd 67-62 in regional play last Thursday night.
Braxton, now 21-4, tied the school record for the most wins in a season. That record was set in 2004-2005 under Coach Rick Frame. The Eagles were undefeated on their home court this season. Coach Josh Lunceford, obviously ecstatic about his team’s highly successful season, declared, “I knew this was coming.”
Looking toward the Eagles’ upcoming tournament game against undefeated Fairmont Senior, Coach Lunceford said that Fairmont “will be the most athletic team we’ve played all year.” The coach continued to say, “We’ll be prepared. We plan to go down and play our game. We will compete.”
In their win over RCB, the Eagles came back from a five-point deficit after the first quarter with a strong offensive effort in the second and third to lead by 12 going into the final period. There, Braxton’s defense held off a Robert C. Byrd comeback effort to earn the right to play in the state tournament.
Cole Browning came up with 30 points to lead the Eagles’ offensive attack. Two other Braxton players—Tayton Stout and Seth Arnold, also scored in double figures. Stout added 12 points and Arnold 10.
Braxton’s game against Fairmont Senior is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon at the Charleston Civic Center.
New business opens in Gassaway
By Shirley Shuman
Recently opened on Elk Street in Gassaway, The Property Shop, LLC, is the newest real estate agency in the county. Broker Kathy Sims and her agents plan an open house from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. March 16 with a ribbon-cutting at 12 noon to mark the opening.
Sims, whose main real estate business is in Weston, explained how she decided to open an office in Gassaway. “After listing a few properties in the area, meeting the people, and seeing a lively town, witnessing the genuine sincerity of those I spoke with, the wheels began turning. I knew I wanted to locate here,” she said. “After a few months of planning and painting, we are open. I’m really excited,” she added.
In addition to Sims, four other agents are ready to serve potential customers ,Barbara Chabanik Amy Hunt, Lisa Rader, and Kristi Smith make up the additional crew. “We all have families and know the importance of looking at homes together, so we make ourselves available to meet in the evenings and weekends,” Sims noted. Continuing, she said, “All the agents are experienced and well trained to walk clients step-by-step through the process. We are just a phone call away.”
Returning to the warm welcome they have received, Sims described some of what they experienced as they were preparing their office. “The people are so friendly. Lisa and I were arranging things in the office, and folks just popped in to say ‘Hello.’ It’s great,” she commented. Sims emphasized that she and the agents realize that real estate purchases are the biggest investments most people make in their lives. “We know it’s a big deal,” she said, “and we treat it as such. We know you have questions. It’s ok. Some people don’t want to bother us in the evenings, but please do. It’s our job,” the broker added.
Sims began her life in real estate in 2005 after an 18-year career in banking at United Bank in Weston. She worked at Century 21, Country Roads Realty in the Weston branch under broker Shawn Holmes. After winning Century 21 company awards, including the Ruby and Emerald, she decided to become a broker. She opened her own office in Weston in 2009, which is the current location of the main office of The Property Shop.
In anticipation of the success she hopes to see for the new branch, Sims said, “We look forward to the opportunity to serve those in Braxton and surrounding areas and feel it is a privilege to be here.” She emphasized that all are welcome to attend the March 16 open house and ribbon-cutting.
BCHS’s Number 10 senior active in school
By Shirley Shuman
Ranked tenth in the 2018 BCHS graduating class, Garrett Shingler, the son of Andrew and Tonya Shingler, obviously does more than attend classes and make top grades. He is active in several organizations and holds an after-school job in addition to several personal interests.
An active member of the local chapter of the National Honor Society, Shingler also belongs to SADD and the student council. His favorite high school memory comes from the work he did with the National Honor Society. “My favorite memory at BCHS was getting together and dropping off presents for the Christmas for the Heart project,” he noted.
After school, this busy young man works in the conference center at Day’s Hotel, a job which he says he really enjoys. Among his hobbies, he named sports, especially basketball, traveling, and collecting sneakers. As for his favorite trip, he chose a cruise to the Bahamas, which he enjoyed with his family. Not surprisingly, he listed as one of his hobbies “learning and experiencing new interests.”
Shingler chose Math STEM III as his favorite class and said one reason was the fact that it helped him raise his ACT math scores high enough to qualify for the PROMISE scholarship. “After I took that class, my math score went up eight points,” he said.
His favorite teacher, Charlie Toumazous, is the instructor for Math STEM III. Explaining why he chose Mr. Toumazous, Shingler said, “I learned something new literally every time I stepped in his classroom.”
Although he said that the best part of school is “getting to see [his] friends on a regular basis,” Garrett Shingler is eager to begin his college career at West Virginia University. There he plans to major in chemistry in preparation for medical school. He wants to become a physician. From what he has accomplished to this point, one would expect him to attain that goal.
Man with gun arrested following confrontation with strikers
A non-union contractor was arrested for brandishing a firearm at a Braxton County picket line on Tuesday, March 6. Ato Oronde Clark, 43, of Lawrenceville, GA was arrested and charged with brandishing a deadly weapon after pulling a handgun on an individual picketing for on behalf of Frontier workers on Days Drive.
Frontier Communications is currently on strike and picketers are set up at various locations around the state, including Days Drive near the Flatwoods Exit of I-79. Workers site job security as the main issue for the strike. The company has been using outside contractors and people from other Frontier organizations to keep services operating. Clark is one of these outside contractors.
According to the criminal complaint, the victim stated he had yelled at the suspect that he was taking his job. The suspect proceeded to stop his vehicle, got out with a small black handgun, and told the victim not to mess with him. The victim also said the suspect had pointed the gun at him.
Clark provided a statement to investigating officers saying he did get out of the vehicle with the gun in his hand and told the victim not to mess with him.
West Virginia State Police CPL J.D. Jordan, II of the Sutton Detachment was the arresting officer. Clark was arraigned by Braxton County Magistrate Beth Smith and is currently lodged in the Central Regional Jail on a $10,000 cash only bond awaiting further court proceedings.