Ken’s Column: Providing a ray of hope at Hope Park

Published 12:27 am Friday, June 7, 2019

Last weekend, I had the privilege of going to St. George Island, FL to attend a retreat with a group of singles from the North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, GA, the church that I attended when I was living there and where I am technically still a member.

It was a time of fun, fellowship and spiritual growth, but we also had an opportunity to put our faith into action. About 15 minutes from the island is the community of Eastpoint, FL in Franklin County, one of the poorest counties in the state.

The area depends on fishing and oyster harvesting for its economy and livelihood, but Hurricane Michael did massive damage to the oyster beds, causing the residents to lose much of their income, if not all of it.

It was in this environment that we endeavored to make a positive difference. In Eastpoint, there is a youth center run by the United Methodist Church called Hope Park. The people who run Hope Park want desperately for their center to be a place where kids can come to play on the playground and play basketball. Most importantly, however, they want Hope Park to be a place where kids can come to know Christ and will go on to make a positive difference in that community.

We took part in breaking ground for the purpose of installing a swing set. It was backbreaking work in the sweltering heat, but I believe that it was worth it. We also laid out the measurements and dimensions to build a basketball court so kids can come and play basketball. It will be a place where the children of that community will one day come and play in a positive, uplifting environment. They will be away from the negative influences of drugs and other things that are all too pervasive in that community.

Our goal in doing this mission project at Hope Park was to plant a seed that will grow over time. Hopefully, the group I was with, along with other groups, will be able to do follow-up work. Hopefully, that work will accelerate the growth process and will result in that planted seed blossoming into a flower of hope and optimism. Those are two things that have been sorely lacking in that community. Once the children that play on the grounds at Hope Park come to know Christ, they will lead others to Him. That will hopefully lead to a thriving community in which drugs and poverty will be done away with. There are no guarantees that all of this will happen, but there is hope. The possibility is there. It is there because we decided to do our part to plant a seed of hope by helping to build the playground and basketball court. It may not sound like a lot right now, but in time, I believe that it will pay off.

Perhaps there are areas in Americus and Sumter County that face some of the same problems that Eastpoint, FL has. Let me encourage everybody to do what can be done to bring hope to these communities. It may be something as simple as uprooting grass so that mulch can be put in its place so that a swing set can be built. That is precisely what we did.

Give your time and talents to better the lives of other people less fortunate. Not only will they be blessed in the long run as a result of your efforts, but you will be blessed as well. You are providing something that people can hold on to: hope. That is what was created at a place called Hope Park.

Ken Gustafson is the sports editor for the Americus Times-Recorder. To email him, go to, or call 229-924-2751.