BRADENTON -- There's a healing ministry happening at Saint Mary's Missionary Baptist Church, but for the deacons and their new pastor, the Rev. Jasper Jackson, it comes in many ways.
Saturday, June 29, their fourth annual community health fair and blood drive will offer free health screenings, child immunizations, food, music and games for kids and adults from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the church, at 1006 First Street.
Groups working with the church on the event include the NAACP and Omega Fraternity, while the Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, Florida Blood Services, Manatee County Rural Health Services, the Manatee County Sheriff and other public service agencies have been invited.
Spearheaded by Deacon Napoleon Mills, a retired Manatee County educator, the event is part of
the ongoing outreach that caught the enthusiasm of Jackson when he returned to Bradenton in September to take the call to the church in the neighborhood where he grew up.
Mills, who also headsthe health teams for the NAACP and for Omega Fraternity in Manatee County, graduated from Florida A&M and Nova Southeastern University.
"When I came here, Dr. Mills was really involved in this health ministry. Then I found out Deacon Anderson Carnegie was. His wife was my classmate. One thing I realized, we used to pray all the time when we were young," the pastor said.
Carnegie, whose family have been among Saint Mary's leadership for years, successfully fought non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2006.
"The main thing is youhave to pray. You have to give yourself to God. I guarantee you He'll hear you. Some-times I'll be speaking inchurch that by having faith in God, that He can heal you."
"As far as this health fair," the deacon said, "Dr. Mills really got me started on it because there are a lot of people walking around in the neighborhood and street and all, and they don't think," he said.
"They don't take life seriously until something happens to them. They don't think about God or anything or anybody else until it hits them, and then they say, 'Oh, my God!'"
Now retired from Florida Power & Light, Carnegie couldn't work during all of 2005 due to cancer.
"I had real good health, and all of a sudden it hit me. Nobody else in my family has ever had cancer and some kind of way it hit me so I just had to go through it, and that's one of my main reasons for being with the Relay for Life. I want to try to get people to realize you're missing out on life, once something like that happens to you. The only thing that saved me was Jesus Christ."
For Jackson, having deacons on board who can work together as a ministry team makes all the difference in church leadership.
"What I really like is that the church men have begun to go out and knock on doors. What I see is a new building and I talk to the people out there. I know they wonder why I walk around. I told one gentleman, I'm just praying and asking God for direction. This is one of the reasons why I think the Lord placed me here," Jackson said.
A graduate of Lincoln High in Palmetto, Jackson earned his ministerial credentials at Central Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. He talks about seeing a new church building on the property just north of the current sanctuary.
"I don't know if I evensee the building being built, but I do see it being placed over there. I might not bethe one putting it over there," he said.
"God works in mysterious ways. I thank God for the deacons, I think God for the congregation, I thank God for placing me there. He isn't in a hurry."
Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7024, or tweet @DeeGrahamBH.