In the late 1980s through the 1990s, Ben and Annabelle Hall — then members of Gillespie Avenue Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee — were fixtures at Western Heights Baptist Center, a ministry of the Knox County Association of Baptists.
“They came as volunteers to the Baptist Center every Tuesday and Thursday for about 20 years,” said Jackie Young, who recently completed his 42nd year as a staff member of the Baptist Center.
“They were faithful, dedicated servants and loyal to the ministry,” he recalled.
Nearly two decades later, their legacy is being carried on by four of their grandchildren who recently came to volunteer at Western Heights, said current director Shannon Washam.
Washam said he never knew the Halls, but he is seeing the fruits of their faith. The Halls and others at Western Heights over the years have had a generational impact, he noted.
“We are seeing kids and grandkids now being involved in ministry. It’s a beautiful story of how faith can impact future generations,” Washam noted.
Mike Anders grew up in Knoxville and knew of his grandparents’ involvement at the Baptist Center but neither he or his brother or cousins ever had the opportunity to minister with them at the center.
Anders now lives in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and is a member of Northside Baptist Church. Earlier this summer he went with a youth group from his church to volunteer at the center.
While there, he met Young and learned that the Baptist Center staff member had known his grandparents. “He took me down a hallway with a collage of photographs and pointed to one that included him and Anders’ grandparents,” Anders said. Young also shared his memories and stories about the Halls.
Honoring a legacy
Before returning to Kentucky, Anders told Young he would like to get his brother and cousins to come serve at the center to honor their legacy.
His brother and cousins embraced the idea, Anders related.
Anders made the connections at the center and arranged a time for his family to volunteer. In his conversations with Washam, Anders learned the center needed a gaga pit. Gaga is a fast-paced game, similar to dodge ball but is played in an octagonal pit.
Anders noted that Northside had constructed a gaga pit so he got the plans and bought the materials needed and coordinated the dates with his brother, Gary, and two of his four cousins (Phillip McRary and Stephen Hall) who were able to come and help. The Anders’ dad also helped with the project.
The opportunity to help Western Heights in honor of their grandparents also gave the cousins time to reconnect with each other. “Our cousins just don’t get together like we used to,” he said.
“We all agreed this was a way to serve God and the community around the center while honoring our grandparents’ legacy at the place they had served,” Anders said.
Anders’ brother, Gary Anders, noted that he “always had tremendous respect for my grandparents and for their heart to serve others and their hospitality. There’s probably a lot that they did for others that we don’t know about.”
Reminder of faithful service
Gary, who now attends Calvary Chapel in Knoxville, related that working on the project at the Baptist Center “was not only fun to do with my cousins but also a great reminder of all the time our grandparents spent there serving. This was just a drop in the bucket compared to what they did, but I know they would be proud of it and would really enjoy watching the kids play.”
His cousin, Stephen Hall, agreed. “The center at Western Heights is an excellent ministry,” he observed. “I’m glad that we were able to spend a couple of days serving there.”
Hall, who serves as executive pastor of North Park Baptist Church in Trussville, Alabama, also said it was a “special honor” to serve where his grandparents served.
“It was a blessing to help in a community that meant so much to my grandparents,” he continued. “Just as they did, I hope I can leave a legacy of faith and service to Jesus.”
Hall serves on the board of a crisis relief ministry in Birmingham called Serving You Ministry.
“I think of my grandparents service often as I work with this ministry,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Lonnie Wilkey and originally published by the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.