It’s been several years in the making, but BlueOval City has arrived.
“In fact, it’s here,” Danny Sinquefield, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board specialist spearheading the initiative to support pastors and churches in the area, told the Tennessee Baptist and Reflector. “The buildings are going up and there are thousands of construction workers on site. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Located in Haywood County in the Stanton community of western Tennessee, Ford Motor Company has purchased 4,100 acres of land and is building the largest automotive production plant in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world.
Investing $5.6 billion, the plant will employ about 6,000 at the time of full operation, which is expected in 2025. Ford Motor Company plans to invest more than $500 million in infrastructure, roads and schools, and the population is expected to increase dramatically.
Currently, there are more than 3,000 construction workers who make up the first wave of people. After the construction is complete, these workers and families will leave and move to another site. Then, the permanent employees will arrive.
Location, location, location
In real estate, the main reason for moving to an area is often the location.
Larry Stanley, a Haywood County commissioner and a member of Woodland Baptist Church in Brownsville, says purchasing the land for this megasite has taken several years. The county is known for farmland, especially acreage for growing cotton. And these 4,100 acres were considered farmland.
“There were several reasons for Ford Motor Company choosing Haywood County,” Stanley noted. “But two reasons were the close proximity to Memphis, a major city. The second is that Interstate 40 is nearby.”
Within the 20-mile radius surrounding Blue Oval City, there are numerous churches of various faiths. Employees are coming in from all over the world. Korean and Hispanic people are already there, and they need a church where their language is spoken.
Faith communities see the new workers and employees moving to western Tennessee as a golden opportunity for missions.
They know that supporting missions is vital to the growth of congregations, and they are looking forward to meeting new people who may never have heard the gospel.
On a recent Sunday evening, members of Woodland, a small church, received permission and visited with construction workers in a trailer park about 4 miles from the church. There is an electrical hookup for 50 trailers. Some of these workers brought their wives and children.
Others were men alone who traveled from site to site as required by their jobs. Members set up a table in the middle of the campground and talked to those who came by. They also knocked on the doors of nearby trailers. They passed out information on Woodland encouraged the people to attend. Gift cards to a local restaurant were also passed out. The members received a warm welcome.
“The impact of small churches on Blue Oval City can be significant,” said Randy Kellough, pastor of Woodland.
“Small churches offer encouragement spiritually and physically by praying for the workers, providing lunches and having facilities that can be used for workers’ families to gather,” he noted.
“Small churches can be mobilized to be an emotional support for the Blue Oval City community due to the stress many are under,” he added. “Small churches can seek opportunities to partner with Blue Oval City as they desire to support and give back to the community.”
Reaching people for Jesus
“We are encouraging our small churches in the surrounding area of the Blue Oval plant to find creative ways to engage the nearly 3,000 workers who have arrived and are living in the area,” Sinquefield added. “It is important that our smaller churches begin to think of themselves as ‘missions outposts’ of Almighty God. This means embracing a new mindset for some of the pastors and people.”
Ways to get involved
There are many ways small churches can minister to the new neighbors who have come with Blue Oval City. Some ideas include:
- Hosting backyard Bible clubs.
- Welcoming all cultures, ethnic and social groups.
- Opening multipurpose gyms for sports and recreation activities.
- Preparing international food for special events.
- Scheduling after-school tutoring for students to achieve academic success.
- Teaching ESL classes.
- Electing additional deacons to minister to these families.
- Training teachers and church leaders in understanding these social groups.
- Mentoring students who are having adjustment problems in school.
- Inviting workers to Bible study and to worship services.
- Praying for these individuals and families as they adjust to new situations and cultures.