Proctorville church finds kernel in the rough

Published 9:46 am Monday, October 6, 2008

PROCTORVILLE — It was a plot of land no one wanted. But God saw it differently.

That is how Jeff Bragg, director of junior churches at First Baptist Church of Proctorville, sees it.

The resulting corn maze that has grown out of that land has enabled the church to reach out to its community in a new and unique way.

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A few months ago, Bragg looked at the acreage behind the church’s campus and thought about turning it into a corn field. More precisely what he wanted to do was see if the land could be turned into a corn maze.

Like any good maverick Bragg had his share of naysayers who told him there was too much rocky shale in the ground to nourish a crop. They candidly said he didn’t know what he was doing.

The easy-going Bragg didn’t argue. In fact, he agreed with them. But he went ahead anyway.

When, lo and behold, healthy stalks of corn starting growing, Bragg had only one explanation.

“I surrendered it to God and it looks like God wanted a corn maze,” he said.

To date, close to 1,000 children and adults have gotten to search their way through the maze — a statistic that pleases church officials.

“It is just outreach, showing ourselves friendly,” Jeff Black, senior pastor, said.

It’s also a chance to showcase the idea of “church” in a new light, Bragg says.

“It is not just a place for perfect people. None of us are perfect,” he said. “I believe church is to be an outreach to the community. What an awesome opportunity to give kids a place to hang out.”

Before the end of the month the number of maze travelers should climb exponentially as the church sponsors events each Saturday through October.

Every Saturday except Oct. 11, the maze will be open for family night from 6:30 to 8 p.m. For those who are a bit more daring, there will be a scare trail through the maze after dark from 8:30 to 11 p.m. every Saturday. All events are open to the Tri-State.

The first to scramble through the maze were the students at Fairland East and Fairland West elementaries last week. For that adventure the corn field was turned into what Bragg called “an educational maze.”

At each turn there was a question that had come from the children’s studies. Answering it correctly gave the students the right direction through the maze. The wrong answer meant extra and misguided steps.

That theme has been carried over to family night, where Biblical questions are posted at appropriate twists and turns. Again to answer correctly means less wear and tear on the tennis shoes.

However, it’s not just a single night of fun that the maze is generating. It is also a fund-raiser that has the potential of giving back more to the area.

First Baptist wants to build a 5,000 square-foot family life center, attaching it the gym. There will be an arcadia room with games and an activity room with a large-screen television. Cost is estimated to run between a quarter-million to $300,000 and the center should be open by spring.

The idea is to offer a haven for youth.

“It’s geared for them to come,” Bragg said. “Now we might want to splash a little Jesus on them.”