Minister Tammy Russell is the president of the welcome ministry at Pleasantview Baptist Church located at 302 Fincher Road in Covington.
The welcome ministry kicked off its five-year celebration on the square last weekend with preaching, teaching, dancing, food and fellowship and concluded with a special service on Sunday.
The ministry is an extension of the church and shares the love of Christ in the community through visitation, distributing food to the needy, ministering in the prison, preaching in the nursing homes and serving communion to shut-ins.
Members of the 2008 Welcome Ministry include Minister Sean McDuffie, J.C. Horton Jr., Minister Michael Critton, Minister Lorenzo White, Deacon Andre Cooper, Evette Gaither, Jane Critton, Nadine Cooper, Latoya Hollingsworth, Lisa Cooper, Virginia White, Michelle Hill, Shanterrica Hicks, Latridra McDuffie, Danielle Petty, Dorothy Walker, Cynthia Critton, Minister Linda Petty, Joe Ree Russ, Mattie White, Stephanie Shaw, Erica Russ, Paulette Arnold, Frenchelle Curry, Cassie Nolley, Martha Pope, Connie Horto, Jasmine Cooper, Terry Critton and Tamara Russell. Officers include Deacon Willie Clarence Roberts, Adviser Martha R. Alexander, Editor Frances Goodwin and Minister Tammy Russell, president.
Born to Elizabeth and Curtis Reed, Russell is a native of Covington and a 1984 graduate of Newton County High School. She has been employed by Rockdale County Schools for the past fifteen years and has three daughters, Valentá and Michell-le Hill and Tamara Russell and one grandson, Tahjé Heard.
Russell credits her mother and late grandmother, Lucille Hurst, for encouraging her as a child as they attended Richards Chapel Methodist Church. She recalled fond memories of sitting down and listening to her grandmother's words of wisdom.
Russell confessed that her faith was not always strong and told how God used her daughter's illness to teach her to pray.
"At four months, Tamara was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors," said Russell. "The doctor explained the situation and sent us to Egleston where they performed a CAT scan and MRI. They put a shunt in and drew the liquid off her brain. The doctor told me that my baby might not see, hear or walk. I began to pray and fast and speak healing over her."
Russell's mother was in ill health at the time and her marriage was failing. She questioned the Lord but continued to pray for his will to be done.
"If I ever needed the Lord, I surely needed him then," she said. "It seemed like I didn't have anybody, but I realized that Jesus wanted me to depend on him. I started looking at my situation and continued to pray for my daughter's healing. We went to the doctor the next six weeks and a new MRI revealed that she didn't need another operation. She can hear, walk and talk. Anytime I am down and out, I look at her and see where God has brought me and I am back where I need to be in the spirit."
Russell came to Plesantview seven years ago. She watched and observed from the back row. One Sunday she experienced a vision where she saw herself in the pulpit - but dismissed it as an overactive imagination.
"As I grew closer to the Lord, I began to get real about my relationship with him and knew he was calling me into this ministry," she said.
Pastor and Mrs. Holmes continue to be a source of encouragement to Russell in her personal life and as a leader in the church. She recalled many times when he would phone to say "hold on" and give her a word from the Lord.
"Now, I try to encourage people and tell them that God is able regardless of the circumstance," she said. "We go through things so we can support others."
In October 2002, prophetic dreamer and founder of the welcome ministry, Frances Goodwin told Pastor Holmes that she saw Russell in this leadership role. The concept was introduced to the church that December and their first community event was held in the following March.
Minister Tammy Russell and Minister Linda Petty took the ministry to another level by going into homes and praying. Accompanied by Cynthia Critton, they offer communion each month to those who are shut-in or in nursing homes. At Christmas, the welcome ministry team takes fruit baskets to Riverside and Covington Manor. Russell will begin speaking on the fourth Sunday at 3:00 p.m. at Riverside.
"Tammy is dedicated to the calling that God has placed her in," said Minister Linda Petty. "She has a heart and compassion for people who are going through trying times and always has a word of encouragement for them."
Russell and Petty preach at the jail twice a month to over 100 women and teach a Bible study on rotation every six weeks. Their desire is to see women gain self esteem and get into church so they can begin to tell others how God worked in their lives.
"I tell them that we all have sinned and they don't have to stay down," said Russell as she thought of the number of women who have accepted Christ. "They shout, sing and dance. The Lord trains us and knows that we are trustworthy to do his work - when I come out I don't discuss who I saw in there."
The members of the welcome ministry are charged with the responsibility to bring a dollar and a canned good each Sunday. Russell and Petty go to Kroger on Sunday evening and deliver food to needy homes in Newton, Social Circle and Conyers.
"We tell them that the church doors are open to them and that we have a church where they can get in there and work," she said.
In the second year of the ministry, men and children joined the group. Russell said she feels a responsibility to raise up children to be leaders. The first Tuesday of each month, the group meets and discusses how they can improve. Russell confesses that it is not always easy to be a leader as she remembered many crying nights before she became strong in this ministry.
"Our church is a group of loving people," she said. "I push the members of the ministry to a 'can do' way of thinking. In order to take a ministry to another level, there is some chastisement. We discuss our strengths and weaknesses and I listen as they offer suggestions. I go back and talk with our pastor, and we pray about the direction God wants us to go."
The welcome ministry has opened doors for Russell to minister outside of the church community. In 2006, she was the guest speaker for Sims Chapel Baptist Church at the Aberdeen Woods Conference Center and will speak at the Rock Springs Baptist Church in McDonough in June. She is one of seven ministers who speak periodically at Pleasantview. "I prayed and fasted for two weeks, before I spoke at the conference center," she recalled. "The Lord used me that day. Afterwards, I have felt sure that I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me."
For more information, call the Rev. Camile Holmes at (770) 786-3394.