The Norman Transcript

January 7, 2010

Pushing mission work at home

By Christian Potts

Joey Armstrong's office has the look of near-perfect organization, a sign he's ready to take on his new role as community minister at First Baptist Church.

"My wife was here helping me get it straight," he admitted. "We'll see how it is in a couple of weeks."

Armstrong is a Tulsa native, a graduate of Tulsa Union High School and Oklahoma Baptist University before he attended Truett Seminary at Baylor University.

His work at the church will focus on the church's mission work to help people in need in Norman, an area he began to think more about during his years at seminary.

"It got me thinking about the need for local missions," he said. "There is a need in our churches to think about living missionally where we are, not just in other countries."

He graduated from seminary in May and began communicating with First Baptist about the position in September. While it's actually a new position in the church, the work has been going on there for about 10 years, when Senior Adult Minister Vickie Riggs started the community ministry.

Among its scope are a Sunday afternoon meal that serves about 140 members of the community each week, a weekly Sunday school ministry geared toward people who may be coming right in off the streets and seasonal events like Thanksgiving baskets and an afterschool mentoring program with Lincoln Elementary School.

"Since it's grown to so many programs she just couldn't do it all by herself," Armstrong said. "Now she's acclimating me to everything and getting it all turned over to me."

Armstrong noted the church's bicycle ministry, in which refurbished or donated bicycles are given to people in need who can't get around.

"One of the biggest problems for people coming out of poverty is they don't have transportation to do things we take for granted," he said.

Armstrong and his wife Ashley have been married for three and-a-half years. They'll have to spend the next few months of it apart as she completes her master's degree in health education at Baylor.

It will give her husband time to get up to full speed in his work, and perhaps messy up that office a little bit.

"I am the luckiest person in the world to do this and be able to coordinate and find out what it means to partner with God," he said. "The world is not perfect, and we want to help people who have had all sort of situations that life has thrown at them.

"One of the things that drew me to First Baptist, typically there's a stereotype on first Baptist churches that they're not very relevant or current with culture or what's going on. This type of work, kind of social justice work, is really cutting edge."

Christian Potts 366-3544 cpotts@normantranscript.com