By Caleb Mynatt
For the majority of a decade, Anna and LaCount Anderson have served as CBF field personnel, ministering to the people of Conetoe, an impoverished, rural farming community located in eastern North Carolina. When the Andersons became aware of Conetoe, a town that is home to about 300 people, it was facing a horrible epidemic.
“The people of Conetoe were dying,” said LaCount. “They were dying due to poor nutrition and dying of diseases that were totally preventable.”
Alongside their partner Rev. Richard Joyner, a member of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of the Year in 2016, the Andersons help support the Conetoe Family Life Center, a nonprofit organization that serves as a community garden for the local residents. When the garden first began, it was a single plot of land. It is now a 27-acre farm that has become a community-owned business that provides healthy and nutritious food to the Conetoe community.
The Andersons have helped to make a significant difference in the fight against poverty and disease in Conetoe. But now, they face the challenge of helping the Conetoe community navigate another problem: a pandemic.
With their ministry in the towns of Rocky Mount and Ahoskie, N.C, as well as in Conetoe, the Andersons live a very active and hands-on lifestyle. As a result, the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted their work. Along with their involvement with the Family Life Center, they also provide food distribution to senior citizens, assist with an after-school program, and provide counseling and housing assistance as forms of ministry. They heavily rely on social interaction to accomplish their goals, something that has become difficult to maintain in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The lack of face-to-face ministry has been the biggest challenge and disappointment that COVID-19 has brought because everything we do is built on relationships,” said Anna. “Gathering with people; sitting down with people one-on-one; our tutoring. COVID-19 wipes all of that away.”
Although the coronavirus forced the Andersons to suspend certain parts of their ministry, they have found ways to resume their work. Through finding bigger spaces and making a concerted effort to adhere to CDC guidelines, the Andersons have been able to restart their counseling. They and fellow church members have also found ways to continue their after-school tutoring program by mailing educational materials to the students. And, in the case of their food distribution to 91 families, they have actually discovered a more efficient way to do it by turning it into a drive -through. In all of these ministry settings, the Andersons expect things to look very different in the future.
“I don’t think we will ever return exactly to the way things were before,” said Anna. “We will have to find bigger spaces. We will have to work with the school to continue our tutoring program. There is a lot that is going to have to change.”
In spite of a global pandemic, the Andersons have been astounded by the continued outpouring of generosity from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship family and eastern North Carolina community. Despite the uncertain situation that the coronavirus pandemic has caused, the Andersons are grateful for regular donations to their ministry.
Due to the financial support from the CBF family, the Andersons have been able to continue work on projects in spite of the pandemic, such as their Water Project, which will provide a consistent source of water for the work at the garden.
“I’m extremely grateful that the church is being the church during this time because everyone is trying to do more,” said LaCount. “They’re reaching out more. They’re giving more. It’s not anything like I thought it would be.”
Even though the coronavirus pandemic will likely not go away in 2020, the Andersons remain focused on those goals that they set out to accomplish at the beginning of the year. While their work may include more precautions, such as the necessity for face masks and social distancing, it is just another challenge that the Andersons will overcome to serve as the hands of Jesus in a community that is still desperately in need.
“Our goal for the rest of this year is the same as every other year,” said Anna. “We want to continue to build and nurture a relationship with the Conetoe Family Life Center, as well as our other partners in Ahoskie, that lets us continue to get to know them and their needs better.”
To learn more about LaCount and Anna’s work in Conetoe and the eastern North Carolina area, as well as to explore ways to support their missions, visit their website at www.cbf.net/anderson.