CBF Field Personnel / Featured

Building a Future for Everybody: How CBF’s Anna and LaCount Anderson are making an impact on their community

By Jennifer Colosimo

If there’s one thing to know about Anna and LaCount Anderson, it’s that they aren’t handy. But for all the times you’ll hear them say they don’t know anything about gardening, or that they’re certainly not capable contractors, that’s exactly what they’ve been doing—among many other things—to serve God in two important communities in rural North Carolina. These include the Conetoe Family Life Center in Conetoe and First Baptist Church of Ahoskie. And while they chuckle when they look back and think about how they managed to get themselves into this position, one thing is for sure, they wouldn’t change a thing.

Anna and LaCount Anderson

In 2017, they both left their previous ministry roles to work full-time for CBF. Restructuring of the funding model opened up a new opportunity for them to do what they were passionate about and truly make a difference. They began working with an agricultural nonprofit organization as part of the Conetoe Family Life Center in Conetoe, N.C., a small town with a lot of need. Anna and LaCount worked in the 27-acre garden, ran literacy workshops for children, offered piano lessons, provided after-school care and tutoring, and volunteered with senior citizen food distribution as a part of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

“We started out helping in that food program because Conetoe was trying to get it established with the Family Life Center being a source for the community there,” LaCount said. “Pretty soon, we found ourselves in charge of that. And we still do that. We love it because we’ve been able to develop a team of local volunteers who help us, and we’ve also had churches from as far away as Griffin, Ga., come to volunteer with us. It’s helped us connect locally and regionally with people who want to help this area.”

Another of their passions exists about an hour north. There, First Baptist Church of Ahoskie was facing the problem of ministers so busy with seeing people from the community stopping by for emergency assistance that they really did not have the time to do the work they needed to do. They wanted to spend more time with the community folks in need, but it was a strain trying to do that every day without a plan or specific method of help.

Katrina Tatum, a Campbell University Divinity School student and CBF Student.Go intern, pictured with LaCount and Anna Anderson at First Baptist Church, Ahoskie, N.C.

“We began doing benevolence work with them, meeting with clients who set appointments and have a specific time to come and talk with us so that the ministers could work on sermons, get music ready, do the planning and other things they needed to do and be freer to do the work that the congregation needed from them,” Anna said. “We’ve been doing this for over three years with them, and it’s one of the most rewarding things we do.

“There we get to meet people in need, talk with them, problem solve with them, and, if needed, pay their bills,” added LaCount. “We like it so much because we’re talking to people, not just thinking about policy changes or how to raise money. We’re actually building relationships and getting to know folks.”

As they got to know the people in Ahoskie and Conetoe, one thing kept coming up. Most often, people needed a place to live. Like many of the rural areas in Eastern and Central North Carolina, finding a comfortable, affordable place to live was crisis number one. That sparked a greater focus for Anna and LaCount.

Through their work with The Conetoe Family Life Center, they met Richard Joyner, the center’s founding director and a CNN nominee for a top hero of the year in 2015. They became his helpers, for lack of a better term. They did whatever they could through his ministry—from planting watermelons in the garden to packing food distribution boxes, to whatever was needed, really. They were his right-hand people, so when the idea arose to renovate a dilapidated mobile home that had been donated to the center years before as a solution to the housing crisis, he put them in charge.

Richard Joyner, founding director of the Conetoe Family Life Center, talks with apprentices, Adolfo Reyes and Jacob Holloway, as they share about their work therewith the Rural Urban Americas Team at their recent meeting.

“We began to explore some opportunities through the Welcome House community network through CBF of North Carolina,” said Anna. “We knew it was needed here, because this is one of the states where a refugee can come and resettle; but we also knew how many other groups of vulnerable people could use it.

“Of course, [Joyner] told us to run with it,” laughed Anna, admitting again that they didn’t know a thing about fixing up houses. “Westwood Baptist Church in Cary, North Carolina, contacted us with a mission grant opportunity, wanting their supporting field personnel to write a grant request for $10,000 to put towards a project they could be involved in personally. In my naivety, I thought $10,000 might actually cover the cost of getting their mobile home live-in ready.”

Of course, it didn’t come close. The mobile home was in two pieces, had withstood many seasons of weather, had no running water, no furniture or appliances and needed a new roof and new siding, just to name a few of the issues. Plus, we were in the beginning of a pandemic.

“We learned very quickly that you can’t get a house ready for occupancy with not much money,” Anna said. “The story is long and involved. But in November of 2021, everything was completed, and a single mom with three children began living there.”

But within that long story is an inspiring story about how both Anna and LaCount learned to run with God, instead of ahead of God, how to follow where God leads and how to wait on God. How to trust God’s plan. How to be reminded yet again that God is the one leading, God is the one directing.

Sue Bullock and Carrie Jackson deliver food boxes to recipients.

“I don’t know how we ever raised enough money to get the home ready for someone to live in it,” Anna said. “I mean, it was just God. We sent out the message among our encourager churches and put the word out everywhere we could think of; and then we just invited people. Many people heard what we were doing and just offered to help. It just happened.”

Letters requesting small donations resulted in mattresses, bedding, blinds and curtains for every bedroom. Word of mouth brought in donations of HVAC systems and the experts to install it. Electronics, furniture, appliances and a septic tank followed, paid for by donations from around the region. There were 15 different partnerships—such as Together for Hope—and a grant from CBF North Carolina’s Global Partnership Fund that helped get water to the home and appliances in the home.

Of course, it was a lot of hands-on work too. Anna remembers something akin to catcalls as she and LaCount pushed three Target carts full of pillows to her car one afternoon.

“We’re not contractors. We don’t know anything about construction at all,” Anna said. “We bit off way more than we could chew. God knew that; but I’ll tell you what this has done: It has ignited within us the need for safe, comfortable housing for people who are vulnerable and don’t have anywhere to go.”

As soon as they finished that double-wide mobile home, they decided they needed to tackle another one and, as they start work on the next Welcome House, they’re beginning to do asset mapping to discover additional assets, money or talent in the communities of Conetoe and Ahoskie. Once that is accomplished, they’ll be able to pinpoint things they need to do in this area and how to best attack them. Even as they scoff about their home renovation knowledge, they’re quickly becoming experts at it.

LaCount Anderson and Joyce McCartney unload items alongside other volunteers at the monthly food distribution in Conetoe

“Sometimes you’re prompted by the Spirit, and I’ve learned that you’ve got to pay attention to that,” Anna said. “We’ve got to have our antennae up and be ready to listen and be aware. We’re still learning that, and reminding ourselves of it everyday.”

In that vein, they’re continuously looking for more churches that have property or houses that they can connect to the Welcome House network.

“North Carolina had one Welcome House two years ago. Now there are 27 in the state,” Anna said. “We’re encouraging churches throughout the state to get a Welcome House in their own community. Whether it’s property they’re not using, a parsonage that isn’t needed, houses that aren’t serving a purpose currently—those could be a Welcome House. And we want to open up Welcome Houses to all vulnerable people groups, not just refugees. There are many people who need temporary, transitional housing. Maybe they’ve had a house fire; maybe it’s a teacher coming to teach for a short period of time; or senior adults, farm workers, anybody who is in a tough situation and experiencing poverty.”

The Andersons are also inviting more people to come and help them do the work they’ve already started locally.

“It means a lot to us to be able to live here, where we’re doing this work,” Anna said. “Presence matters in so many ways, and when you can be somewhere long enough to develop relationships with people, you have a different view about the needs and the opportunities in a place. We’ve been here a long time, but it’s exciting, because it feels like we’re just getting started. We feel as called to do this work as we ever did.”

This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of fellowship! magazine. Read the issue online at http://www.cbf.net/fellowship.

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