Last Updated on Friday, 19 September 2014, 20:01 by GxMediaYOURDAILYJOURNAL.COM.-ROCKINGHAM — Earl Rose never intended to become a missionary. The idea of providing medical care to the ill in foreign and developing countries or getting his hands muddy building schools and huts just never appealed to him.
Then he discovered Guyana, a country on the northern coast of South America that just needed books.
“My sister-in-law, Kathy Bruce, was a missionary in many countries,” Rose said. “And she kept asking me to go with her. Finally, I did. I went to Guyana for the first time and fell in love with its people.”
With English as its official language, Guyana stands out among its neighboring countries. The Guyanese speak in other tongues including Portuguese and Spanish and a host of regional dialects, but English is the primary language.
People in many parts of the country live in poverty, Rose said. There is only electricity for a few hours a day, and with little to do while the power is shut off, reading is highly valued.
“Even after I went the first time, I hadn’t made up my mind,” Rose said. “Back then, we used to give athletic shoes and I had found these little brand-new pink ones, a little baby’s shoes. I wanted to find just the right person to give those to, but I never did find anyone until the last day before we were about to leave.”
He said there was a woman with a little baby, and she had a Bible. She said she read it often, but as the two were going over the scriptures, she confessed she did not fully understand their meaning.
“I asked her if she knew what the scriptures meant, if she understood God’s plan of salvation,” Rose said. “After saying she didn’t know, we talked about it. She ended up saying the sinner’s prayer and got saved. After that, I cleaned the baby’s feet and placed the little pink shoes on them. I asked the woman her name.”
“My name is Roberta,” she said. “And my baby is named Angel.”
Rose said that was what really sold him on the whole thing. He took it as a sign from God that this was what he was meant to do.
“I just thought, ‘My goodness, I came all this way and now I’ve just put shoes on an angel!” Rose said.
The missionary ministry Rose became involved with is the International Celebration Association, a worldwide group of volunteers dedicated to spreading the Gospel by establishing Christian lending libraries, washing feet as Jesus did for his disciples and distribution of shoes to the poor.
Rose is a member of Freedom Baptist Church in Rockingham, but his connection with ICA is through Carmel Baptist Church in Matthews.
“Freedom Baptist supports me financially,” Rose said. “But this is not a mission specific to them.”
Rose said the lending libraries are built to established dimensions, capable of holding up to 500 books. They have locks on them, and a person in a village or prison system is chosen to oversee borrowing and returns.
When BB&T Market Leader Reba Dille heard about Rose’s missionary work, she wanted to do something to help.
“He’s a client, and we got into a conversation about his mission work and it was so exciting,” Dille said. “We talked about a book drop. I read a lot. I just love to read, so the idea of a library ministry in South America was exciting to me. We set up a drop box location here and it has been very successful. Word spread to our other branches, and now we have drop boxes there as well.”
Rose said so far he has more than 1,500 pounds of books — 29 banana boxes full. Their first destination is Charlotte, where they’ll be repackaged in crates for shipping to Guyana. He made his sixth yearly two-week mission trip in July, where he helps establish lending libraries where they are most needed.
“My daughter, Tina Barnhill, went with me,” Rose said. “She’s a teacher at Second Baptist Day School. She liked it, but said if she ever goes back, it won’t be for two weeks. Guyana is not a beautiful place. It’s dirty. There are a lot of poor people living there. Mission work is not for everyone, but it was so good having my daughter with me last time and ministering together.”
The book drop-off boxes will be in area BB&T branches through the end of September “and for maybe a few more days after that,” Rose said. But he added that people don’t have to wait for boxes to appear in order to donate books.
“We accept donations year-round,” Rose said. “Anyone can call me at any time at 910-995-5573. And if anyone is interested in mission work with International Celebration, I can point them in the right direction for that, too.”