BYRON -- Feelings run deep toward the Middle Georgia community for Terry and Debbie Hendrix.
Terry Hendrix is pastor of the seven-year-old Harmony Community Church.
Within weeks of moving to Middle Georgia 11 years ago to pastor another church, the couples first and then only child, 4-month-old Madison, was diagnosed with leukemia.
Madison died not long after at 18 months. She would have celebrated her 11th birthday last week.
Many in the Middle Georgia area may remember her as Baby Madison, Debbie Hendrix said. Terry and I were newcomers. This community reached out to us in so many ways that we will never forget, and we still have every card and letter (people) sent. We will thank God forever for the prayers that were lifted up for us.
The two said the love and support they received from their congregation at the time and from the Fort Valley, Byron and wider Middle Georgia community helped make an overwhelmingly difficult situation more bearable.
Debbie Hendrix said every card and letter they received and carefully read, every media report that went out and every act of kindness they were shown helped forge a love for people here. She said its still felt as one overriding emotion: a deep, unspeakable gratitude.
Today, were no longer newcomers, she said. But we will never forget the love of our friends and our community and the difference it made in Madisons life.
Married for 27 years, the Hendrixes now have a second daughter, Meredith, who is 8. Debbie Hendrix said the familys sense of belonging is illustrated by her daughters unwillingness for them to enter the HGTV Dream Home Sweepstakes. She didnt want anything to do with something she thought might move them away.
Her parents agreed.
Terry Hendrix said many of the families who walked with them through Madisons illness and death were among the dozen families who formed Harmony Community Church seven years ago. He said from the start, the church has been about bringing down barriers that might keep people away from church.
We just wanted to try something a little different, he said. Were pretty laid back. What people wear is not a factor. They can come relaxed without having to dress up. Our music style is contemporary with a praise team and band rather than a choir. Our building is pretty basic without being fancy. We use technology and media stuff to help people engage. We just didnt want to have a lot of rules and regulations that might get in the way of someone coming and taking part.
Though Hendrix said he has nothing against what he calls more traditional style churches, he said thats just not what Harmony was called to be.
Hendrix said Harmony was initially pretty mobile. He said the original families began meeting as a prayer group in a garage. After deciding to form a church, he said they met in four different temporary locations--from Byron to Powersville to Perry -- before settling at their 7-acre property on Housers Mill Road. There they have a facility of about 10,000 square feet with classrooms, fellowship space and an auditorium that comfortably seats about 260.
The church offers two services on Sunday mornings with breakfast available before each. Between them, a prayer group meets. Hendrix said members come primarily from Fort Valley, Byron and Warner Robins, but some travel from the Reynolds-Butler area and others from Zebulon Road.
Among its various ministries for different age groups, the church stresses the importance of small groups ,which meet in homes for fellowship, study and growth. Hendrix said the young congregation is involved in community outreach to those in need through ministries of the local Rehoboth Baptist Association.
He said the church also has an annual event for their neighbors throughout Middle Georgia.
We have a community appreciation celebration the first part of every November, Hendrix said. Its a way for us to reach out to people, let people get to know us and have a lot of fun. We have free food -- hot dogs, hamburgers, dessert -- and lots of free activities. We have inflatable bounce houses, pony rides and all kinds of stuff. We give away prizes, too, about $6,000 worth this last year. We gave away kids bikes, zoo tickets, gift cards, Stone Mountain tickets, Wild Adventures tickets and all sorts of homemade things like afghans and Christmas wreathes. We gave away a lot of cakes, too.
Hendrix said he was a farmer near Statesboro before entering ministry. He said his background provides insights into many of the Bibles stories and illustrations. He said he typically teaches expositionally from scripture. Currently, he said the church is going through material prepared by Max Lucado called The Story, which presents the major themes and stories of Gods word.
Hendrix attended Criswell Bible College in Dallas, Texas, and both he and his wife have masters of divinity degrees from Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. In his 15 years of ministry, Hendrix has served churches in North Carolina and Georgia.
When people ask about Harmony Community Church, we just usually tell them its hard to explain, you just need to come and check it out, Hendrix said. We try to stay with the basics and not get hung up on stuff that Jesus never intended us to.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.