Christian Faith Baptist preacher recalls missionary, Bible camp

Sun News correspondentSeptember 4, 2013 

MICHAEL W. PANNELL/SPECIAL TO THE SUN NEWSThe Rev. Bobby J. Roberson started Christian Faith Baptist Church in 1996.

FORT VALLEY -- The Rev. Bobby J. Roberson tells of a missionary who came down to Peach County from Tennessee back in the 1960s when he was a young boy.

The missionary, Thomas Carstopping, came to reach girls, boys and adults in Peach County, concentrating on rural areas such as Powersville, where Roberson lived. Roberson said he lived on a dirt road no one remembers the name of, but Carstopping built a camp for kids on his road and put a sign up at Ga. 49 pointing to his Bible camp.

Roberson said when Peach officials got around to paving the road, they just called it Bible Camp Road.

Roberson now pastors Christian Faith Baptist Church. It’s on Ga. 341 but its roots go back to the missionary and his Bible camp.

“Thomas Carstopping taught me when I was a boy,” Roberson said. “What I’m doing is continuing the work of the Rev. Thomas Carstopping here in Fort Valley. I was one of the first kids. I’m that little kid with mud between his toes on Bible Camp Road that Carstopping shared the love of Jesus with. He taught me how to be saved and how to live saved.”

But Roberson said when he turned 18 and joined the Army he didn’t “live saved” as Carstopping had taught him.

“When I got out of active duty in 1977 and came home, I was embarrassed when I saw him,” Roberson said. “I knew I had to change the way I was living. I knew he had taught me better.”

Roberson said he then went to work at Robins Air Force Base and continued in the Army Reserve but got involved in church and was raised up in ministry at Friendship Bible Baptist Church under the late Rev. Wille Reid Sr.

In the mid-1990s, he retired from the reserve.

“When I retired from the Army Reserve I felt compelled to continue the missionary work,” he said. “God put the desire in me to see a church started in Fort Valley. In 1996, we started meeting in a home and then in a church building in Crawford County. In 2006, God did miracles to put us here in this building on 8.6 acres on (Ga.) 341. It’s been God’s work, not anything I’ve done.”

Roberson said Friendship Bible Baptist and the Rehoboth Baptist Association made significant donations that almost paid off the property. Affordable rates from a builder got a frame erected. Then more, but different, help from Rehoboth brought workers from across Georgia to complete the structure.

“They put out a call on their website inviting Christian builders and volunteers to come help us,” he said. “They came from all over the state and gave their labor while we bought materials -- though some materials were donated, like brick from Cherokee Brick and Tile in Macon. Before we bought the land, we prayed and prayed over it. God built his church and now we’re working to fill it with people who want to know how to be saved and how to live saved.”

Roberson often thinks of Carstopping.

“I think he’d be proud he trained me and that when I became of age, I came back and carried on the work,” he said. “I couldn’t shake what the old man, what that missionary, taught me. When I say I’m that boy from Bible Camp Road, it’s a deep statement.”

Roberson continues to work as an equipment specialist at Robins Air Force Base and pastors bi-vocationally. He said his wife, Leotra, has been a vital part of seeing the church established. They have one daughter, Arlisha.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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