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SBC volunteers give Atlanta a 'hug' by helping with downtown cleanup
--By James Dotson
ATLANTA, June 14--About 36 Southern Baptist volunteers found yet another way to give the city of Atlanta a "hug" June 14 as part of the five-month Arms Around Atlanta initiative.
They picked up trash, cleaned up graffiti and generally helped make the Fairlie-Poplar historic district in downtown Atlanta a nicer place to work and visit.
     The volunteers worked with The Ambassador Force of Downtown Atlanta, an organization funded by local businesses to keep the area safe through cleanup and community policing efforts. Many were in town for the June 15-16 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting held a few blocks away in the Georgia Dome.
     "When we decided to come down for the convention, I wanted it to be not just a trip to come down here and sit in the convention center the whole time," Jon Settlemoir, pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church, Rogers, Ark., said. He joined nine other members of his church in serving as "Hug Your City Ambassadors" for the day.
     The effort was part of the Arms Around Atlanta-sponsored "Hug Your City Day." Churches were encouraged to do community service to demonstrate their love for the metro area and its residents.
     In a related matter, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell proclaimed June14 as "Arms Around Atlanta Day."
     "We commend the concept organizers of Southern Baptists' largest citywide evangelism and church planting initiative and encourage all citizens to take the time to hug and embrace this wonderful city," Campbell said in his proclamation.
     Among other "Hug Your City Ambassadors" was Lee Ross, one of the co-leaders for the Arms Around Atlanta steering team and specialist in leadership development for the Georgia Baptist Convention. His assignment was cleaning up graffiti on a downtown brick wall.
     "I believe in what we're doing with Arms Around Atlanta, and I believe it's important for us that are part of the planning team to actually be down doing the working and being involved in ministry," he said.
     The volunteer effort -- which Ambassador Force leaders said was a first for their organization -- was coordinated through the Heart of Atlanta Network, a weekday ministry to downtown workers founded and supported by Southern Baptists. The ministry operates out of the building used as a base of the Southern Baptist ministry during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
     "I felt like if we did something for the Ambassador Force that would be a great way for them to see that we appreciate them and the work that they do in the city," said Janet Speer of Heart of Atlanta.
     The overall Arms Around Atlanta effort includes 24 new churches, free medical clinics, evangelistic events, sports clinics and other events designed to demonstrate and proclaim the transforming love of Jesus Christ. The effort is sponsored by the North American Mission Board, Georgia Baptist Convention and nine metro Baptist associations.

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