Nada, Through The Eyes of Jeff Wood

BY: JOHN LEPPER

Jeff Wood (right), with David Platt, receives the 2013 KBF Scholarship award.

I took a trip to Nada, Kentucky today. Nada is the site of the Nada Mission, a mission of First Baptist Church, Winchester.  Through the work of Paula Settle, John Owen and others, Nada has hosted numerous mission teams. Our upcoming print newsletter will summarize the significant ministries that took place this summer. In addition to the many service projects coordinated through the Nada Mission, Sunday School and Worship are held there weekly on Sunday afternoon, primarily through the leadership of people from FBC, Winchester.

Nada is located in a little valley in Powell County a few miles from Natural Bridge State Park.  The main road through the community leads through the Nada tunnel and into the Red River Gorge.  It is a beautiful and picturesque area!  Nada is a small community that has been described as a “pocket of poverty.”  Because of this, it has been one focus of Kentucky Baptist Fellowship’s Mountain Hope ministries, Kentucky’s version of the CBF Together for Hope initiative.

So I took a trip to Nada today.  I made this trip in order to visit with Jeff Wood, the new Associate Minister at First Baptist Church, Winchester. Jeff’s responsibilities as Associate Minister at FBC, Winchester includes pastoral leadership at Nada. I often visit with ministers after they have made a move in order to welcome them and get to know them in their new ministry context.

When I talked to Jeff about this visit, we decided to do more than just meet in Winchester for lunch.  We decided to meet in Winchester and drive the 35 miles from Winchester to Nada.  I said to Jeff, “The drive to and from Nada will give us an opportunity to talk and besides, I want to see Nada through your eyes.”  Here’s what I saw.

When looking at Nada…Some see poverty. Jeff sees people. Some see problems. Jeff sees potential.  “People here are having a difficult time and are eager to talk,” said Jeff.  After only a few weeks in this ministry setting, he is eager to listen and to get to know people and is already thinking of ways of interacting with them. For example, he said he’s discovered folks in Nada like gospel music so he’s entertaining the idea of a fish fry and gospel sing.   

Jeff has an effervescent personality and the trip to Nada allowed him an opportunity to share about his passion and compassion for folks in this community. After a drive through the community we stopped by the mission. Three men were sitting on the front porch, something Jeff pointed out is not unusual.  He understands how the mission is a center of the social life of the community. Jeff desires this to continue, realizing that people might not always want to participate in Bible Study or Worship.  He told me how he was able to get some donated hamburger meat and expensive loaves of bread for the community.  He contacted a key person in Nada on his way to deliver the food and people came out in numbers to receive this gift he brought.  

After a tour of the community and after a short visit and tour of their building, Jeff called Lee, one of the women who lives in the community and invited her to drop by the mission for a visit. Lee moved back to the area a few years ago after living in another state where she owned a couple of successful businesses, including a dispatching business.  I could see how that business was successful because Lee has a knack for making connections.

Lee sees Jeff as a minister who is well grounded in real life and not the kind of minister who thinks he’s above the ordinary person.  On our way out of town, we stopped by Lee’s house for a brief visit.  I learned that she designed the house and that it was constructed under her supervision.  She was glad to introduce Jeff and me to her brother and nephew as she pointed out that Jeff was a “real person.”  Jeff immediately sat down and began making light conversation with these men, getting to know them and also telling them how he wanted to begin some programs that might be of interest to men.

Jeff’s genuine respect for the people of Nada came through in our conversation with each other and with people in the community.  Apparently folks in Nada are sensing this respect as well. Someone was recently heard to say (regarding Jeff coming to be pastor of the Nada Mission),  “We were so worried we were going to get a citified boy. But we got a country boy just like us.”