2010-07-28 / Front Page

‘What would Jesus do?’

By JOE L. HUGHES II Ledger Staff Writer joe@gaffneyledger.com

Blacksburg Art Alive Ministries Director Vincent Tharpe gets a little help from a local youth Wednesday at a Jerusalem Project work site on Asbury Road. More than 600 youths lent a helping hand for this year's Jerusalem Project, doing a variety of household chores like cutting grass, painting, building wheelchair ramps and repairing damaged roofs. Blacksburg Art Alive Ministries Director Vincent Tharpe gets a little help from a local youth Wednesday at a Jerusalem Project work site on Asbury Road. More than 600 youths lent a helping hand for this year's Jerusalem Project, doing a variety of household chores like cutting grass, painting, building wheelchair ramps and repairing damaged roofs. Little was routine about visits to the doctor for 5-year-old Johnny Eagle.

Making regular trips to area hospitals to address an array of health issues ranging from blindness, seizures and hypothyroidism to cerebral palsy which has left him unable to walk, Johnny’s parents have spared no expense in making sure the child receives the best care possible.

“(Johnny) died at least four times in NICU, with doctors blaming the first time for much of the brain damage he sustained,” said Cathy Eagle, Johnny’s mother. “He’s a happy child, a good baby. ... I’m always worrying about him, whether I’m in the kitchen cooking or when we’re sleeping. You just never know.”

The family has spared no time and expense in an effort to do what is best for his health, so much that Cathy Eagle resigned from her fulltime job to take care of her son.

“Right now, I’m the only one in the household able to bring in a paycheck because of my son’s illness,” said Sam Eagle, Johnny’s father. “There is no way I could work a corporate job as there are times I would have to leave because Johnny may have to be rushed to the hospital. I’m blessed to have those at Daddy Joe’s, who understand my situation.”

Among the items on the back burner was a wheelchair ramp, which would make the family’s Asbury Road home more accessible, particularly for Johnny.

For much of the child’s life, family members have been forced to carry him up and down a fragile set of stairs, which according to Cathy Eagle, could have crumbled right underneath them.

“We got (Johnny) a 73- pound wheelchair specially made for him and his needs,” Sam Eagle said. “Imagine his weight and that of the wheelchair going down the stairs. It had the potential to be something really, really bad.”

The Eagle family can focus their worries squarely on the young child’s health now, however, after a group of local teens armed with hammers, nails and saws came knocking on their door. One of many sites scattered around Cherokee County, more than 600 youngsters went to work cutting grass, painting, building wheelchair ramps and repairing roofs as part of this year’s Jerusalem Project.

Formed in 2004, the annual project offers teens the opportunity to heed Jesus’ call to be His witness “in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Those taking part in the annual project take the mission personally, hoping the rest of the community can see Christ through them — even if it is through the simple act of hammering a nail.

“With the Jerusalem Project, we are able to be proud of the fact we helped others,” said Jan Lowry of the Jerusalem Project. “It is not for personal gain, but so those you are helping can see the love of Christ show from the inside out.”

The project depends solely on contributions from the local community.

Participation in the Jerusalem Project does not come without sacrifice, as youths are forced to literally ask the question ‘What would Jesus Do?,’ choosing between family vacations, leisure time with friends and extra change to help with back-to-school shopping, or shedding blood and sweat outdoors to make life easier for one of their fellow community members.

“No question, this is where I want to be; it’s awesome how we are able to give a piece of our summer to Jesus’ work,” said Brianna McKinney, a participant in this year’s Jerusalem Project. “I gave up work and hanging out to be here. Doing His work takes precedence to me, as there is nothing better than touching people for Jesus.”

Referred to the annual work project by a member of the local Department of Special Needs concerned for Johnny and the rest of the family’s health due to their lack of a wheelchair ramp, the Eagles were overwhelmed with emotion looking as the local teens steadily built the structure plank by plank.

“Thank you just doesn’t seem like it is quite enough,” Sam Eagle said. “These children are being instilled with the right values. They paid to participate in this, and are working diligently knowing there is no pay at the end. It is wonderful to know.”

For Johnny, it is unknown what each day has in store with every day having its own trials and circumstances. However, the local child earned several new friends during the course of the week, each rooting for him and vowing to keep him in their prayers.

“This is the first time a lot of the kids have become acquainted with hard work, what labor actually means,” said Jerusalem Project volunteer and Blacksburg Art Alive Ministries Director Vincent Tharpe. “In doing so, these kids have shown a lot of love, and I’m sure have lifted the spirits of the family by being a beacon for Christ.”

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