MIDDLEPORT — A couple who have called Middleport home for the past 30 years will be leaving soon in answer to a call from God to go into missionary work.
AI Hartson, pastor of the Middleport Church of Christ since 1983, and his wife Donna, will be moving to Louisville, Ky. soon to become event coordinators for Team Expansion, a missions ministry with more than 340 missionaries in 46 countries at this time.
“Team Expansions’ goal is to reach the unreached people and groups around the world by targeting specific ethnic groups, many in southeast Asia, northern Africa, the Middle East and India,” said Hartson.
He said their work in the Louisville headquarters will involve handling the logistics and planning for training events for those missionaries who will be moving into the mission fields
According to Hartson there are 16,700 people who do not have any sustainable Christian witness to share with the 2.5 billion who, “have never heard the story of a loving Son sent to die for them.”
Hartson spoke of the extensive preparation which the missionaries need before moving to foreign lands to fulfill their role of proclaiming the message of salvation through Christ, and of the role which he and his wife will play as Team Expansion facilitators once they finish their training.
Since the positions the Hartsons are going into are non-salaried, they have been working for several months to raise the financial support they will need. Anyone who might want to make a pledge for the Hartson’s mission work may call 992-6168.
One of the major accomplishments during Hartson’s tenure as pastor of the Middleport Church of Christ was construction of the the Family Life Center across the street from the church. Opening in May 1997, it has been a place for many community activities as well as church events. The spacious building features a large auditorium/gymnasium for meetings and athletic events, a stage for performance, a complete kitchen where food can be prepared for free dinners for the hungry or community gatherings, and several smaller rooms for educational or social gatherings on the mezzanine.
In addition to his work as the church pastor, Hartson has been active in community Christian events and organizations particularly those involving youth. He is a past president of the Middleport Ministerial Association and the Meigs County Right to Life organization, and has been active with the Prayer Task Force and the Opiate Task Force. He served on the Board of Directors at the Ohio Valley Christian Assembly Camp, and was involved with the Fellowship of Christian Students at Meigs High School. He also helped with the Youth League Baseball and Don Vaughan’s group of boy scouts. His wife has also been active over the years in business and community events while rearing the couple’s three children.
As for their future plans, Hartson said they hope to work eight to 10 years in the mission program and then return to Middleport to retire. Meanwhile, their daughter and her family will be living in the Hartson homeplace.
After commenting about how much the family has enjoyed living here, Hartson concluded by saying that, “going into missionary now is what the Lord has called us to do.”