City News

Her retreat turned into her church, her calling

A MOVE SOUTH: In 2006, Belinda Stokes was living in a nine-room house in New Jersey, working a corporate job and volunteering as minister of Christian education at her church.

That year she went on a retreat, and she prayed for direction for ministry, housing and employment.

Her answer? Move to Charlotte and start a church called Doers of the Word Christian Fellowship Church. Within two months, she had sold her house, bought a townhouse in Charlotte, took early retirement from her job and began meeting with a group that will become her church.

“Everything has just fallen into place,” she said.

Stokes already was somewhat familiar with Charlotte, having visited a cousin here in 2006. Now she's getting to know the city and how her vision for ministry will fit here.

One issue she's already honed in on is Charlotte's gang problem. After attending a gang-awareness meeting, she knew part of her ministry would focus on youth.

“I was shocked at the number of gangs here,” said Stokes, who has a 10-year-old daughter. “I believe that children join these gangs for affiliation, love, security, protection and respect. They can find the same things in Jesus.”

HOUSING THE CHURCH: Stokes is now overseeing the renovation of a building in the Steele Creek area that will house Doers of the Word when it's ready to begin large meetings.

She's working with architect Robert Smith, of Talley and Smith Architecture in Shelby, to design the interior. Smith, who learned about Stokes' project through a blurb in a trade newsletter, is doing the work pro bono. Electrical engineer Geoff Watson of Duke Energy also has volunteered to work for free.

Stokes, who has more than two decades of preaching and church work experience, already has mapped out several ministries for Doers of the Word, which will focus on children and families.

The Spiritual Fathers ministry, for example, will address issues with children who grow up in homes without dads. Stokes said single mothers or other caregivers can get overwhelmed with life and raising children and have little time to teach children “about life and about God.”

“We're going to have men who have a great love for God and for children, and they will be like spiritual fathers for children who do not have fathers in their lives,” Stokes said.

The church, which is non-denominational, expects to launch weekly services in the fall.

THE PURPOSE GURU: Stokes said at her Baptist church in New Jersey, which had more than 2,000 members, she was known as the “Purpose Guru.”

She has developed several “Wordshops” on finding one's purpose in life, and she's holding her first session in Charlotte from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

“I think if people knew exactly why they were created, it would help them not waste life and not abuse time, resources or themselves,” Stokes said. Her Wordshop called “God's Purpose for Your Life” will help people think about “why they are here on the Earth.”

“I think most people think about it but may not have a way to examine it further,” Stokes said. She plans to follow up with future workshops that will explore purpose more deeply.

Saturday's session is open to adults and teenagers ages 13 and up and is free. The morning will begin with a continental breakfast.

The workshop will be in the community room of the Steele Creek Library, 13620 Steele Creek Road. Pre-registration is required by calling the church or filling out a registration form on the church Web site.