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July 24, 2014

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The Rev. Rhonda Gailes will be leading the Refuge ministry. Photo by Jeff Eason

Originally published: 2014-04-03 08:23:28
Last modified: 2014-04-03 08:24:13

New ministry attracting all walks of life

According to the Rev. Rhonda Gailes, her new congregation under the name Refuge is more of a ministry than a church.

“I’ve been involved in church ministry for a very long time,” Gailes said. “I have no interest at all in ‘doing’ church. I believe we are all called to be the church.”

Gailes was formerly a pastor at First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock who was asked last summer if she would be willing to lead a ministry in Blowing Rock that would “minister to people who were not really churchgoers.”

She began to meet people in libraries, restaurants and other places for Bible study and conversations.

 “People I have known for the past 20 years said, ‘Rhonda, would you consider starting a church?’
“We did some research and what we found out was that less that 45 percent of people in the Blowing Rock area attend a church of any kind. We have a 15 percent poverty rate in Blowing Rock and 12 percent of our population is made up of single parent families,” she said. “The statistics indicated that there is a need for a ministry in Blowing Rock.”

As an official ministry, Refuge began six weeks ago with weekly Sunday morning worship services at the Blowing Rock Ruritan building, near the Grover Robbins Swimming Complex. The congregation is set to meet there one final time this Sunday, before moving Sunday services to the Blowing Rock School gymnasium.

According to Gailes, approximately 100 different people have attended Refuge services, with an average of 65 people meeting each Sunday.
“Refuge came about as a dream to offer a shelter from life’s storms for people,”  she said. “To offer rest for today and hope for tomorrow. It will be a ministry of people caring for people. That’s what Refuge is all about.

“I believe you are created for two reasons: To know God and to make him known.”

In addition to its Sunday services, Refuge maintains a student program for youths in grades 6 through 12 called “180,” a children’s program called “24/7” and an outreach program called “1440 Outreach.”

“It’s called 1440 because what you are given is 1,440 minutes a day to live your life. And out of those 1,440 minutes, we are meant to live our lives in such a way that it makes a difference in the world,” she said.

“Refuge has a service every Sunday morning, but at the end of each service we have a ministry table. That table is filled with opportunities for making a difference in the community,” she said.
“We went to Hospitality House this past Wednesday and prepared meals, which was pretty fantastic. Four of the men we met at the Hospitality House came to worship with us in Blowing Rock the following Sunday.”

According to Gailes, 1440 Outreach is also involved in a fundraising drive to help local people who are dealing with the costs of chemotherapy, cancer treatment and other crisis situations.

Of Refuge’s youth ministries, Gailes said, “We call the student program 180,  because 180 degrees is a U-turn and our goal is to have students turn their lives around and follow Christ.”

After Refuge’s final service at the Ruritan building, the congregation will hold a celebratory picnic beginning at 11 a.m.

At 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 13, Refuge will host its official launch at the Blowing Rock School.

The event will include a celebratory service and music by the Refuge Worship Band, which includes Patrick Williamson, Jamie Blanton, Rusty Blanton, Kim Fox, Eric Brown, Leigh Ann Byrd and Heather Harwood.

Mariela Arita is serving as Refuge’s children’s ministry director.

Gailes said that she is looking forward to the challenge of holding services at the Blowing Rock School.

“We will be a totally mobile church,” Gailes said. “We will move in on Sunday mornings and move out on Sunday afternoons. The good thing about being a mobile church is that you cannot expect people to come to you to get what you want to offer. You have to know how to go out into the world to give it.

“I love the fact that we will have to go out into the world to find disciples.”

Gailes said that although having a building of its own sometime in the future would be nice, it is not a priority for Refuge.

“I am very apprehensive about wanting a church fellowship being about the building that you meet in. Refuge is about relationships. It’s about people, not programs. It’s about relationships, not buildings,” she said.

“Statistically, if you do not have a new church start in your community at least every 12 years, then the church population becomes stagnant because churches become introverted rather than extroverted,” she said. “And a new church makes everybody think about what they can do to reach out to other people.”

For more information, contact Gailes at (828) 773-6750 or email (

For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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