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Meet Our Members: John and Melissa Friend

Western Avenue has a long and glorious history. The church was formed when revival came to Statesville in the early 1890s. People walked from South Statesville to the ongoing meetings, and people saw the need for a church plant. A local church purchased some land on the corner of Western Avenue and Boulevard for the grand sum of $25. The Southside Chapel was built at a cost of $675 and was completed in April 1894. The chapel was soon filled and the sponsoring church realized the need for a fully organized, self-sustaining church in that growing area. Western Avenue Baptist Church was born in September 1901 with 44 charter members.

The membership has continued to grow through the years and many have been here a long time. Mrs. Margaret Beard has been a member the longest, joining the church on Christmas Day in 1932. Five current members joined the church in the 1940s and all are still attending faithfully. Thirty-one members who joined in the 1950s are still alive and attending. Nineteen joined in the 1960s. Seventy-six joined in the 1970s. 138 joined in the 1990s. 552 joined in the 2000s and 536 have joined in the Teens, some just a few weeks ago. To help our growing church get to know one another better, learn a little more about our past, appreciate our present, and look forward to our future together, we have asked several individuals from each decade in which they joined to answer a few questions. We will post a few of these interviews in no particular order each week. We hope you enjoy getting to know your fellow church members and grow in your appreciation for all the Lord has done, is doing, and will do within and through the wonderful people who make up the membership of Western Avenue Baptist Church.

This week, we will get to know John and Melissa Friend. John and Melissa have been married for 35 years and are blessed to have four children and five grandchildren. John works at Asmo and Melissa works at Beulah Baptist Church. 

John and Melissa grew up in the same church in Sandusky, OH (many may know their hometown as Cedar Point, the “roller coaster capital of the world”). Melissa’s dad led her to the Lord when she was five. John accepted Christ in Junior High School. Although both accepted Christ in their younger years, it wasn’t until attending WABC that their relationship with the Lord began to grow. 

John and Melissa joined WABC in March 1991. They had been driving to Charlotte for a year to attend their former church and were weary from the drive and longing for a local church family and church family home. They drove by WABC many times when they moved to Statesville and had avoided visiting because the building was so big. They had visited many churches in the county and were discouraged. They finally “gave in” and visited WABC and were immediately loved on by two people in particular – Ralph Carter and Irene Sherrill. John and Melissa said they treated them like family right away. After hearing Ralph preach for the first time, they knew this was the place the Lord wanted them to be. They believe God has them at WABC to continue growing in the Lord and to love on others like Ralph and Irene loved on their family.

It wasn’t easy for John and Melissa to get connected at first, until they got involved in small groups. They were the key to helping them feel connected. Because of this, the Friends have a desire to help make our large church feel “smaller” by connecting others. They have also been involved in multiple ministries. John used to run the sound board and PowerPoint on Sunday mornings and has been involved in the Men’s Ministry and the NC Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief team. Melissa has taught children’s choir, mission friends, VBS, started a ladies ministry (Girlfriend Connection) and recently started a new women’s mission group, Submerge. Together John and Melissa coordinate dinner groups for their Sunday School class and enjoy serving others as the Lord leads. They are involved in missions that include both local and international ministries. Venezuela was their first mission trip as a family. Melissa has had the honor to also be a part of mission trips to CEF headquarters, London and Uganda. 

The Friends appreciate the beautiful balance WABC has with missions, being involved in international missions, but not forgetting about the many opportunities we have locally. They also love how WABC is a Bible preaching church. They feel extremely blessed to sit under some of the best teachers and preachers in the nation right here at WABC. 

Melissa loves worshipping through music in the choir. WABC is blessed to have such a humble leader whose focus is to bring everyone to the Throne of Grace every Sunday (and even at practice Wednesday nights). 

They are excited about what the Lord has done and is going to do through WABC with the new building program, pouring into our Children’s Ministry, expanding our local outreach, all the while never wavering from teaching from the Word of God and growing disciples!

Posted by Meredith Collins at 9:00 AM
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