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Primetimers Explore "All Creatures, Great and Small"
along South Georgia's Historic Golden Isles

by Jeanie Blankenbaker

Two women work to keep up with bag making while those in the background quickly fill up the bags with oyster shells.
Two Primetimers work to keep up with bag making while those in the background quickly fill up the bags with oyster shells. This volunteer work for Georgia's oyster restoration project on Jekyll Island was part of the event "All Creatures Great and Small," November 9-14, 2008.
Image by: Nancy A. Carter
Source: Mission Volunteers
Primetimer Midge Mueller gingerly rubs a snake being offered to her by Tony.  Others look on and smile or cringe.
Primetimer Midge Mueller gingerly rubs one of the "hairless creatures" Tony brought from the Driftwood Nature Education Center, located on the grounds of Epworth By The Sea. The Primetimers event, "All Creatures Great and Small," was held November 9-14, 2008.
Image by: Nancy A. Carter
Source: Mission Volunteers

"Thus it is that every part of nature directs us to nature's God."
--John Wesley, A Survey of the Wisdom of God in the Creation: A Compendium of Natural Philosophy in Two Volumes, 1775

From the moment their host Cindy Doehring welcomed 38 older adults to the Golden Isles, they knew they had signed on to a week-long Primetimers event to remember! They had come to Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island from across the United States and the United Kingdom to learn about "All Creatures Great and Small" and early Methodist history in Georgia.

Hairless and Other Creatures

Although participants also had time to relax under Spanish moss-draped live oaks, they primarily enjoyed multiple opportunities to explore and learn about the natural wonders of St. Simons, Jekyll and Sapelo, all barrier islands along Georgia's southern coast. From November 9 to 14, 2008, the group soaked up information from local experts, who shared how the islands are actively engaged in preservation and environmental issues, preserving and restoring natural treasures in the coastal marshlands and beaches. The Primetimers:

  • visited beautiful areas protected by the St. Simons Land Trust, dedicated to the preservation of the natural and scenic character of the island community
  • toured Georgia's Sea Turtle Center and its turtle hospital on Jekyll Island
  • enjoyed a ferryboat ride to pristine Sapelo Island, where they had a full day to explore this National Estuarine Research Reserve and the community of Gullah slaves' descendants
  • took an eco-tour in a pontoon boat along marshlands and the Frederica river, which included participation in a shrimp trawl and identifying the numerous salt water fish in the catch; and
  • ventured to touch or rub live "hairless creatures" (a.k.a., snakes, alligators and turtles) from Epworth's Driftwood Nature Education Center while others preferred to simply sit back and learn about these fascinating coastal creatures.

Hands-On Volunteer Work

Primetimers is a mission volunteers program of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. On Jekyll Island, the group visited the University of Georgia Marine Extension Agency to learn about intertidal oysters and to do volunteer work. They assisted restoration efforts at the shell recycling center by shoveling oyster shells into mesh bags that will be used to enhance oyster beds. In less than an hour, they filled a record 216 bags! Described as "keystone" species, oysters play a critical role in maintaining a healthy coastal ecosystem.

The group also attended the dedication of the United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM) room, located at the Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum and Library on Epworth grounds. Jeanie Blankenbaker, event shepherd, spoke at the event which honored the work of UMVIM and the Rev. George and Cora Herndon. Over half of the museum is dedicated to the historic heritage of the Methodist Church.

History and Wesleyan Heritage

The Primetimers listened to several historical presentations, which included background on the Wesleys and Methodism from the 1700s to the present. Epworth By The Sea, located on the banks of the Frederica River overlooking the famous Marshes of Glynn, is in the midst of an historic area. The center, a hospitality ministry of the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church, was named for the English boyhood home of John and Charles Wesley, who lived and worked on St. Simons Island from 1736 to 1737. At Fort Frederica, they walked down Broad Street, observing foundation ruins of the town of Frederica, established in 1736 on St. Simons Island. It was here that Charles Wesley held services for St. Simons' early settlers, and his brother John worked to establish a church. They also visited the "Wesley Oak" at Christ Church on the island.

Daily worship was an integral part of the program. Evening devotions presented by volunteering participants focused around the event theme and provided a special time for reflection on God's world and our place in all of creation, both great and small. On the last day, Primetimers enjoyed a Wesley hymn sing in Lovely Lane Chapel on the grounds of Epworth.

John Wesley understood creation as evidence of the existence and work of God. He once wrote in A Survey of the Wisdom of God in the Creation, "In short, the world around us is the mighty volume wherein God hath declared himself." By the time they left St. Simons Island, Primetimers had lived and better understood this part of Wesley's philosophy.

Primetimers events offer older adults (50+ years):

  • educational forums
  • cross-cultural opportunities
  • time for faith-filled reflection on the purpose of ministry
  • greater exposure to the work of The United Methodist Church and the church universal.

For the 2009 Event Listing and additional information on Primetimers, visit, email Primetimers at, or call toll-free at 1-877-882-4724.

Jeanie Blankenbaker served as Assistant General Secretary for Mission Volunteers of Global Ministries and retired August 2006.

See Also...
Topic: GBGM events GBGM programs John Wesley Mission opportunities United Methodist Church Wesley Methodism Older adults
Geographic Region: United States
Source: Mission Volunteers

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Date posted: Nov 26, 2008