Southern charmers

Sigma Rho members come to Lewistown for spring break
Friday, March 29, 2019

Freed-Hardeman University students and Sigma Rho members spent their spring break on a mission trip in Lewistown. Freed-Hardeman alumnus and Lewistown Church of Christ minister Russell Epperson served as their host leader (Epperson’s children are also pictured).

Photo courtesy of Russell Epperson

Lewistown, Montana might not be a spring break destination for most people, but it was this year for members of Freed-Hardeman University’s Sigma Rho social club.

Inspired by Freed-Hardeman alumnus and Lewistown Church of Christ minister Russell Epperson, the crew of 16 left Henderson, Tennessee and flew to Bozeman, Montana, where they met with Epperson, who led them to Lewistown for a busy mission trip “to serve Central Montana through the Lewistown Church of Christ.”

 “It was amazing to see this next generation sacrificing to come serve and pour their hearts out to a community they’ve never heard of in middle-of-nowhere Montana,” said Epperson. “I feel like there is a lot of hope for the world when you see young people like this choose to serve rather than be served. It’s cool.”

It was a little surreal for Epperson to host these students, as some of the students – such as Elisabeth Hibbett – he’s known since she was a child.

“She used to attend church where we used to attend, so it was fun to see her,” he said. “Watching young people grow and change reminds you of our own journey and how you grow and change, and I can tell this experience is one that will help mold and shape them as young people. They will never forget their time in Lewistown, Montana.”

Presley Fulton of Nashville said she couldn’t be happier about the experience in Central Montana

 “Originally our plan was to go to the Dominican Republic for our mission trip but plans got changed, and I’m glad they did,” she said. “Anywhere you are is your mission field, and you have to be prepared for the opportunities that are given to you.”

Cassidy Shrader of Columbia, Tennessee was also grateful for the experience.

“I think as Christians we must serve others, and I think that servant heart is evident in this town,” she said. “That’s something we’ll take back with us.”


Taking it all in

Epperson gave his Sigma Rho friends little time to lounge during their fast and furious Spring Break adventure. The students arrived at the Bozeman Airport Saturday evening and got to Lewistown around midnight. On Sunday morning they were leading worship at the Church of Christ on Main Street. Trevor Pevovar of Detroit, Michigan delivered the sermon. 

“The boys led the church services and the girls led the children’s classes,” said Fulton. “Then on Monday we went to Central Montana Head Start, the Boys and Girl’s Club and the Community Cupboard. It was really cool.”

On Tuesday they spent much of their time singing.

“We sang some hymns on the radio and sang at the TORCH Bible study,” said Fulton. The group also helped paint the interior of the TORCH building throughout the week.

“We’ve stayed really busy,” said Fulton. “On Tuesday night we went out to the Oxen Yoke. We loved it. The waitress said she’d never seen a group finish all of their food like we did.”

On Wednesday the group visited Inspire Pregnancy and led worship at the Mental Health Center,” Fulton said.

Epperson said the group’s singing at the Mental Health Center was especially powerful.

“Tears were falling,” he said. “Singing really opens up something in people. It wakes them up inside. It was beautiful to watch.”


A memorable experience

Epperson’s Freed-Hardeman friends were impressed with Lewistown and enjoyed their visit to the area.

“It’s a chill town,” said Hunter Hodge of Double Springs, Alabama, “and it’s beautiful.”

“I loved the scenery,” added Parker Smith of Oklahoma City. “The guys stayed outside of town on Rebecca and Dustin Reisig’s ranch. We got a good feel for the country.” 

The girls stayed with Epperson and his family, which was an experience for Russell.

“The girls didn’t go to bed at a normal hour,” he said, “but neither did I when I was that age.”

During their visit, the students didn’t just enjoy the scenery of Central Montana but also enjoyed meeting the people and getting a feel for rural Montana life.

“It’s like a western Mayberry,” said Taylor McCollum of Jackson, Tennessee. “The people are so friendly and everybody knows everybody.”

Bailey Birmingham of Memphis agrees.

“It’s so evident the people of the community support one another,” she said. “Even the pastors work together. It’s really wonderful to see.”

The people were also remarkably friendly.

“Coming from the south, I thought maybe people weren’t going to be as kind, but the people have been really personable,” said Shelby Anderson of Columbia, Tennessee. “I felt welcome everywhere we went.”

On Thursday the group left to explore Yellowstone National Park, and then they headed back east. Although they are still processing the experience, many said they’d like to return to Montana someday.

“This is an incredible place,” said Fulton.



Where is your favorite place to go camping in Central Montana?