Sunday, May 19, 2019
Friendsgiving Brings Two Communities Together
Lionel Campos, who plays guitar for the Independent Fundamental Baptist church of Bellevue, cals music “The preaching before the preaching.”
Saturday, November 24, 2018


It was a tale of friendship--a tale of friendsgiving, if you will.

When Tammy Eaton Davis decided to move the Community Thanksgiving Dinner she has orchestrated for seven years from Hailey to Bellevue, she had to fish around for a new location.

And she was readily welcomed by the Latino congregation of Iglesia Bautista de Bellevue. Not only did they offer her their hundred-year-old community church that sits across the street from Bellevue Memorial Park but they helped set the table and clean up the leftovers.

Cree and Dave Johanningmeier carve up the half-dozen turkeys donated for the dinner.

Davis, in return, attended the congregation’s Thanksgiving service and dinner on Thanksgiving Eve.

“They welcomed me with open arms,” recounted Davis, as people helped themselves to creamed corn casserole, sweet potato casserole, a squash salad with pomegranate seeds and turkeys that had been prepared by attendees and Smoky Bone BBQ.

“It was so awesome to think that there is none of the turmoil here that we’re experiencing nationally,” added Davis, who added that her daughter’s bilingual abilities having been in the dual immersion program has added to her appreciation of the Latino population. “In fact, our differences bring us together.”

Interestingly enough, both the church in the Wood River Valley and Davis’ “Friendsgiving Feast” were born about the same time.

Jody Nalder prepares to bequeath some yummy looking carrots to the feast.

The Independent Fundamental Baptist Church of Bellevue began with its pastor Carlos Campos who moved to California from Mexico in the 1980s looking for a better life for his family. A painter by trade, he came to recognize Jesus Christ as his savior in a Baptist Church in Long Beach. And he headed off to the Bible Institute to arm himself with what he needed to become a minister.

After visiting family members in Shoshone, he started a church in a garage there in the winter of 2006, using benches donated by a church that had closed in Filer. He then began holding church in Twin Falls. That church cast a wide net, even sending someone to pick up a faithful member in Hailey every weekend.

Eventually, Campos started a mission to Hailey in 2009, holding church in the Hailey woman’s apartment next to Wood River Middle School with five to 10 of her co-workers at McDonald’s and their families.

Church members began knocking on doors in the Wood River Valley and, by the time they held their first Thanksgiving Dinner in the church in 2009, they had 40 people.

Annabelle Wright will eventually find the dessert table with its caramel Rice Krispie trats, chocolate bombs and pumpkin goodies, but first there’s roast pork and salads to be had.

For a few years they held Sunday and Thursday services in Twin Falls and Saturday and Wednesday services in Hailey. But in 2013 they made a permanent move from Twin Falls to Bellevue when Ty and Janis Walton left the Community Church to head to Haiti to serve as missionaries.

“The first year was a struggle because we’d never seen snow,” recounted Carlos Campos’ son Leonel Campos, the music director of the church. “We tried to go out the first year and knock on doors in a snowstorm—we found out that was a hard way to connect with people. We finally got used to the snow.”

Attendance fluctuates somewhat depending on how many Spanish-speaking employees of Sun Valley Resort are in town. But the church generally boasts about 85 regulars.

“It’s a place for the Spanish Community to gather together, to come and worship. And we translate our services in English when someone needs it,” Campos said. “We just want to get the message of Christ out there.”

Calvin and Jody Nalder have helped Tammy Eaton Davis, center, out with a variety of her endeavors, including the Bellevue Haunted Forest.

The church also supports a lot of missionaries, said Campos.

Among them, a missionary from Guatemala working with Spanish-speaking people in West Africa and a missionary to Thailand.

“And we gave Pedro from Mexico two vans that we would consider junk cars that he’s now using to pick up children for Vacation Bible School. They love the air conditioner because it’s so hot there. And of 400 children at their Vacation Bible School, a hundred have been saved.”

Eaton, meanwhile, started her Community Thanksgiving Dinner about the time the Latino church was getting going—after she learned that Marilyn Simmons, who used to organize Community Thanksgiving Dinners, had stopped doing so.

“I was volunteering at a Souper Supper and I asked, ‘What about Thanksgiving? When I heard they used to do it but didn’t anymore, I said, ‘Well, we HAVE to do it!” recounted Davis, who was recently elected to the Bellevue City Council on a write-in campaign.

“For me, it’s all about sharing dinner with my community—I get to celebrate family all this time and this is my extended family,” she added.

That extended family included friends Jody and Calvin Nalder, who ensured Davis didn’t overextend herself, having had back surgery a couple weeks earlier.

The year before, they recounted, Davis “swam “ across the floor as she scrubbed it.

By the time the dinner was over the Nalders had made new friends, including that of  Lindsey Spurling-Wright, who is moving into a new home in Hailey with her husband Joshua Wright, the new law enforcement ranger at Craters of the Moon National Monument, and their 9-year-old daughter Annabelle Wright.

“This is wonderful. I’ve lived in smaller communities but never heard about a community doing something like this,” said Spurling-Wright, who lived near Redwood National Park in California before this. “This has been great for me because my silverware is still boxed up. And it’s amazing how the community comes together and supports each other and make sure no one gets left out.”


Iglesia Bautista de Bellevue holds Sunday School at 11 a.m. and church at 12:15 p.m. on Sundays. It holds a prayer service at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays followed by a mid-week service at 7.For information, call 208-280-3542.


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