Small-town church remains town hub

CARBON Jody and Wendy Forbus left their small hometown of Carbon, Texas, in 1989, intending never to return permanently. They came back eight years later to take over a start-up church, among the first supported by the fledgling Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. 

Today, Carbon Community Baptist Church continues strong, with 150 active members from Carbon, Gorman and Eastland: a hub of energy in a town with a population under 230. 

“It all happened nearly at the same time,” Jody Forbus told the TEXAN. “When the SBTC was forming, we were forming as well… so was our association [Cross Timbers Baptist Association].”

Forbus praised the SBTC’s “instrumental” assistance in the church’s early years, calling the convention’s provision of a building grant and monthly support, “our survival.” 

Forbus assumed leadership in May 1997 of the small congregation pastored for eight months by Buck Landingham. Forbus knew the members; the nucleus attended a Friday night Bible study he had driven from Stephenville to teach the prior year. His parents were among that original group which met in an abandoned peanut weigh station. 

The years were unkind to Carbon. When the peanut industry dried up and the school district was absorbed by Eastland ISD, people pulled up stakes. 

“We once had five churches here,” Forbus said. “Now there are only two, a full gospel church and ours.”

When the “faithful few” decided to start a church from the Bible study group, Forbus told them to find a pastor. Landingham came. 

With $5,000 donated by a relative of local businessman Ike Whitson, the group bought the abandoned three-story school with its gymnasium and 14 acres from Eastland ISD. 

After Landingham left, the church called Forbus, who packed up his family and came home.

The large old school building was dilapidated, its windows broken, its third floor home to roosting pigeons for years. 

“You can imagine the mess,” Forbus said. 

Help arrived from an Abilene congregation, who sent teams to assist in the clean-up, an effort facilitated by Forbus’s father-in-law, Dwaine Clower, pastor of Pioneer Baptist Church in Cross Plains and Cross Timbers director of missions.

CCBC converted a classroom for worship, adding a piano and pulpit before Landingham’s departure.

The school proved problematic to heat and cool, prompting the church to quickly launch a building project with a grant from the SBTC. The structure was later expanded, with SBTC help.

The school is still used part of the year. The once pigeon-infested third floor serves as a dormitory for two three-day overnight camps for preteens and secondary students sponsored by the church each June since 2000. A K-2nd grade day camp is held between the preteen and youth camps.

Campers enjoy swimming in the pool and the one-acre tank adjacent to the gym, bouncing on an inflatable blob in water dyed vivid turquoise for camp.

“The camp is for kids who could not afford to go to camp,” said Wendy Forbus, adding that an annual spring community fun run/5K provides scholarships.

Camp is the capstone of a children’s and youth program to which the church busses dozens of kids from nearby Eastland for a Wednesday night meal and activities. 

But on New Year’s Day 2006, such outreach nearly went up in flames.

“As we came out of church Sunday morning … someone said it looked like a big thunderstorm was headed our way,” Jody recalled. The thunderstorm was actually an enormous wildfire which swept east of Hwy. 183, “shaving off Carbon,” destroying 60 homes, including the Forbus residence outside town.

This baptism-by-fire saw CCBC become a distribution and collection center for donations.

Although they had lost everything, the Forbuses, like many residents, rebuilt. Jody recalled encouraging visits from Jim Richards, SBTC executive director.

“Dr. Richards gave me a full [set] of commentaries, Genesis to Revelation, because I had lost all of my books. We had a revival and he preached,” said Jody, who is now chief of the Carbon Volunteer Fire Department, which holds fundraisers at the church twice yearly.

Five years ago, the Forbuses made a further commitment to the community by purchasing a local business: Carbon Agri Center, now Carbon Ag & Outdoors. The all-purpose hardware, feed store, agricultural supplier, deer processing plant and fertilizer company has become a hub as locals gather for coffee mornings and afternoons in a town whose last eatery closed years ago.

“They like the free coffee,” Jody chuckled, adding, “This ag center is an outreach. When we bought it, our mindset was to reach the community,” devoting “our lives to Carbon.”

The purchase enabled Jody to resign as a contractor for a healthcare company and stay in town rather than traveling. Congregational growth coincided with the acquisition of the business.

Now with a bi-vocational associate pastor and youth volunteers, and a revamped deacon structure, the church is populated mostly by adults in their forties and younger, including many new believers.

“We baptized 22 last year,” Jody said of his congregation of ranchers and farmers, their land dotted with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush each spring: signs of new life near a church filled with the same. 

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