ELIZABETHTOWN — One of Bladen County’s most compassionate and God-fearing men will soon be leaving for a new challenge.
Bruce Cannon, missions director for the Bladen Baptist Association, recently resigned his position and will be returning to the pulpit in the North Carolina mountains of Mitchell County.
“The Lord put it on my heart to get back to a pastoral position,” Cannon said Thursday, “so that’s what I’ll be doing.”
Cannon will be taking over as pastor of Bear Creek Baptist Church in Ledger, about 50 miles northeast of Asheville. He said his day in Bladen County will be in late March.
Pastoring is something that has been in Cannon’s blood for decades. Prior to serving with the Bladen Baptist Association for the past 16-plus years, he served as pastor at Galeed Baptist Church in Bladenboro for 10 years.
“I’ve missed that part of serving the Lord,” Cannon said. “And the thing I’ve probably missed the most is baptizing people.
“I’ve enjoyed ministering to the ministers in our Association, but there’s a difference when you are leading someone to Jesus Christ,” he added.
Cannon said his decision is a bitter-sweet one, because there have been numerous highs and some lows during his 27 years in Bladen County.
At the top of the list, on the positive side, was the creation of Southeastern Carolina Crossroads — a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center — at the former Camp E-Tik-Etu on Susie Sandhill Road near Elizabethtown.
“There is a strong presence of drugs and alcohol abuse in Bladenboro and the rest of the county,” Cannon said. “Crossroads was something we desperately needed here and will be a tremendous blessing to anyone who goes through there.”
He also pointed to the recent fight to keep the county-wide sale of beer and wine from being voted in as another one of the positives.
“That was a big one,” he said. “And though we won’t have that to deal with for another few years, we will be fighting the same thing that is on the ballot (in March) in White lake.”
But above and beyond any of the positive issues that Cannon has been part of in Bladen County over the years, the one that tops the list is the lifelong friendships he and his wife Wendy have made.
“The people of Bladen County opened their hearts to us right from the start, and continued to do that over the years,” he said. “We’ve met so many good people and made many dear friends.
“My wife and I can’t thank all the people of this county enough,” he added. “They have allowed us to partner with them and do God’s work here knowing we had their support.”
Cannon said he’s been very proud of the work Wendy has done while in Bladen County, as well.
“My wife has also carved out a huge niche here in Bladen and serves to counsel, encourage and support those who come to her for help,” he said. “Many, ladies especially, stop by and talk with her when they need help. She is a great partner in anything good we have been able to do here.”
In addition to his frequent participation throughout the county in a variety of activities and events, Cannon was somewhat of a fixture over the years at West Bladen and East Bladen varsity boys basketball games — primarily as a confidant and friend of coach Ken Cross.
“I will miss him, but I’m sure we will remain in touch as much as possible,” Cannon said.
Cannon didn’t know what kind of timetable there would be for finding a permanent replacement, but he did say a name would be presented Thursday, Feb. 11, for an interim replacement.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.