FORREST CITY, AR (KAIT) - A married couple who moved from Memphis to Forrest City 2 months ago told Region 8 News Sunday the economy forced them to make a difficult decision. Stay and face foreclosure or leave town for a place where the cost of living is lower. They chose to relocate.
Churches across St. Francis county Sunday reported larger congregations on Sunday mornings. Many people have sought salvation in a higher power.
"We're here to pray for people primarily and just to help them, encourage them any way we can," said Dr. Gene Crawley, Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Forrest City.
Recently, a family who lived in Memphis started attending the First Baptist Church. Both the mother and father have been looking for work.
"It's going fairly well. We have done some work here in Forrest City, landscaping and that's helped a little," said Reid Cullum.
"The most I think we can do right now is just trust the Lord because it's all over the country, everywhere, it's just not what it was economically," said Connie Cullum.
According to discoverarkansas.net, St. Francis County had an unemployment rate of 10.8% in January. That's one of the highest rates in the Region 8 viewing area.
The Cullums are trying to support their 11-year old daughter, Paige, without a steady paycheck. The Cullums own Just Right Lawn Care. When the housing market crashed in Memphis, the landscaping business did as well.
"It made me go to day to day, to just try to make it," said Reid.
The Cullums fell 2 months behind on their mortgage payments in Memphis. Each month, they were facing $800 payments for their condo. Living in Forrest City today, they pay $400 rent/month.
"It's just a lot more reasonable," said Connie.
"For 6 years we were doing good, making money, putting a little back for savings, and it just got to where we couldn't afford the condo we were buying," said Reid.
The Cullums also had to take care of Paige, but Connie said that was made even more difficult because she and her husband were always working.
"It was a pressure because she was in one of the best schools in the area and she had some good teachers and she was really doing good. We were concerned she wouldn't adjust to the public school system here in Forrest City," said Reid. "The first 2 weeks she'd come home crying because none of the kids were making friends with her. Now things have changed and she's really making friends."
Connie said living in a more affordable community has its benefits, but comfort was found elsewhere.
"We've learned the hard way but it's a great thing to learn, not to trust in what you can do and even what other people can do for you," said Connie.
"I think it's helped me depend more on God, and they've helped me through prayer, they've started praying for my family, not just me. And things have started opening up," said Reid.
"I think the church is here in all the seasons of life and especially in this time when the economy has gone so bad, and people are losing jobs. We want to be here to help them, to pray with them, encourage them," said Crawley. "Our deacons are doing family ministry all the time, helping people that come here to the church, and of course the staff here, we try to do things, so we have different people who work in different ways to help individuals any way that we can."
"I'm so thankful that I've moved from worries that used to consume me, just constantly worries about the economy and everything as we saw business slipping away. I was just totally consumed," said Connie.
Just Right Lawn Care plans to serve Forrest City and the surrounding areas as long as the Cullums can make a living.