There’s only one thing you’ll get for free along Washington Road during Masters Week, and you’ll find it at Whole Life Ministries, joked Mildred Ammons, a longtime church member and volunteer.
As the church closest to the front gate of Augusta National Golf Club, Whole Life takes its ministry to Masters patrons seriously, Ammons said.
Throughout the week, you’ll find members of the congregation lined up along Washington Road wearing neon yellow T-shirts bright enough to make traffic cones look dull. They say “Lemonade Brigade” across the front and are the attire of choice for church members who volunteer to pass out cups of lemonade, directions and reminders of God’s blessing to the thousands of patrons who walk past the church as the tournament plays on across the street.
“You can’t miss us,” said Ammons, a retired Army colonel who has volunteered for the brigade since 2005. “For this one week of year, we have a captive audience. We want to get their attention. We want to let them know God loves them and we do, too.”
She and a handful of volunteers tape notes of prayers and blessings to each cup.
“They’re just little pass-along cards, with uplifting phrases,” she said. “We have one gentleman who collects them every year. I know he has at least 15 years worth.”
Kathy Bell, a volunteer since 2009, took the week off work in order to participate in the church’s Masters Week ministry.
“It’s my vacation time. I plan for it in February so I get this week off,” she said. “It’s my favorite week of the year.”
Any weekday throughout the year, the corner of the church facing Washington Road is bustling with activity. It’s home to Honey from the Rock Cafe, a small restaurant run by church members that opened in 2008 and has quickly become known for friendly service and hearty Southern food.
The name of the cafe is inspired by the Bible verse Psalm 81:16: “But I would feed you with the best of foods. I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock.” It’s one of many Scriptures that decorate the walls of the cafe, which serves a daily buffet with offerings including fried chicken, squash casserole, collards, corn fritters, sweet potato pie and homemade ice cream.
During Masters Week, the cafe is quieter than normal, but still has a few locals and patrons stopping in for lunch.
“People don’t think they’re open,” Ammons said. “They also don’t think we’ll have parking.”
Several parking spots, however, are reserved for diners. On Easter Sunday, the church won’t sell parking until noon, when services end. Those who wish to attend both the church and the tournament on Sunday can park in the Whole Life lot for free that morning, then pay the $20 fee before heading to the course in the afternoon.
“We do get a lot of Masters patrons in church on Sunday,” Ammons said. “When we give them a cup of lemonade, we hope they’ll come. We hope they’ll be blessed. It’s what we do.”