By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
SINGER, La. (LBM) – Churches in Beauregard and Vernon Baptist associations gathered for special prayer services Aug. 27 and asked God for much needed rain in areas where wildfires have scorched more than 50,000 acres.
Sunday, the congregations of First Baptist Church, DeRidder, and East Leesville Baptist Church services sought God’s help, through prayer, to ask the Almighty to intervene as weary first responders, church members and people in the community have waged a two-week battle against the wildfires. By the end of the evening, their prayers were answered as many areas in west-central Louisiana saw their first measurable rainfall since mid-July.
The Sunday evening gathering at FBC DeRidder drew more than 350 while the service at East Leesville Baptist had more than 120.
“We believe that God wants His people to draw close to Him in every circumstance,” FBC DeRidder Pastor Steve Graves told the Baptist Message after the service. “The drought and fires happen to be the circumstance that has brought our community closer to God. And when that happens, it’s pleasing to God and honors God.
“God is faithful, whether it rains or not,” he continued. “And last night, in his mercy God blessed us with rain.
“There were believers from numerous churches and denominations who gathered to seek God‘s helping hand, not only for physical rain, but also for spiritual rain,” he said. “We confessed our needs in every way and asked him to pour out his blessing on us.”
Beauregard Baptist Associational Missions Strategist Tom Bruce said the service reminded him of God’s provision even through tragedy.
“The wildfires provided ample motivation for us no doubt, but once we gathered, we were all reminded that we seek the face of God, not His hand,” Bruce said. “We expressed our gratitude to God for His gracious provision even in the midst of these flames. We are all so very thankful for our elected officials and responders and relief volunteers pulling together to save lives and property. They were all recognized and prayed for at the service as well. We also noted that this, too, is promised to work together God’s glory and for the good of those who love the Lord. We know He will bring beauty out of the ashes.”
Pastor Tommy Kiker said he was thankful for those who gathered at East Leesville Baptist.
“It was a sweet time of Thanksgiving, worship and prayer,” he said. “It was incredibly encouraging tonight to hear testimonies of praise even with the sincere requests we were making.”
Besides prayer filled services, Louisiana Baptists also rushed to the communities impacted by the fires to bring much needed drinks and snacks.
At FBC Singer, 20 members distributed water, Gatorade, Powerade and snacks to firefighters, police officers and others in need. They also helped deliver meals that were prepared by Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief teams.
“The community is seeing that we care for them,” FBC Singer Pastor Jimmy Clark said. “We are sharing with everyone we meet the hope of Jesus. I am very proud of what my church family has done and will continue to do. The community has come together doing as much as they can to stop this fire.”
For their part, 100 members of Unity Baptist Church, DeRidder, fed 100 firefighters and assembled “grab and go” snack and hygiene bags for area firefighters. Pastor Mike Burkes said the effort by his congregation underscores their love to share Christ with their community.
“To say that I am proud of our church would be an understatement,” he said. “Fifteen years ago when I became youth pastor, I brought to the table my desire for us to start doing mission work around our church, community and state. And it just took off.
“If we as churches would just present the opportunities for our people to serve, people would serve,” he said. “And this was no different from the time we realized how serious the fires became the church was chomping on the bit trying to figure out a way to serve. So I challenged them to do a supply drive for the victims and first responders. Then it grew to providing meals and socks, then hygiene bags. Servants is who we are called to be and servants is whom we shall always be.”
Meanwhile, members of Westview Baptist Church, DeRidder, served on a Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief feeding team and provided water, Gatorade and ice to the local airport for pilots who dumped large buckets of water on the flames. Additionally, the church has provided snacks for National Guardsmen who are helping fight the fires in Beauregard Parish.
To contribute to ongoing DR efforts, visit louisianabaptists.org or mail a check to Beauregard Baptist Association, 735 West Dr, DeRidder, LA 70634. Write Disaster Relief in the memo. To volunteer, please call the BBA office, 337.202.4043.