By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
GILBERT, La. (LBM) – For 26 years, Bobby Arnold has faithfully served Eureka Baptist Church amid his own personal trials.
Arnold, who suffered a stroke in April 2020, said while he has faced difficult moments, he never has considered resigning from a church who has supported him throughout.
“The Lord hasn’t led me to go anywhere else,” Arnold told the Baptist Message. “It’s a definite call and is something that I have been blessed to be a part of for all these years.”
Arnold was named a Louisiana Baptist Convention Exemplary Bi-vocational Pastor of the Year for his dedication to ministry.
Born in Franklin Parish in 1949, Arnold gave his heart to Christ as a 17-year-old at the weekly Sunday service at New Hope Baptist Church, Crowville, where he had started attending with his girlfriend at the time, Ruth Weems.
A year later, Arnold married Ruth, became a deacon at New Hope Baptist and felt the call to preach the Gospel. However, he denied the call multiple times even amid service as a deacon and lay renewal leader at Wayside Baptist Church, Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Finally, at 36, he surrendered to God’s call and began to fill the pulpit at Turkey Bluff Baptist Church, Swampers (the church has since closed), and Midway Baptist Church, Richland Parish, in the spring and summer of 1985.
In October 1985, God called him to Hegwood Baptist Church, Epps. During his 10 years as bi-vocational pastor at Hegwood, the church experienced growth as he developed personal connections to share the Gospel, and engaged older adults and families in church activities and worship services.
When he first arrived at Eureka Baptist in 1995, the average Sunday School attendance was four and worship attendance was 12, mostly women. Slowly, Arnold began to build relationships with the husbands and subsequently they joined the congregation. Today, attendance for Bible study and the Sunday morning service is around 30.
“One by one, those men became saved and eventually stepped up to take leadership positions in the church,” he said. “I was pleased to know so many of the men came with their wives and decided that church was a priority.”
Arnold saw the love of God’s people first-hand when he suffered the stroke, which impacted his cognitive abilities and short-term memory.
From the moment that he was admitted to the hospital, the church rallied around him and his wife to provide love and support.
Eureka’s deacons and other men made daily phone calls to check on him, and stepped into the pulpit on those few Sundays that Arnold was unable to preach. Additionally, families in the church opened their homes to the Arnolds for Sunday meals and visits and, on many occasions, they provided transportation to medical appointments.
Arnold’s wife also was a constant encourager.
Indeed, Ruth has poured into her husband words of affirmation and served as a pianist, Vacation Bible school director and Woman’s Missionary Union leader throughout his pastorates.
Together, the couple has raised five children who have served on the international mission field and in ministry roles in their local churches. Additionally, Arnold has baptized two of his children, a son-in-law and five of his nine grandchildren.
Throughout Arnold’s time at Eureka, Eddie Rhymes, director of missions for the Deer Creek Baptist Association, has been a confidant, counselor and pastor’s pastor to Arnold. His encourage ment and mentorship have been invaluable to Arnold and his wife.“It is a tremendous privilege to know and minister alongside Bro Bobby Arnold,” Rhymes said. “He loves his church family and is committed to the ministry of our local association, our Louisiana Baptist Convention, and our Southern Baptist Convention work around the world. He is a constant encourager to me and every person he meets.”