By Brian Blackwell, Message staff writer
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – Keith Manuel and his Labrador retriever, Luke, have traveled thousands of miles across the state in 2022 to share the Gospel, and together have seen more than 160 individuals make decisions for Christ.
Manuel said they are eager and ready to visit other Louisiana Baptist churches, too, at no cost.
“Luke is a draw for people to come,” said Manuel, Louisiana Baptist evangelism and church growth team leader. “He’s a great evangelistic tool that people really seem to relate to.”
Manuel purchased Luke in 2017 (his birth year) to calm victims of trauma he encounters in his law enforcement ministry. He also knew canines helped build confidence in children who struggled in school; and thought Luke might be useful to his wife, Wendy, a reading specialist with Rapides Parish Schools.
But most importantly, Manuel believed Luke could be an effective tool to lead others to a relationship with Jesus.
Earlier this year, Manuel noticed churches were beginning to re-engage in evangelistic outreach after COVID-related restrictions limited such efforts in 2020 and 2021. Several churches who were familiar with Manuel’s special ministry asked him to bring Luke to their events.
Since March, Manuel and his furry friend have shared the Gospel at Vacation Bible Schools, children’s and youth events, senior adult gatherings, camps, a revival, a reading program and worship services.
Manuel uses Luke to visually illustrate timeless biblical truths about obedience. Manuel concludes by sharing the Gospel and offering an opportunity to follow Jesus.
“Everyone wants his or her dog to be well behaved and obedient,” Manuel said. “I can see a visual difference in people when they connect the concepts by watching Luke’s obedience. They suddenly understand what it means when Jesus says, ‘My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me.’”
Many who respond make salvation decisions, but some come forward seeking to be discipled.
“They are responding with the desire to be obedient followers of Jesus,” Manuel said. “I want people to leave our presentations being confident of two things – their salvation and that they can live abundant lives as committed disciples of Jesus.”
During Vacation Bible School in mid-June at Pisgah Baptist Church, Forest Hill, two children indicated a desire to know more about Jesus during a presentation.
“Having Luke there really got the kids’ attention,” Pastor Mike Schultz said. “Keith, with Luke’s help, was able to explain some abstract ideas to the younger kids to help give some understanding — like ‘God always keeps his eye on you’ for example. The kids were very attentive and were able to participate in the presentation which makes it more interesting to them.”
Dustin Davis, pastor of New Era Baptist Church, Monterey, said Luke and Manuel planted Gospel seeds during a special event for children, May 15. Though none accepted Christ, Clark said at least one girl expressed an interest in learning more about Jesus.
“Keith used the commands ‘sit, watch, lie down, and come’ to illustrate the Gospel,” Clark said. “What stood out most to me was the command for Luke to watch Keith. No matter where Keith went in the room, Luke kept his eyes on Keith. Keith explained how important it is to keep our eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Therefore, not only was it a Gospel presentation, but it was a great devotion for believers.”
Churches interested in using Luke at an event may contact Manuel by phone, 318.446.2536, or reach out to him via his website, ConfidenceK9s.com.