Last week’s announcement of the pending sale of Pilgrim Pride’s chicken processing plant here came as an answer to prayer for the more than 1,300 people affected.
FARMERVILLE – Last week’s announcement of the pending sale of Pilgrim Pride’s chicken processing plant here came as an answer to prayer for the more than 1,300 people affected.
Gov. Bobby Jindal addressed a large crowd at the Family Life Center of First Baptist Farmerville about the state’s efforts to ensure the Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. facility was sold to Foster Farms, a California-based chicken producer.
While the sales agreement is a vital first step, and possibly the most difficult part of the process, the work is not complete, the governor said.
“The tomb is empty,” Jindal said. “We’re not at Easter Sunday yet.”
While the $80 million dollar agreement, to be split evenly between the state and Foster Farms, is cause for celebration, Jindal said, now is not the time to be complacent.
For the plan to work, the bankruptcy court must accept the agreement, an anti-trust must be filed, and legislative help must be obtained. Still, after more than three weeks of fear, anxiety and bad news, many are thanking God for finally getting some good news.
Farmerville Mayor Stein Baughman was working in his yard on the afternoon the sale was finalized when all three of his phones started ringing nonstop. He said he knew right away what all the calls meant.
“The first thing I said was ‘Thank God,’” Baughman said. “Without the sale of this plant the idling would have trickled down to every house in this parish and into other parishes too.”
“The announcement of the sale was truly an answer to prayer,” said Gawain Green, a member of First Baptist Farmerville. “The loss of the plant would have been devastating to this area. A friend of mine who is a CPA told me the average debt among the growers in this area is $1.2 million.
“A whole lot of people would have been hurt. There would have been a lot of pain and suffering,” Green said. “The aspect of something like this taking place brought a lot of people to their knees, crying out to God. I think it opened people’s eyes to see just how much they really do need God in their lives.
“So, yes, the announcement came as an absolute blessing,” Green added.
“I am thrilled over the announcement,” Concord Union Director of Missions Barry Joyner said, “but I am even more pleased to see people giving thanks to God for his intervention.”
Joyner said when news first broke of the plant’s closure many turned immediately to prayer. Churches in the area, especially in Farmerville, also identified ways to minister and assist the people.
“They got together to see what the immediate needs were and what we had in place to deal with those needs,” Joyner said. “Our food pantry could help with the food, and they looked into how much financial assistance – money for groceries or to help with a light bill – they could offer as well.”
Joyner said many pastors addressed the situation from the pulpit as well.
“The most important thing all the churches did was to tell their people to pray, not give up hope, and ask God to bless this area,” Joyner said, “which he obviously did.”
When news broke of the plant’s closure, First Farmerville Pastor Keith Auger said God laid on his heart to go to the book of Job. “After the announcement of the plant’s closure, I decided to do three sermons from the book of Job. I pointed out how Job kept his focus on the Lord and not on his plight.
“I said they (the congregation) had to have confidence in the Lord with their hearts and not with their lips,” Auger said. “Like Job, if people will be faithful to God they will be care for by Him.”
Auger, who was stepped to the forefront of the spiritual negotiations, organized a prayer meeting in Farmerville for the plant workers. More than 100 attended.
“I would say probably half, maybe more, of the chicken producers and plant workers are directly tied to a Southern Baptist Church,” Auger said.
In addition to the prayer meeting, Auger has partnered with the association and other area Southern Baptist Churches to pool their resources so they can help to provide for those with needs.
“We dodged the bullet but the economic times are going to continue to be tough. It will take several months before the plan is back up and running,” Auger said. “So, just sitting back and waiting to see what happens is not the best thing to do in my mind.”
“We already have a food ministry for people in our community but we are bracing for those numbers to increase,” Auger said. “Our church also gives, on the average, about $400 a month to families needing help with their utilities or medicine.
“I have not only asked our church to start sacrificing more financially … to dig deeper,” he said. “We are adjusting the church’s budget but I have also asked everyone to do the same in their homes.”
Auger is working to link all churches in North Louisiana together, so people can go online to see what they can do to help.
“We are presently working on a website that will help link us together which will allow people to tap into so they can see exactly what type of help is available to them,” Auger said.
Because of the suddenness, prayer has been Auger’s major focus but as he has had time to reflect, he is overwhelmed by the amount of support that has come flooding into the parish and city.
“People everywhere, not just Christians, have really stepped up,” Auger said fighting his emotions. “It is overwhelming to see how people have rallied and come together. We must realize we are not alone. We must realize that there is a God and he is there for us in the good times and the bad.”
Therefore, Auger is even more inspired to continue his church’s mission work.
“God has given us a wonderful opportunity to reach people right here in this area,” Auger said. “Not only do we have the opportunity but we have the command from God to reach out.
“Instead of us going to other countries, all we have to do is walk outside our church, across the street, and down the road to do missions,” Auger said. “God has brought the mission field to us and we shouldn’t waste the opportunity.”