By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
FOREST HILL – Being wheelchair-bound could not stop 82-year-old Percy Babineaux from publicly declaring his faith in Jesus through baptism.
Babineaux repented and turned to Christ three years ago, but only recently was able to gain enough strength in between cancer treatments to participate in his long-awaited baptism at Elwood Baptist Church in Forest Hill.
Moments after the baptism, Babineaux pointed to Heaven in celebration.
“I wanted to be baptized like Jesus was,” said Babineaux, who has been confined to a wheelchair because of his poor health condition. “At that moment I was so happy, and ever since I’ve been telling everyone about how my life has been changed with Christ.”
Babineaux is one of 13 converts baptized at Elwood since January. Pastor Mike Evans said the baptisms are representative of a commitment to missions by the central Louisiana congregation, which averages about 100 in Sunday morning attendance.
Elwood is located in a community with a large Hispanic population. The church has embraced the opportunity and formed relationships with this immigrant population through visiting the nurseries that employ them.
Subsequently, Elwood has been blessed to host a number of Hispanic families for worship services, Vacation Bible School and other activities, with a number of the visitors trusting in Christ as Savior and Lord.
Elwood members have been busy with other outreach ministry efforts as well, mowing yards for widows, delivering hand-made cards to the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Alexandria, and participating in mission trips to Ireland and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
Likewise, the congregation has a strong sense of the importance of cooperative missions and ministries to complement what they are doing themselves.
Recently, Elwood voted to increase the percentage of undesignated offerings the church gives through the Cooperative Program from 16 percent to 17 percent. The Cooperative Program is the Southern Baptist Convention’s method of supporting missions and ministries of state conventions and the SBC.
“The Great Commission plainly tells us to go,” Evans said. “While we cannot go to every state and country, we believe our CP dollars can go to places and do things we cannot do.
“Because of the Hispanics and diversity of the cultures in Louisiana, everyone can be missionaries,” he continued. “We don’t have to have the title of pastor, deacon or missionary, but it’s incumbent upon us to do the very best we can just to lend a hand, love people and treat them the way we would like to be treated.”
Evans said he is blessed to be pastor of a church that has such a loving spirit with a mission to reach others for Christ in its Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and ends of the earth.
“This church focuses on unity,” he said. “Everyone who comes here can say they feel the Spirit of the Lord, and they feel loved and wanted. I’m so blessed to be part of something like that.
“Elwood is the best kept secret in the Louisiana Baptist Convention,” he said. “I can’t think of any place I’d rather be.”