By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
HAUGHTON – In the wake of recent fatal shootings of law enforcement officers in Louisiana, Eastwood Baptist Church has erected a cross that lights up as the color blue.
While the 10-foot tall cross remains blue, the congregation hopes those who pass by will not only notice the bright colors but remember to pray for and honor those policemen, sheriff’s deputies and others serving them in law enforcement.
“We figured anything we can do to give recognition to our fellow officers is the right thing to do,” said John Burnes, chairman of the leadership team at Eastwood Baptist Church. “In Louisiana, our fallen officers have a target on themselves. The more we can get people to realize it’s about praying and doing other things to minister to policemen rather than shoot them, the better off we will be as a society.”
For Burnes, honoring law enforcement hits close to home.
His brother has served as a member of the Bossier City police department for 26 years and is a member at Eastwood. Burnes also has relatives and friends who live in Sunset, where police officer Henry Nelson from the south Louisiana community lost his life responding to a disturbance call on Wednesday afternoon.
When someone on the leadership team suggested Wednesday the color of the cross should be changed to blue, Burnes answered with an enthusiastic affirmation. The cross was turned blue at 7:45 p.m.
“Someone in our leadership team meeting asked if I thought it was a good idea and I said sure,” Burnes said. “We had no idea when we put the cross onto the front of our sanctuary building two months ago that we would have so many officers who would die in the line of duty. The response from people who saw it just in the short time we’ve had it up is amazing.”
Mark Mize, a deacon at Eastwood Baptist Church, helped install the cross. Since the cross was designed to light up for Christmas and Easter in colors other than blue, Mize never thought they would turn the cross to its current color.
“The police community is hurting right now,” Mize said. “We just wanted to show our law enforcement family they are not alone in this battle. We don’t want them to be overwhelmed by these series of events. To turn our cross blue is a small way to say we support you, we back you, we pray for you. The reason we have it blue is because we are grieving the loss of a fellow police officer.”
This is not the first act of kindness the church has shown to law enforcement. Third, fourth and fifth grade girls from its Awana group hosted a banquet for the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Department and area school patrol in May.
Eastwood Baptist plans to leave the cross blue for at least a week. Since the cross has the ability to be changed to another color, the congregation will change it to other colors at various parts of the year.
Louisiana is tied for No. 1 with Texas in terms of law enforcement officers killed in 2015, according to the website Officer Down Memorial Page. Nine officers have died in the line of duty this year in the state.