By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
WINNSBORO – Looking across the crowd gathered inside the Sardis Baptist Church worship center, Eddie Rhymes reflected on a fruitful 50 years of ministry in the very place where he first surrendered to Christian ministry, and where his dad was ordained as a deacon.
“I am so grateful that so many came here today to join me in celebrating Jesus and the work He has done through me,” Rhymes said. “And to have this time in the same building where I made my profession of faith and commitment to the ministry brought back some precious memories.
“Someone used the phrase a half-century of service and that really sounded a lot longer than 50 years to me,” he continued. “I have worked with some wonderful men and women through the years and I am so grateful to God and to those I have served on His behalf. I look forward to continuing to serve Him in the years to come.
“It’s overwhelming to think I’ve been at this for 50 years,” he said. “When you start out as an 18 year old preaching you never dream you would be still at it 50 years later. I look back at it and know I’m so blessed to preach at so many churches and help them with my ongoing ministry.
The special day included a reception, memories shared by friends and family, and, a presentation of a plaque and a crystal award for his 50 years of ministry.
“We were thrilled when Brother Eddie agreed to allow Sardis Baptist Church to host the recognition of his 50 years of faithfulness and God’s Blessings,” said Jim Savage, pastor of Sardis Baptist Church. “Seeing how God knit the details together was awesome.
“July 2, 1967 was the Sunday Brother Eddie surrendered to the ministry, and Sunday, July 2, 2017 was exactly 50 years to the day,” he said. “Plus, having the service in the same building where he surrendered and was licensed, and, where his dad was ordained as a deacon really did make for a great afternoon. We all felt God’s presence in a special way.”
FROM A COTTON FIELD TO THE PULPIT
Raised on a cotton farm outside of Winnsboro, Rhymes, as a teen, surrendered his heart and life to Christ.
He later attended Louisiana College, and during his senior year began his ministry at St. Clair Baptist Church in Gardner.
Throughout the next 50 years Rhymes would serve with a number of churches, including: First Baptist Church in Stanberry, Missouri, (as a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary); First Baptist Church in Searcy, Ark.; First Baptist Church in Doyline; Loch Arbor Baptist Church in Monroe; Old Zion Hill Baptist Church in Livingston; Fairview Baptist Church in Coushatta; Red Oak Baptist Church in Livingston; and, Oak Hill Baptist Church in Bastrop.
Rhymes and his wife, Donna, also served for nearly 10 years as cottage parents at the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home in Monroe. While there, they cared for 111 boys and girls.
“It was a mission field of its own,” Rhymes said. “You have an opportunity to impact children and families, many who have never had any type of spiritual background and many have not had a stable home environment.
“We still hear from some of them,” he continued. “It’s special to have them keep up with us and call us ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ to this day.”
Perry Hancock, director of the Children’s Home, said the couple impacted so many children for Christ.
“His genuine compassion and care provided a positive Christian witness for every child in his care,” Hancock said. “Many of those children accepted Christ as Savior, in part, because of Eddie’s godly influence and example. We congratulate Eddie for 50 years of exemplary service in ministry.”
STILL SERVING AFTER 50 YEARS
Though retired as a pastor, Rhymes serves as director of missions for Deer Creek Baptist Association, a position he has held since ending his pastoring in 2011.
In his new responsibilities he encourages pastors, helps local residents with various everyday needs and serves as a member of the association’s Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief team, participating last year in the response efforts following historic flooding in southern Louisiana, and, contributing the year before to recovery operations in Moore, Okla., after a tornado caused widespread destruction.
“We are able to step in and help those who can’t help themselves in the name of Christ,” he said. “When a disaster happens, they are at a loss with what to do next. We can go in and help with a lot of things they probably don’t have the money to do.”
That attitude of others before self is what has made Rhymes continue serving Christ for 50 years in ministry, Louisiana Baptists Director of Pastoral Leadership Bill Robertson said.
“Eddie and I began ministry as young guys in Franklin Parish,” Robertson said. “He has faithfully served our Lord for fifty years as a pastor, in missions and at the Children’s Home, never losing the wonder of the call from God. I am glad to call him my friend and brother in Christ.”
Through his 50 years in ministry, Rhymes’ wife, Donna, has served beside, starting just after he accepted his first pastorate — and two weeks after they were married.
“I was still trying to figure out what it was to be a wife, much less a pastor’s wife,” she said. “But I have had the privilege and joy of hearing him preach all these years, watching him and observing him serve the Lord in so many ways. He preached with sincerity and conviction on Sundays and Wednesdays, and on other days came home dirty from crawling through attics and under houses, after helping those in need fix whatever needed to be fixed in their homes. Eddie truly has a servant’s heart.
“Eddie has been the pastor to many wonderful congregations, and he has been my pastor as well,” she said. “To see him serve from his heart has been a great joy and inspiration to me. I thank God I have been able to serve alongside him.”