Cameron, Calcasieu, and Jefferson Davis Parishes as well as a small, southern portion of Allen Parish comprise this Southern Baptist association, which ministers not only in the Festival Capital of Louisiana but also in an area that’s been destroyed by a hurricane.
CAREY ASSOCIATION – Cameron, Calcasieu, and Jefferson Davis Parishes as well as a small, southern portion of Allen Parish comprise this Southern Baptist association, which ministers not only in the Festival Capital of Louisiana but also in an area that’s been destroyed by a hurricane.
Area festivals involve tourists and natives alike, as everyone celebrates heritage, food, culture, music, and more. The more widely known festivals include Mardi Gras; the Black Heritage Festival; the Cajun French Music and Food Festival; the Cal-Ca-Chew Food Festival; DeQuincy’s Railroad Festival, Cameron’s Fur Festival, Iowa’s Rabbit Festival, and Lake Charles’ Contraband Days, an observance of the area’s legacy of piracy, which begins when “pirates,” led by Jean Lafitte—his Contraband treasure is supposedly buried in the lake area—storm the city, conquer it, and, with swords drawn, kidnap the mayor whom they force to “walk the plank” into the lake.
“We have a very active tract distribution network that works all the area festivals,” said J.P. Miles, Director of Missions for the association. In the forefront of that ministry is East Ridge Baptist where Alan Weishampel pastors. People from at least five other churches are also involved in the ministry, Miles said.
Other elements in the area include gaming, the Creole Nature trail, which was devastated by Rita, as well as the cuisine and dining popular throughout Southwest Louisiana.
Cameron Parish, devastated by Hurricane Audrey in 1957, was struck again by Hurricane Rita in 2005. This second storm completely destroyed the parish which lies directly east of Texas in the very Southwestern portion of Louisiana, bordering the Gulf of Mexico to the South. The population was almost 10,000 in 2000. The parish seat is the town of Cameron.
Calcasieu Parish, directly north of Cameron on the Texas border, had a population of more than 180,000 in 2000. DeQuincy, Iowa, Lake Charles (the parish seat), Sulphur, Vinton and Westlake are some of the major towns and cities in this parish.
Jefferson Davis Parish lies east of Calcasieu Parish and north of Cameron Parish. The parish seat of Jefferson Davis is Jennings, and as of 2000, the population was more than 31,400.
A very small portion of the southern part of Allen Parish, which lies to the North of Jefferson Davis Parish, is also included in Carey Association.
All told, the association boasts a total area of at least 3,685 square miles and a population of at least 220,000 (as of 2000).
“About 75 percent of the churches in the association would be in more urban areas,” Miles said. “Cameron is very rural, and towards the west it’s very wooded.”
In 2006, the association helped sponsor “Crossover Southwest Louisiana” in conjunction with the Louisiana Baptist Convention annual meeting.
As part of Crossover, ten churches in West Calcasieu hosted a five-day evangelistic crusade using Team Impact, a group of bodybuilders affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, who use feats of strength to capture their audience’s attention before sharing the gospel with them. About 1,100 people attended the evangelistic performances each night, and 529 people made professions of faith, organizers said.
In addition, churches throughout the association hosted block parties, including one at the Crying Eagle FEMA Trailer Park in Lake Charles.
With the help of 21 other churches and at least 92 volunteers, East Ridge Baptist Church conducted the block party, which saw 56 recorded professions of faith among nearly 900 attendees who were presented the gospel in several ways, Weishampel said.
Crying Eagle houses more than 1,300 people from the New Orleans area, Cameron and Calcasieu parishes who were left homeless in the wake of the 2005 hurricane season.
Another major event during Crossover was the distribution of 550 video packets containing the Jesus video in Grand Lake and Sweet Lake. The event preceded a church plant in the area, the Grand Lake Mission, which is slated to kick off in March, Miles said.
The association also sponsors several on-going ministries, including Grace Ministries in Lake Charles (see article this page); a Seafarer’s Ministry which distributes Bibles and New Testaments in appropriate languages to seafarers in port at Lake Charles; and a Baptist Collegiate Ministry at McNeese State University which ministers to at least 150 students a week through weekly luncheons and Bible studies.
McNeese, primarily a commuter college, is located in Lake Charles.
In addition, the association sponsors Dry Creek Baptist Camp, which renovated its tabernacle in 2006 using more than $300,000 worth of volunteer labor from throughout the association.
The association also awarded more than $3,000 in scholarships to Louisiana College students in 2006.
Of the 64 Southern Baptist churches located within the association, 61 participate in the association. Those churches saw 427 baptisms in 2006 and 678 other additions. With almost 20,000 resident members, the association averaged almost 6,000 in Sunday school attendance.
Total receipts for the churches were almost $26 million, with more than 1.5 million being sent on to the Cooperative Program and more than $275,000 used for associational missions.