By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
VIVIAN – Laura Hale lay nearly comatose in a Shreveport hospital March 8, but managed to muster up a tune that planted Gospel seeds into the heart of her husband, Tim.
Although he could not understand most of what she sang in the days before her untimely death, Tim managed to decipher one word that gave him hope – Jesus. Four months later, his wife’s deathbed testimony led to his decisions to repent for salvation, commit his life to Christ and obey by being baptized.
“I was raising our twins after she passed away and at that point I thought I needed some spiritual guidance for my family,” he said. “I decided then I wished to be baptized in the muddy waters of the river like Jesus — that was going to be my path as I started my spiritual journey.”
RIVER OF LIFE
Tim was baptized with three others during a special riverside service hosted by Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in Vivian, July 29.
One by one, each of the new believers stepped into the warm waters of the Red River near Hosston to publicly state his or her individual faith in Christ.
“Just a few hours before the baptisms, we had three inches of rain fall, but by the time of the service God gave us perfect weather that helped set the mood for a memorable evening,” said Pastor Bill Treadway. “After we ended the service, many members told me this is the way church ought to be and they want to schedule this again next year. They are a church that loves to share Jesus and this baptism service gave them another opportunity to share His love with others, including some who were there for an evening on the river.”
Karen Dowden, who was raised Catholic, said the baptism service took her back to her own conversion a month earlier when she accepted Christ during a worship service at Mt. Gilead Baptist, June 25.“
What better place to be baptized than a river, just like it used to be done,” she said. “My eyes were filled with tears of joy as I was put in the water. In church, I now feel more in tune with the Holy Spirit. In my everyday life, I’m more at peace.”
A RENEWED PATH
The baptism service is representative of a rebirth Mt. Gilead Baptist has experienced since Treadway’s arrival in February 2013.
When Treadway became pastor, the Sunday morning worship service attendance averaged just under 30 and the church had seen one baptism in four years, according to church records.
By late July, attendance for worship services nearly had tripled, and 39 new converts have been baptized since his arrival.
“Once they asked me to be their pastor, the members said they wanted their church to be strong again,” Treadway said. “I told them the only way that can happen is if they work together, and they did just that by inviting people that were lost to come — and they kept inviting people to the point that it’s rare when we don’t have a visitor on a Sunday.”
RETURN TO FIRST LOVE
Treadway credits a love for its community as a factor for the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts of the congregation.
When he arrived at Mt. Gilead Baptist, Treadway discussed with his congregation the idea of ministering outside the walls of the church. They wholeheartedly embraced the idea.
One team started ministry at a nearby nursing home, where they conducted worship services and even a few funerals. Some of the residents and staff noticed the concern of the members and placed their trust in Christ.
The church also has sent out a trio to sing at area churches, hosted Vacation Bible School and held a family night complete with music and games.
“They are seeing that ministry is not just coming and sitting on the pew,” Treadway said. “They are buying into the notion that we want to do something different — we just want people to come to know Christ. We’ve enjoyed the growth, and the times of ministry, as a Mt. Gilead family that we’ve experienced so far, but we’ve only just begun.”