[img_assist|nid=8193|title=Delivery boat|desc=June and Louis Charrier use an airboat, which is a common means of transportation in the meandering Louisiana swamp, for their S.W.A.M.P. (Serving Wholesome Appetizing Meals to all People) Ministry.|link=none|align=left|width=640|height=480]By Holly Jo Linzay, Regional Reporter
ATCHAFALAYA BASIN – Moss-draped Bald Cypress trees tower majestically in the bayous of the Atchafalaya Basin. A Pelican swoops down to rest on a stand of Cypress knees, as an alligator sidles by. Cloaked in legend and lore, the area is home to the Swamp People, folks who make their living from the Atchafalaya Basin. It is also the place where a new ministry has been started.
“We feel like if you feed a person, you sow a seed, and hope to harvest a soul. That’s what the S.W.A.M.P. ministry is all about. We want to touch people with the goal of harvesting souls,” said Louis Charrier, a pastor, church planter and director of the S.W.A.M.P. ministry.
The ministry’s acronym stands for “Serving Wholesome Appetizing Meals to all People. The idea of the name came to Charrier one night as he was praying.
“The Lord put that name in my heart. I’m in the swamps and the Swamp People interest is just everywhere,” Charrier notes, referring to a popular reality TV show.
The S.W.A.M.P. ministry, sponsored by Lakefront Community Church in St. Martinville, was created in February of this year. Charrier, who is the pastor of Lakefront Community, said services for the ministry take place Thursday nights.
“Our ministry is small right now, but growing. We have about 25 people attending, and they all make their livelihood from the Atchafalaya Basin in some way, crabbing, shrimping, alligator hunting or fishing,” Charrier adds.
Besides a worship service, the S.W.A.M.P. ministry staff distributes groceries.
Plans are in the works to add a service and grocery distribution on the last Saturday of every month.
The 25 families currently being helped each receive about 500 pounds of groceries each month.
“By the end of the summer,” Charrier said, “we hope to be serving 50 families with 1,000 pounds of food distribution each month.”
At a recent outing near the levee in Henderson, both Charrier, and his wife June were passing out Gospel tracts and making contacts with some of the people living in houseboats on the waters of the Atchafalaya Basin.
Charrier, reflecting the culture, spoke to several of the folks in his native Cajun French dialect. He said he hopes to start a Bible study in a houseboat soon. With their Cajun French heritage and deep-South hospitality, Louis and June Charrier both never meet a stranger.
“The S.W.A.M.P. ministry is right in the heart of Cajun country. We are meeting them right where they are at, and we are building relationships. We are ‘fishers of men’ in these swamps,” Charrier explains with a hearty laugh.
Lakefront Community Church recently hosted a crawfish boil for people participating in the S.W.A.M.P. ministry services.
It is not unusual for Charrier to play the guitar or for June to sing at the sponsored events. Whether they serve gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee or sauce piquate, “breaking bread” together is another way the ministry casts its net to share Jesus.
“I use to be so shy,” notes June, “but God opened up my mouth and He is opening up doors for us to minister. It’s like our testimonies keep pouring out. I feel like Jeremiah. What God has done for us is like a ‘fire shut up in our bones,’ and we can’t help but tell somebody. And recently, God is opening the doors for us to minister to the Cajun people.”
Even stepping off a 16-foot airboat from a ride through the swamp waters teeming with wildlife in their natural habitat, June handed out Gospel tracts, while Charrier struck up a conversation with one of the Cajun locals. It is the hope of the Charriers that the S.W.A.M.P. ministry will continue to grow. Louis, who has started 14 churches since 1986, said the Lord has put a love of Cajun folks in his heart.
“We want the love of Jesus to spread throughout these swamps,” Louis said, adding that this summer he is taking three teams to Nova Scotia to conduct Vacation Bible Schools. “We will be in the depths and roots of the Cajun culture.”