By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
NEW ORLEANS (LBM) — Louisiana Baptist churches have come alongside the only Southern Baptist church in the New Orleans French Quarter to serve up food with the love of Christ on Friday afternoons.
Since 2013, First Baptist Church, Ponchatoula, and more recently, First Baptist Church, Norco, have sent teams to help prepare and hand out meals to as many as 70 homeless men and women who come inside Vieux Carre Baptist Church for what Pastor Tom Bilderback calls “Shower Fridays.”
Bilderback said the Shower Fridays are a way to reach people who may be stepping into a church for the first time. Visitors often include drug dealers, satanic worshipers and homeless individuals.
“We share the Gospel and are there to practice what it means to be in the presence of Christ for the least of these,” Bilderback said. “Once we offer them some food and a hot shower, we’re able to then share with them hope found in Christ. Many times it will build bridges with those who may have come far from Christianity.”
The homeless hear a Christian testimony from Bilderback or someone else who has overcome the hardships that homeless people typically experience.
The first time can be a little intimidating for volunteers, Bilderbeck said. But more often than not, they grow to love the homeless and develop a passion for the mission of Vieux Carre Baptist Church.
“Everyone who comes has grown to love it,” he said. “And once they come, they rarely miss again. A lot of these guys we minister to don’t have their family or mother around, so it’s become an amazing way for volunteers to love on them in a very practical way.”
Volunteer Denny Badeaux, a member of First Ponchatoula, has seen God move in miraculous ways since he started volunteering in 2013 and he said the gestures of gratitude from the homeless are very rewarding.
“The Vieux Carre Baptist Church is such a blessing to us as well as the many lives it has impacted for Christ in the French Quarter,” he said. “The actions of the church staff at the Vieux over the years have definitely impacted us on how to be more compassionate servants of Christ.
“God showed us how important it is to listened to Him and be obedient to His direction,” he said. “About three-and-a-half years ago I felt God was leading us to cook for our friends without addresses consistently every month. I didn’t see how we would be able to do that.
“However God was about to reveal His power and gave us a mighty lesson,” he continued. “After we committed to once-a-month cooking at the Vieux, a friend heard about our commitment and told me he would supply 30 pounds of smoked sausage a month. We were so amazed at how fast God met the need and provided for His people.”
Badeaux’s wife, Lisa, said volunteering at Vieux Carre Baptist reminds her of Acts 20:35, “It is better to give than to receive.”
“Although I have not been a volunteer at Vieux Carre for a long period of time, I have grown to look forward to seeing the people we serve each month there, and feel that we have become a family of sorts,” she said. “Each soul who comes through those doors is a child of God. We’re not there just to give food or a few items of clothing, but we’re there to give love. A smile, a hug, the smallest act of kindness – that is being the hands and feet of Jesus. And in doing so, it is truly better to give than to receive.”
Daniel Dismuke, pastor at First, Norco, said his members have received countless blessings since they first volunteered in August 2017. They have used their time and gifts in the areas of counseling and discipleship to reach a segment of the population that he believes often are overlooked.
“I believe that the heartbeat of the church is missions,” he said. “They are not our Jerusalem, but certainly we could consider them our Judea.
“We have had folks from our community, who do not even attend FBC Norco, who have become part of our team,” he continued. “God has used this opportunity to open the door for relationship building and Gospel conversations on our end. We are excited about what the Lord is going to do there and within our church family as we work together for Him.”