By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
HAMMOND, La. (LBM) – Shanika Washington’s life seemed to be spiraling out of control with a marriage in jeopardy and a persistent “me-first” attitude in all her relationsahips.
But through a Bible study class at Stillwater Baptist Church in Hammond, Washington discovered that God wanted to be a part of her life, and she welcomed His offer of salvation. Subsequently, she experieced healing from her former attitude, and during a drive-in worship service April 26 she gave a public testimony of her changed heart by being baptized, along with another new believer, in a portable baptistery.
“At that time I was apart from him, so I bore nothing,” Washington told the Baptist Message. “But God stepped in and turned my husband and I completely around. Now we live a life in which we are financially stable, our kids are back making good grades and doing very well, and my husband and I are a part of the audio and video ministry at our church. Now I’m a living testimony.”
NEW BIRTHS DURING COVID-19
This year, Pastor Elltore Austin has baptized four new converts, including two since the novel coronavirus pandemic. He said the baptisms are a reflection of God’s faithfulness throughout the difficult times.
“God commissioned us and tells us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” Austin said. “It has been great to know that in the midst of all of the craziness happening in our world, we can trust in God. When you have your heart fixed on Him, you know this is a journey that a pandemic can’t stop.”
PROVIDING DESPITE PANDEMIC
While ministry has been different than usual since mid-March, outreach for the congregation that averages 120 for Sunday morning services has not waned.
Nearly 500, viewers on average, have tuned into the church’s Sunday morning worship services on Facebook Live, and 30-40 cars have turned out for the drive-in service on the Stillwater Baptist campus. An additional 1,000 participants typically have joined in the online Wednesday prayer and Bible study.
Moreover, despite the obstacles of social distancing and other mitigation mandates the congregation managed to provide a meal for the area fire department, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel.
“We want to show our community that we love and appreciate them,” Austin said. “As men and women of God, we have to understand in times like this we have to rise up and continue on because we are on mission for God.
“The mission doesn’t stop,” he continued. “We have continued praising God, making disciples, teaching and preaching the Word of God and encouraging others through the pandemic. I’ve learned through this you can’t something would never happen or I never would do this. Still in all of it, God works in times like this. We have to meet the where they are, where they are hurting the most. The calling doesn’t stop. He has chosen us to do this.”