By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
CROWLEY – Regina Istre received a late Mother’s Day present, but the delay did not lessen her joy.
The mother of two was ecstatic May 21 to see her children baptized, and moments later followed them in this step of obedience as well.
“It was wonderful to have them walk alongside me on this special day,” said Istre, who gave her heart to Christ and committed to live for Him during a worship service at Berean Baptist Church April 16, the same day as her children. “Knowing that we all will be walking with God in Heaven is something that I can rejoice in. This was a blessing and a great family memory we always will share.
“Before we accepted Christ we weren’t whole,” she continued. “But since April 16th when we decided to put Christ in our lives, the change has been evident.”
Istre and her two children were among nine people baptized in a portable baptistery at the multi-ethnic Berean Baptist Church in Crowley. The special service included a presentation of a certificate of church membership and a shirt containing the church name and logo.
“We hold our baptisms outside as a way to reach people who may be passing by and wonder why people are in going underwater and back up seconds later,” said Berean Baptist Pastor Dennis Smith. “Those who do pass by we pray have a receptive heart and see the excitement we have for what God has birthed here at Berean Baptist Church.”
Smith started Berean Baptist Church in his home with his wife, Shareca, two sons, Dennis Jr. and Patrick, mother-in-law, Patricia Robinson, and family friend, Brenda Johnson, in September 2013.
An associate pastor at Israelite Baptist Church in Crowley at the time, Smith was encouraged to explore the possibility of planting a church after meeting with his pastor, Alan Knuckles, director of missions for Acadia Baptist Association, and Ernie Davis, pastor of Olivet Christian Church in Lafayette.
Within a week of meeting in his home, Smith was offered the opportunity to move the church into a building two blocks from his home. The church grew and six months later was drawing around 20 for worship and Bible study.
PEOPLE FOCUS & LOCUS
By May 2016, Smith and his congregation decided to move from its shopping center location to a church building closer to a residential section of Crowley, where they have remained to this day.
“It’s like the growth of the church has taken off,” Smith said. “Now we are in the community and able to have a real physical presence that we didn’t have at our other location.”
Since moving one year ago, the church has held a number of outreach events. Most recently, they hosted an Easter egg hunt that drew more than 200 people.
The congregation also has started a community garden. Working with area agencies, the church holds a class every Wednesday on nutrition led by a representative from the LSU Ag Center. After each class, attendees work in the garden and are able to pick some produce to take home with them.
“What we do is a lot of work but very exciting,” Smith said. “It’s a great reward to see development of a ministry and seeing people who have never been really involved to jump right in and serve. The Lord has called us to be something different than people are used to seeing in this community and that’s a church really passionate about not only ministering to the spiritual man but also to the physical person.”
GOD IS GOOD
A bi-vocational pastor, Smith has worked 25 years at CenterPoint Energy, a natural gas company. He said working a secular job allows him to practice what he preaches, which is being a light for Christ in one’s daily place of employment.
“It’s challenge trying to stay prepared for ministry and working my other job,” Smith said. “I try to stay engaged with the people at my secular job and be a witness for Christ there. Without a supportive church family that includes my wife and sons, it would be much more difficult to have a healthy balance of my secular job and my church job.”
As he looks toward the future, Smith is quick to emphasize the congregation’s growth, numerically and spiritually, is not anything he has done, but only God’s favor.
“It’s amazing because when we left our previous location, I told our church, ‘The Lord wants to show Himself throughout the process,’” he said.
“He moved in a mighty way. It was nobody but God who worked it out and is still doing so to this today.”