By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
LAFAYETTE – One day, Caleb Lanclos’ tooth ached, so he turned to the Lafayette Community Health Clinic to have it removed.
On April 16, Lanclos returned to the clinic with a different purpose – to give back to a business that was there for him in a time of need.
Armed with a rake and pressure washer, Lanclos and fellow members of First Baptist Lafayette spent a few hours that Saturday morning cleaning up the grounds of the clinic. By the end of the day, the team had accomplished the name of their effort – First Baptist Loves Lafayette.
“Because I was a recipient of their services, I knew this was a way I could give back to them,” Lanclos said. “This day is my favorite day of the year. You can be selfless and help someone out. It doesn’t even feel like work and you are there to serve those who live in your community.”
Lanclos’ and his fellow team members were among 449 people from the church involved in some ministry project across Lafayette, to love their city in practical ways. These 26 projects included placing pine straw underneath shrubs on the University of Louisiana-Lafayette campus, laying mulch at an area park, cleaning city murals and picking up trash along a stretch of a bayou.
The ultimate goal, said missions minister Andrea McKenzie, is for Bible study classes within First Baptist Lafayette to form a long-term partnership at a site which allows participants to use their spiritual gifts in a tangible way, and the work becomes an evangelism platform.
“We have some people who say this day is why they joined our church, because we are able to dedicate a set date to work together to show Christ’s love in our community,” McKenzie said. “This is a way for us to have an impact on our community and show love to everyone we can. In the end, we spur people to do more missionally.”
Go Day reaps a harvest
More than 1,000 people from Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge took a short-term local ‘mission trip’ of sorts April 17, resulting in multiple decisions for Christ.
In its seventh year, the annual Go Day allowed members of Istrouma Baptist to participate in 40 different projects around Baton Rouge. These included holding block parties, hosting a picnic for special needs families, delivering gift baskets to firemen and policemen, performing landscaping for a Christian school and volunteering at a nursing home.
During a block party at a mobile park targeted toward Hispanic individuals, two people accepted Christ, and, at a sports clinic, multiple people made the decision to follow Christ.
The sports clinics at six BERC parks and gyms were led by coaches and student-athletes from area high schools. Attendees received free sports equipment, participated in a Bible lesson and enjoyed a hosted lunch.
At the end of the clinics conducted by the Baton Rouge Sports Initiative – a collation of churches, educational and non-profit groups headed by Istrouma Baptist Church’s sports ministry – th Gospel was presented.
Participants also took home a gift Bible.
Missions Pastor Dwayne Pitre said his members were moved when those they had served as part of this outreach accepted Christ.
“We try to make sharing the Gospel a priority in serving and are always looking for ways to talk about it,” Pitre said. “In our conversations with people, we try to get to the Gospel and thankfully were able to see some trust God for a decision to follow Him.
“In the end, the Great Commission informs us to make disciples and do that by sharing the Gospel,” he continued. “And that’s what we saw happen during our GO Day.”
Peggy Arcement was among the team that washed and dried clothes for Baton Rouge residents, and in the process shared about Christ.
“The Laundry Love Project provided a wonderful opportunity to meet people where they are,” she said.
“We were able to minister to needs, engage in conversation and share the love of Jesus,” Arcement continued. “As people from many backgrounds and nationalities came to do their laundry on Go Day, we were there offering to pay for their loads of clothes, provide refreshments , fold clothes, and give coloring books to children. These acts of service were received with surprise and gratitude. All those who participated came away thankful for this opportunity to be a blessing to others.”
Meanwhile, at Connections for Life, a women’s Bible study class hosted a picnic for residents of the housing program for females transitioning from prisons, treatment facilities and battered women’s shelters.
While the women hosted a party, the men’s Bible study class assembled tables used to store clothing inside the organization’s thrift store.
Among the highlights of the day, one resident received a visit from her young daughter.
Volunteer Diane Courville said this allowed the resident a chance to interact with her daughter and allowed the young girl a chance to learn how to accept her mother again.
This is the second year the classes have spent their Go Day at Connections for Life, allowing for the formation of a continuing relationship between the residents and Istrouma members. Courville said her class came away refreshed knowing they impacted the residents’ lives.
“The ladies know they are accepted just for who they are and that they are loved,” Courville said. “As we go back, they begin sharing their struggles and how difficult it is to become normal again. They say this thing we are doing for them is helping bridge that because they feel less constrained when they meet people and they may be worth talking to.”