By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
LEESVILLE, La. (LBM) – Blake Frederick was leading the nightly family devotional time in early March when his eight-year-old son, Micah, presented an important request – he wanted to surrender his life to Christ and share his decision through public baptism.
Overcome with joy, the family scheduled a meeting with the East Leesville Baptist Church pastoral leadership team and scheduled a date for baptism. However, much like other Louisiana Baptist churches around the state, attendance restrictions from the novel coronavirus pandemic delayed the baptism until a later date.
The baptism was rescheduled and fell on Father’s Day. Blake Frederick, whose wife, Heather, is children’s minister at East Leesville Baptist, said he was ecstatic when he saw his son baptized June 21.
“It wasn’t until the morning of his baptism that I realized it would be held on Father’s Day,” he told the Baptist Message. “As proud as I was of his obedience to Christ’s command to be baptized, I know that God the Father was even more overjoyed.”
Micah Frederick is the fifth new convert, with an additional five more waiting, to participate in baptism at East Leesville Baptist since the church reopened for worship services on campus May 10.
Pastor Tommy Kiker said the baptisms since COVID-19 are reflective of a desire by others to learn more about hope found in Christ amid so much uncertainty.
“I think we are seeing a greater openness to the Gospel,” Kiker said. “People have faced the fact that life is incredibly fragile and that has led to conversations about peace, hope and eternity. God used this season to remove many distractions we had and turn that focus on Him.”
Kiker said despite challenges presented by COVID-19, the church has adapted its approach to ministry.
Before the virus, the church did not have an online presence. Once they were unable to meet inside their facilities March 22 because of attendance restrictions from COVID-19, services were moved exclusively to YouTube.
While the church has since resumed services inside the campus gymnasium (while the worship center undergoes renovation), Kiker said he will not abandon this new online ministry approach that he hopes continues to help the congregation reach far beyond the walls of their facilities.
In addition to its new online ministry, members have continued their food delivery program to the more than 100 families the local school district identified as needy. Additionally, the church has distributed food to homebound senior adults and widows, and helped clean up properties that were damaged by a tornado that touched down in the area, April 19.
“Some of our strengths as a church are brought out when we get the opportunity to love and care for our community,” Kiker said. “When presented a need, our church jumps on it. In the past few months, that servant mentality has been multiplied through the hearts of our people as we recognized life is fragile and we need one another.”
Looking to the future, Kiker is excited about moving into the updated worship center in October. The facility will seat 473 when at 100 percent capacity, and will include theater seating, new carpeting and lighting, and state of the art technology for video broadcasts and online ministry.
Kiker, who became pastor at East Leesville Baptist in 2019, also is anticipating a newly launched vision to plant one church a year. The congregation is partnering with church plants in Red River Parish, Bar Nunn, Wyoming, and Parker, Colorado.
“These certainly are unusual and difficult days, but the mission of East Leesville Baptist Church has not changed at all,” he said. “Our core values still express our mission – love God, love people, seek the lost and make disciples.”