By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
SAINT AMANT – Jacob Watkins was in bondage to a life of alcoholism, drug abuse and depression in Febru-ary when he accepted an invitation to attend New River Baptist Church in Saint Amant. One month later, Watkins was set free from the chains holding him back from a relationship with Christ when he turned to Jesus. “I have been clean of alcohol and drugs and haven’t suffered from de-pression because I have been shown that you just give all of your problems to God,” Watkins told the Baptist Mes-sage. Watkins is one of 17 new convert baptized since July 2018.
Pastor Adam Beach celebrated Watkins’ salvation and his obedience by baptizing him March 10.
Beach said Watkins’ story is representative of how God has moved through the congregation since August 2016, when its worship center and gymnasium were deluged under 4 feet of water during the record flood in that region of Louisiana.
After the waters receded, the congregation went through a nearly two-year drought where no one was baptized.
But since last summer the congregation has witnessed the wave of baptisms plus 13 other additions, growing by 30 new members, combined.
“Once our members got back into the building and saw the baptisms begin to take place, they had this feeling that God was restoring them,” Beach said. “Now that they have a plan in front of them, they are expecting God to do even greater things through them. This has produced this incredible amount of excitement among our people and the community we are trying to reach.”
Beach said his congregation has adopted a simple strategy for growth. Members are encouraged to pray for and invite others who do not regularly attend activities sponsored by New River Baptist.
He said they offer AWANA classes (evangelism and discipleship for children), Vacation Bible School, nursing home visitation and an Easter egg hunt in a local park as outreach tools.
Now they plan to do even more planned ministry.
“Our kids really have gotten into the AWANA and VBS,” Beach said. “We even have had some family members of nursing home residents come to our church because of the prayers they received during visits from our members.
“What our church went through with the flood brought clarity of who we are to be in the future,” Beach said. “At the end of the day, our church wants to create ministries that make a difference in our community and show them the purpose for which we exist, which is to love others for Christ.”