Gulf coast Baptists welcome outsiderscomment (0)
August 28, 2003
By Johnie Sentell
Alabama’s coastal area has long been seen as a welcome mat for folks from outside. One church in the area typifies the way Baptists still extend the welcome.
Oyster Bay Baptist Church in Baldwin Association will celebrate its 150th anniversary next year. Through the years it has been a small congregation in a fishing village, but as with many places in the Gulf Shores area, new people are moving in and more expensive homes are being built.
The church worships in a beautiful three-year-old facility seating about 400. Although it looks rather traditional from the outside, the interior is quite modern. Stained glass windows interpret a waterfront theme — boat, anchor and lighthouse — and a wide sweep of clear glass across the rear of the sanctuary provides a view of the marsh and beyond it ships passing through the intercoastal waterway.
Brother Jerry Peebles has been pastor of Oyster Bay since June 2002, formerly serving as its part-time minister of students. One of the first visits he made after becoming pastor was to the Goodwell home. He had not called ahead but found a divine appointment. Michigan transplant Bob Goodwell said he was hoping someone would come speak to him about spiritual matters. He had made a profession of faith years before but had not gone to church in a long time.
Later the Goodwell family shared their home with Vidas, a young man from Eastern Europe working in the area on a one-year visa. Brother Peebles led Vidas to a profession of faith using a Russian Bible obtained from the International Seaman’s Center in Mobile. Vidas became a faithful member of the church.
About a month ago the Goodwells saw Vidas off at the airport. They realized it was unlikely they would see him again, since it would be nearly impossible for him to get another visa. The Goodwells said it felt like saying goodbye to a son.
Warm, caring church
Pastor Peebles said the Goodwell family’s experience is just one example of how Oyster Bay members display a warm and caring attitude in reaching out to people.
“Through the compassion and ministry of this congregation, we have seen numerous people —young and old alike, natives as well as transplants — come to a saving knowledge of Christ,” he said. “They are growing along with those who have welcomed them into the family of God.” The pastor noted the church befriended a family living on a boat who lost a family member and even hosted the funeral. Another hurch member, instead of ejecting a renter with alcohol problems, helped the man find salvation and fellowship.
“We are continuing the mission of those who established the church 150 years ago,” said Peebles. “In the last 12–14 months we have had a tremendous upsurge,” he said. “It is a genuine result of people looking where God is going and putting themselves in the process.”
Summerdale First Baptist Church is located on busy Alabama Highway 59 between Foley and Robertsdale. Jason Smith has been its pastor since March 2002. The church emphasizes communication. Like Oyster Bay, it provides The Alabama Baptist to all its families. And through its changeable message board the church also provides words of advice to the many travelers who pass by. Recently the message board read: “God answers knee-mail. Keep praying.”