HANNIBAL – One week before Easter, Isaac Sapp – once a top drug dealer in Marion County – publicly declared his faith in Jesus Christ through baptism at Calvary Baptist Church here.
Sapp was among three other drug addicts and dealers baptized during the service. And, afterward, nearly 15 other people – among them, people affected by addiction and alcohol – came forward to profess faith in Christ.
This was a highpoint in Calvary Baptist’s “Victory in Jesus” Sundays, March 18 and 25. During these services, the church put a spotlight on the lostness in Marion County and especially on the need to share the love and hope of Christ among those enslaved to drugs and alcohol. But the services were also a testimony to the way that God is transforming lives in the region.
“God is doing a work here,” Roger Carter, a member of Calvary Baptist, told The Pathway. For 29 years, Carter has shared the love of Christ with alcoholics and addicts. It’s a ministry that he loves since he also was once an alcoholic, on the brink of divorce, when Christ saved him and healed his family.
Several years ago, after pastoring a church in the area for 16 years, he laid aside pulpit ministry to focus on the evangelistic ministry he loves. And, after Carter joined Calvary Baptist, Hannibal, Pastor Jeff Anderson happily set him loose to proclaim the gospel.
Then God began to open doors by allowing Carter to build connections in the court system and in the Marion County jail. As a result, he and his wife visit the jail together to share the gospel. Also, they began a Wednesday night ministry at Calvary Baptist called “Victory in Jesus,” a Christ-centered meeting that draws dozens of addicts, alcoholics and parolees – sometimes because they recognize their lostness and sometimes simply because the ministry meets the requirements for their probation.
“It’s all about the gospel because that’s the only thing that really changes lives,” Carter said. “We don’t really see very many turnovers in this ministry, but we’ve seen some of the biggest drug dealers in Hannibal get saved. And their lives are changed. People are in awe, saying, ‘How is this happening?’”
And now these new Christians, once the top drug dealers in Hannibal, often take to the streets with Carter to share the gospel.
“I can’t express how excited I am about what God is doing up here,” Carter said. And he’s not the only one who’s excited to see these lives transformed, Pastor Anderson told The Pathway.
“What we see is a church that is being transformed, and the DNA of our church is changing,” Anderson said. “Our church members – traditional Southern Baptists, been in church their whole lives – are embracing this ministry, not pushing it away. These (addicts and alcholics) are coming in here, and we’re doing everything we can to make them feel that this is where they need to be.”
What’s especially exciting, he added, is the possibility that God will use this ministry not only to transform the lives of individuals harmed by addiction, but also to push back the darkness in Marion County and wipe out the drug culture in the region.
“I’ve been here for 18 years,” Anderson said, “and I feel like, ‘Wow! This is what the church is supposed to be like!’ It makes me feel like God, in His grace, has put His hand on us. … We have a taste of what it is like when the Holy Spirit shows up.”