Evangelists enjoy preaching, fellowship at Barry County Baptist Association confab
By Allen Palmeri
March 10, 2005
CASSVILLE – Every February when the Barry County Southern Baptist Association throws open the doors of Corinth Baptist Church, a rural congregation south of Cassville about 15 miles north of the Arkansas state line, evangelists come a running.
“It’s the only time in the whole year where we get to see each other for an extended time,” said Oak Grove Evangelist Donald Walton. “We get to spend two or three days together here and fellowship with one another. We are greatly appreciative of Barry County to provide that for us. Nobody else does for us what Barry County does. They feed us well, they pay us—I mean, it’s an evangelist’s dream to be here and be involved in this.”
From Feb. 19-22, a total of 22 preaching and singing evangelists from four states poured into Barry County for the Southwest Missouri Bible and Evangelism Conference. Preachers and singers from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana made their way to the platform as the association’s churches pulled together once again to support the conference.
“The heart of it is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our area, to hopefully encourage pastors and lay people who come to revive their spirits,” said Barry County Director of Missions (DOM) Jerry Williams, who also serves as second vice president of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). “We’ve seen souls saved as the evangelists go into the churches on Sundays. If there’s one saved, then it’s worth it all.”
Bill Dudley, a full-time evangelist from Lebanon, was the pastor of First Baptist Church, Golden, from 1986-2001. He started the Barry County evangelism conference in 1988 as a way to help bring the churches of the association together for a good cause. The Ark Christian Retreat Center on the Roaring River section of Table Rock Lake in the Ozark Hills helps make the conference possible by providing free lodging for the evangelists, Dudley said.
“A lot of the events we have are target events for Sunday School, discipleship training or music, but they don’t involve the whole body of the churches,” Dudley said. “With this, everybody’s invited. At night, the building will be full, and they’ll come from all the churches.”
In the morning session Feb. 21, a group of evangelists gathered at the altar to lay hands on one of their own. Jerry Hext of DeQuincy, La., who is facing back surgery this month that could leave him paralyzed. The evangelists prayed that God would comfort him and guide him through the surgery, which doctors said they need to attempt now because without it, he may end up being paralyzed anyway.
Last year the evangelists prayed similarly for a layman who was very sick. God has honored those prayers.
“He’s doing much better,” Williams said. “He joined a church down here in Seligman.”
Evangelists like Hext who are hurting physically, emotionally or even spiritually know that they can come to Cassville at a time when it is often difficult to schedule revivals and wind up being refreshed.
“The people are so warm and friendly and loving and giving,” said Sondra Burnett, a singing evangelist from Cabot, Ark. “My batteries are charged. We go through times as evangelists where we give out. We’ve given everything we’ve got, and we have to reload those batteries. Coming here, to this conference, does that.”
Blue Springs Evangelist Ron Mills said the Southwest Missouri conference is a place where pastors can come and listen to a message before deciding if they want to schedule a particular evangelist for a revival. The nature of the forum is non-threatening, Mills said.
“If a DOM could provide an opportunity for pastors to meet evangelists without having to make a commitment to have them in their church, a pastor will come to a conference like this,” Mills said. “It helps them to see our gifts and talents.”
Reports of people converting to Christ in various churches Feb. 20 under the preaching of the evangelists filtered into Corinth Baptist Church the following day. Blue Springs Evangelist Lindy Reed told of three adults and one child converting in a morning service and then following the Lord in believer’s baptism that same night. A woman also got saved at First Baptist Church, Exeter, in the evening service there.
“The conference is truly an inspiration to all of us, because the Bible says, ‘Iron sharpens iron,’ and I get to hear them preach,” Reed said. “But it’s also a great time where we can preach the Gospel here in Barry County and see people saved.”