BNew church testament to Mount Beulah congregationy JOAN GANDY

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 13, 2002

FERRIDAY &045; A spacious new church building now caps the long association of the Rev. Eugene E. Williams with Mount Beulah Baptist Church in Ferriday.

Dedicated in late November, the brick church at 106 Chauvin St. stands a testament to the strength of Mount Beulah’s membership, Williams said.

&uot;I’ve been with Mount Beulah since 1958,&uot; Williams said. &uot;Financially the church has grown through my teaching about tithing, really teaching it, for the past 10 to 12 years.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

The small church building used by the congregation since 1933 now serves as a community center. The

property surrounding the church has grown from one to 21 acres. And as programs increase, so does the membership.

&uot;At one time, Mount Beulah had a large membership, and then there were a couple of splits,&uot; Williams said. &uot;In 1990, I started thinking about how we could advance the church and leave a legacy, make it better off than it had been.&uot;

One answer was to have new opportunities for both children and adults. &uot;But we didn’t have the space. I asked members to pray for the Lord to intervene,&uot; he said. &uot;And then I prayed.&uot;

Answers came. And new programs emerged as the congregation began to set aside a large nest egg to secure the future of their church.

A sit-down luncheon at the church today is an example of some of the outreach programs offered to young people. &uot;The food will be served on trays and passed; we want to teach the children good table manners, how to put one hand in their lap and how to use the knife and fork properly,&uot; Williams said.

Other programs, such as formation of a &uot;drill team,&uot; which marches and recites Bible verses, have drawn in the youngsters. &uot;And we also want to help children with their studies and homework in an after-school program,&uot; he said.

Every Tuesday evening, children gather for Bible study, offered along with a snack. &uot;We have gained members through working with the children,&uot; Williams said.

Williams was only a child himself when he first began to consider serving a church as pastor. He attended another Baptist church when he was 12 years old, but in a vision he saw himself called to be minister of Mount Beulah.

After finishing high school at Sadie V. Thompson in Natchez, Williams enrolled in Leland College in Baker, La. It was there that an elderly minister recognized the young man’s call to serve the church. Williams responded, studying Old Testament, New Testament and theology along with regular studies.

In years to follow, he attended classes at Princeton Theological Seminary, the Billy Graham School of Evangelism and the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

In 1985, Williams received a call from another church, the New Hope Baptist Church in Ruston. Serving two churches is a challenge but a blessing, he said.

To be a successful pastor is to know how to direct a congregation, he said. &uot;You have to know how to change people from the inside. Superficial change will last just so long.&uot;

What’s more the change has to come from the Word, he said. &uot;The minister has to know the Word. You have to know and love people. And you have to teach the Word.&uot;

As he matured in his role as pastor, 35 years of which included his also working fulltime as director of Head Start for four Louisiana parishes, Williams learned two important lessons &045; first, to delegate tasks instead of trying to do it all by himself; second, to leave problems at work and not to take them home.

He recalls his own childhood, filled with education in the home about how to dress and to behave. &uot;Today too many parents don’t take the time to teach their children these things,&uot; he said.

Challenges excite him, Williams said. &uot;I have no plans to retire. I love my work and the Lord has given me the good health to do it. It’s not a job any more. It’s a natural thing for me to do.&uot;