Spiritual Growth and Outreach
Written by Betty Miller Buttram
Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1972 by Pastor Lee Wilson and his wife, Pinky Wilson, and was located in the 900 block of Lillie Street. Pastor Wilson passed away in 2002, five years prior to Apostle Darence Smith becoming the church’s shepherd on Psalm Sunday in 2007. The church moved to its present location at 2340 Fairfield Avenue in October 2008. The building that houses the church now was once the home of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra.
Apostle Darence Smith was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and has been the Pastor of Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church for nearly 12 years. “Our church is a small congregation, but we like to feel that we do big things. We don’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but we do have a heart, and we try to communicate the message of the Gospel in its entirety to the people of God in hopes that some will buy into Him, and give them an opportunity to transform their lives in every type of way; spiritual and also in social ways as well.”
Apostle Smith tells about his spiritual and religious growth on his Christian journey. “I gave my life to Christ, for real, in September 1988, and I make a distinction of for real and just giving my life to Christ in 1979 when I was 18 years old. Looking back on where my heart was and how my lifestyle was at that time, I called myself a churchgoer and wanted to be true, but I was still a sinner. There was no genuine repentance of my sins because I kept doing the stuff I was doing. There was no real change, no real transformation, at least tangible, that you could touch, feel or see. In 1988, after a series of events, twists, and turns of life circumstances, the Lord convinced me that I needed to live His way, do things God’s way, and I’ve been walking with Him ever since.”
The church has a Youth Ministry and within that ministry there’s a group called “Like David,” which is a male group that does praise dancing and mimicking. There is also a group for girls named “Beautiful Zion,” who do praise dancing; and there is the “Bucket Boys for Jesus” group. They beat on five gallon buckets like drums and make music. “There are a couple of men who work with them, and they come up with different rhythms and beats. It gives the little ones, from four to 10 years old, to do something other than singing and some of them don’t want to dance. On the Fourth Sunday, which is Youth Sunday, the young boys go forth and whatever beats they have, they bring out their buckets,” said Apostle Smith.
Apostle Smith stated that the most challenging thing with youth today is the support of the parents. The church is really trying to work with their younger adults that are in that 25 to 40 age group because they are the parents of the youth of Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church.
With financial assistance from the Department of Education, the Church Outreach Program has a Child Care Ministry that provides for about 60 kids; a food services program where the children receive five meals per day—breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. The church also has an At-Risk or afterschool meal program serving five other locations. In the summer, there is a food service program where meals are provided to about 15 different locations, including two locations in Northeast Indiana and East Chicago, and three other locations in Illinois. During this past year, approximately 20,000 monthly meals were served in the summer.
Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church partnered with Greater Progressive Baptist Church, Abundant Life Church and the Village of Hanna this past summer for an event entitled Apostolic Youth Blast. This was a free event filled with food and activities for the community and conducted two weeks before the school year started in August. The Church also participates in helping out the Boys and Girls Club while their new building is under construction, and the National Urban League has been a blessing to the church as well.
“Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church’s focus is both the spiritual growth of those who God has connected with and the outreach. We feel our responsibility is also to touch the community in a tangible way by providing different services and being hands-on,” Apostle Smith said.
Sunday School classes for the children and adults begin at 9 a.m. Morning service starts at 10:45 am. Bible Study classes meet the first and third Wednesday of each month.