ach Wednesday for many years, vans from First Baptist Church in Jewett have been in the pickup line at the local elementary school, ready to whisk students away to a place where they would be loved, cared for, and taught God’s plan for their lives.
In fact, the practice was better known to the community than to the new pastor at one time. Seven years ago, Allen Crosby had only been at the church a few weeks when he received a call from the school asking where the vans were.
Surprised, the pastor replied, “We’re on the way!” He quickly learned how much locals in the town of 1,000 depended on the ministry that began through the church’s Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action programs.
“I had never been in an area where they were so open to church involvement,” Crosby said.
‘All hands on deck’
For several years now, FBC Jewett has hosted Awana clubs for children. They pick them up from school and take them to church to help with homework, play games, feed them dinner, have a worship time, and teach them the Bible.
“It’s all hands on deck. We don’t do anything else on Wednesday but Awana,” Crosby said. “All our adults are involved.”
What helps with manpower for the task is that FBC Jewett is about 10 miles from Lake Limestone, where people from Dallas, Houston, and other areas move for retirement.
“A lot of the retirees that come to our church have come to serve,” Crosby said. “They’re not just pew warmers. They were looking for a church where they could get busy, get active. Awana is a great place to plug them in. Some of these folks are becoming like grandparents to some of the kids.”
For one former member of FBC Jewett, his testimony begins with being picked up in the church van at about 3 years old and taken to church with his sisters every week until he graduated high school. Now he is a student at Texas Baptist College and serving on staff at a church, Crosby said.
“He’s very evangelistic and has reached so many people for Christ,” he said, adding that the young man’s mother and grandmother now are involved in the church.
Though FBC Jewett has a good number of older members, several young families have joined the church in recent years, including a family with seven daughters that started coming because of Awana and now is very involved.
More than 20 youth attend each week, and many of their parents are part of the church, too. On Sundays, between 100 and 120 people attend worship. One challenge, Crosby said, is that for some families, the father works on an oil rig and only gets to be home once a month.
Before moving to Jewett, Crosby was serving in Athens, Ga., where concrete was everywhere and the mall was around the corner, he said.
“Now we live in a place where we have to keep a cooler in the car in case we’re near a grocery store and we can buy things and bring them back home. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to get to Walmart. We have to plan our trips, and for people who live around here, that’s just a way of life.”
Jewett is about two hours south of Dallas and two hours north of Houston, just off Interstate 45. The pastor says there are more cows in the county than people.
“When I came here, I thought God had sent me to the most desolate place in the world. It’s so remote,” Crosby recounted. “When we first moved here, it was so dusty, so dry, and so hot that when I drove down the road I could hardly see because of the dust kicking up. I doubted at times and questioned God about why He did this.”
The Lord soon answered that question for the pastor. Crosby said he witnessed so many baptisms at his church, he wondered where the people were coming from. Though a small town, the need to reach people is great—and not just in Jewett.
Acts 1:8 is a focus of the church, and members recently traveled to the Mexico border for evangelism in partnership with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and North American Mission Board. The church has historically supported missions well financially, and now they’re getting involved with their hands and feet, too.
“My challenge to anybody would be just listen and follow God and don’t judge a book by its cover,” Crosby said. “This is a like a diamond in the rough. God has just really blessed our church, and I’m thrilled to be here. That can happen anywhere as long as you know you’re right where God wants you.”