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First Baptist Church of Carriere to honor pastor

GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY: First Baptist Church of Carriere’s Rev. Gary Smith will celebrate his 50th anniversary as pastor in October.  Photo by Alexandra Hedrick

GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY: First Baptist Church of Carriere’s Rev. Gary Smith will celebrate his 50th anniversary as pastor in October.
Photo by Alexandra Hedrick

CARRIERE — For 110 years, First Baptist Church of Carriere has sat atop the hill on U.S. Highway 11 and for 50 of these years, Rev. Gary Smith has served its congregation.

The church is currently planning a celebration to commemorate Smith’s 50 years at the church, said Jane Manuel, director of Angel Tree Project.

Manuel, who has been with the church for more than 30 years, described Smith as a humble and dedicated man.

She said his dedication inspires her and “makes you want to do better.”

Smith first came to First Baptist Church of Carriere in October 1964 with a “mission to lead people to Christ and strengthen Christians,” Manuel said.

The church has seen its fair share of misfortune in recent years.

On New Year’s Eve in 1999, the church building built in 1956 to replace the original 1904 building, burned down.

Despite the damage the fire caused, the church still held its New Year’s singing event they had planned, Manuel said.

More recently, the church was burglarized and money collected to fund the Angel Tree program and a trip to the passion play in Eureka Springs, Ark. was stolen.

“That just made us more determined to take those children” to the play, Manuel said.

She said the church works with a lot of underprivileged children, especially through the Angel Tree program, and if the church didn’t provide the opportunity, the children would never get to go.

For many years, the church has hosted the Angel Tree program. The program allows prisoners from across the U.S. to fill out applications for their children to receive support from churches and organizations that participate in the program.

Manuel said once she receives an application for a Pearl River County child, she contacts the guardian to get permission for the child to participate in the program.

One way the church offers support is through a Christmas gift donation drive. Community members chose an angel from a tree at a local retailer that contains information on the child’s age, sex and wish list to help them pick the perfect gift.

The person then buys gifts and brings them back to the store for the church to pick up and give to the child.

The women’s group at the church also sends shoeboxes for “Operation Christmas Child.” The boxes are filled with small goodies and necessities and sent to children in third world countries at Christmas, Manuel said.

She said the women work year round to put the boxes together and raise money for shipping. Last year, the group sent 75 boxes to children around the world.

“We have a great church family,” Manuel said.