Brandon Collins had to endure some growing pains as a person and a young pastor.

The Louisiana native was 21 years old when he was called seven years ago to pastor a church in east Texas.

“It grew me in a lot of areas that I needed to grow up in,” Collins said. “I was very immature when I got there. The church was very patient with me. They allowed me to make mistakes, but were still patient and loving and forgiving.”

The stint helped prepare Collins for his new role as the pastor of New Gideon Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.

Collins will preach his first sermon as New Gideon’s pastor at 9 a.m. Sunday at the church, 2542 Balis Drive.

“I’m hoping God will move in a mighty way,” Collins said. “I’m just super excited. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just know something good is going to take place.”

Collins comes to Baton Rouge from Old Border Baptist Church in Waskom, Texas, less than 30 minutes from his former home in Shreveport.

While he experienced growth in the church — including expanding services and the youth ministry and adding Wednesday night Bible classes — Collins had his share of trouble with some of the church leaders in his first two years.

“I almost got discouraged and gave up,” he said.

Then he was reminded of what God promised him when he took the position.

“During the rough moments, just going back and remembering my time of prayer that I had before coming to the church, remembering that God promised me that he would take care of me and he did just that. God has been faithful to me,” he said.

Collins, who was called to the ministry at the age of 16, brings seven years of pastoral experience to New Gideon, but he is aware his youthful 28 years may raise some eyebrows.

“People will have opinions about you when they don’t know you and that’s fine, because people are entitled to their own opinions,” he said. “But you don’t try to speak against what people say; you just live against it and you just love them in spite of it, and that’s what I plan to do. You still love them with the love of Jesus.”

Youth does come with benefits, Collins said.

“The advantage of getting somebody young is you have somebody that you could grow with. Young people are attracted to younger people,” he said. “Nine times out of 10, those who are older are set in their ways, and there’s not too much changing. Instead of pointing the church in a progressive direction, they’re running it to the ground.”

Being raised by his mother and grandparents also has helped him relate to the older members of the congregation, Collins said.

“I would not try to change older people but help them try to get to know who I am,” he said.

The congregation members at New Gideon, young and old, have gotten to know a little of Collins as he is no stranger to the church.

He was invited to speak by New Gideon’s previous pastor, the Rev. Thomas Bessix, on a couple of occasions since 2010. It was Bessix who also gave Collins a call to come speak while Bessix was making the transition to his new position at a church near Dallas.

That latest invitation gave Collins a vision of something more permanent.

“By the time I arrived in the city and settled into my hotel, the Lord kind of settled in my heart about New Gideon,” he said.

The message was well-received and had some members urging Collins to apply for the position.

“The more I started praying about it, the more I felt led to apply for it,” he said. “It was a long process but it put some things in perspective for me. I saw the hand of God through the whole thing. It was just amazing how things were coming together.”

Collins preached three more times during the interview process. He bested two other finalists and was named the new pastor on Feb. 7.

“It means everything to me; it really does,” Collins said of being selected to lead New Gideon. “God favors me because I always keep in mind that I’m not deserving of what he’s doing for me. … I think at times we mess ourselves up because we think we’re deserving of God’s blessings; we’re not. The only thing we deserve is death, but (God) sent his son to die for us so that we can have access to eternal life.”

The first order of business for Collins is keeping same order of business.

“Many times guys go into churches and they try to change everything instead of getting to know the people. Then when you spend some time with the people, God will minister to you in what areas you need to start making moves,” he said. “What I plan to do is just bring the solid biblical preaching there and be an example of a lover of Christ and just implement that piece on loving one another.”

He wants the church to continue its excellent example of outreach to the community.

“The things that they have been doing ministerially have been awesome, and I think that every church should take notice of what New Gideon has done,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is build off of what is already there and keep in mind that I’m standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before me.”

Collins, who finished high school in 2005 and attended Louisiana Baptist University and Seminary in Shreveport, is excited about getting involved in Baton Rouge, its people and learning.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know all of the pastors in the area, learning from them, learning the area from them, learning from their experiences,” he said. “And then I’m also looking to get involved socially and politically just seeing what goes on … being in tuned to what’s taking place in the city, so that I can equip the church and be more informed for these times that we are living.”

Renewed purpose

The purpose of this year’s annual Lenten Mission at St. Thomas More Catholic Church should be clear after three days.

“Repurposed” is the theme of the event set for 7 p.m. March 7-9 at the church, 11441 Goodwood Blvd.

The guest presenter will be Baton Rouge native Michael Alello, pastor of St. Philemona Catholic Church in Labadieville.

“In today’s world, we use that term (repurposed) a lot for taking old things, particularly like old furniture, and giving it new life,” Alello said. “The mission is based around this idea that we’re going to take what God has given us and repurpose it to be a missionary disciple.”

The opening-night topic will be “Orienting Your Life Towards Christ,” followed by “Take Courage! It is I. Do Not Be Afraid” on Tuesday and “Rise, Take Up Your Mat and Walk!” on Wednesday.

“It’s an opportunity for all of us to realize we’re called to something greater than ourselves,” Alello said.

People of all faiths are welcomed to the mission, Alello said.

“There’s an opportunity for us as a community and as a people of the world to be responsible for one another, to help people better their lives and do our part,” he said.

The three-day event is an early homecoming of sorts for the 35-year-old Alello, a graduate of Catholic High and LSU. On July 1, Alello is scheduled to join St. Louis King of France Catholic Church in Baton Rouge. He has been at St. Philemona for seven years.

For information on the Lenten mission, call the church at (225) 275-3940 or go to stmchurch.org.

Return of ‘The Voice’

“The Voice” is being heard again.

After nearly six years away, Kerwyn “The Voice” Fealing has returned to the gospel radio airwaves in Baton Rouge. Fealing is the program director for WTQT 106.1 FM and host of “Gospel With a Fealing.”

“Everything’s been going great,” Fealing said.

“Gospel with a Fealing” can be heard from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. WTQT is the only 24-hour, all-gospel FM radio station in the Baton Rouge market, Fealing said.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.