After a short program of music concluded the weeklong vacation Bible School at Victory Baptist Church in Walker, 6-year-old Hayden Taylor, a South Walker Elementary School student and VBS student, raised his hand high in the air.
The Rev. Fred Dyess, Victory’s pastor who was closing the program by inviting patrons to the recreation hall for food and fellowship, pointed to the child, who then asked to bless the food.
“Sure, come on up here,” Dyess said, passing the microphone to Hayden.
“Jesus, thank you for the steak, and thank you for the food, and thank you for the singing ...” Hayden prayed.
The theme was “Vacation Bible School Underneath the Big Top” and the curriculum was developed by Kim Fields, who has been teaching Sunday school classes for many years, though mostly for adults.
“It’s good to be able to work with young people,” she said.
Vacation Bible school has a special place in Fields’ heart. “I was saved in 1962 at Bible school,” she said, adding that she’s been writing poetry for a while. The combination turned out to become a big part of Fields’ calling for her faith.
“I got tired of the cookie-cutter programs that were available, so I wrote one. The first one was ‘On the Bayou,’ and I just kept at it,” Fields said. “God just kind of gives it to me.”
This homegrown, do-it-yourself spirit is part of the fabric of this church in Walker, Dyess said.
The congregation didn’t exist until six years ago, Dyess said.
“I had retired as a pastor, and the Lord started calling me to come back to preaching,” he said, adding that the congregation started off as a small group of people gathering in his home.
“We probably had a dozen people every Wednesday night,” he said. “The master bedroom was the children’s class, the back porch was for the youth, and the family room was the adults.”
They grew slowly but surely, he said, and soon outgrew his home, so they moved into the cafeteria of North Corbin Elementary School, where they had to set up and tear down before and after each service on Sunday.
“We did that for three-and-a-half years,” Dyess said. The growth was a blessing, though the lack of a true church home base was perhaps the only thing missing from their experience.
Based solely on funds collected from church members, the congregation bought a piece of land on North Corbin Road, where the church now sits, and spent several months building it themselves in their spare time.
“We had church groups come from all over the country as part of their service work — people taking vacation time to come and help us build our building,” Dyess said.
Now the congregation is about 100 members strong, and still growing, he said.
The church recently hired an associate pastor, Russell Zwerner, a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dyess is a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Worship Leader and Student Minister Linda Burleigh holds a master’s degree from SLU and a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana College.
For more information about the church, visit its website, www.victorybaptistwalker.com.