Being a missionary often requires living in less than ideal conditions for extended periods of time and going unrecognized for the many sacrifices necessary to serve people in need.
The Rev. Val Taylor, lead pastor of Life Church in Walker, decided to create an event to honor missionaries for all their hard work.
“Several years ago, I felt like celebrities always got the red carpet rolled out to them and I felt that if anybody needs to get the red carpet rolled out to them, it should be to people who give their lives to the cause of the gospel,” Taylor said. “A lot of times they’re not seen, but they help the homeless, they feed the hungry, they go into Third-World countries and they do things that nobody ever sees. No news media is carrying it, nobody knows about it, but God does.”
Taylor birthed the idea of Red Carpet Weekend, a weekend filled with food, tours and meetings with state representatives to show appreciation to missionaries not used to red-carpet treatment.
Some of this year’s events included a tour of Tiger Stadium, a meal at Drusilla’s Seafood Restaurant, a meet-and-greet with Sen. Dale Erdey at the Capitol and a fish fry.
All meals and activities were paid for; the missionaries simply had to show up and enjoy.
Nations throughout the world were represented by the missionaries present at Red Carpet Weekend, held Friday through Sunday.
Pat Franks, one such missionary, has been working with churches in Cuba for 20 years, doing everything from preaching to buying mules to sending computers loaded with Bible teaching materials to pastors in the area.
Franks explained getting into Cuba isn’t always a simple process.
“I have to have a religious visa that is sponsored by a Cuban religious organization in order to be legal there. Sometimes we’re in favor, sometimes we’re not. I’ve been denied a visa on several occasions; right now I seem to be in favor, though.”
Franks explained that although he is not always physically present, he is working year-round to support churches in Cuba through his ministry, Harvest International.
“Throughout the year, I may only be down there one or two times, but while I’m here in the states I try to represent them and tell the churches what their needs are.”
As a traveling missionary, Franks does not always receive support from a particular church, so for him it’s “a pretty exciting thing for itinerant ministries such as ours to come in and be celebrated. We go different places and speak, so when we get a church like this that says ‘We’re for you and we’re going to celebrate you,’ that’s exciting.”
Bob Sayre lives in China with his pregnant wife, parents and kids, where they run an orphanage called Home of Hope.
Sayre works to rescue children abandoned due to China’s “one child policy, which says you can only have one baby,” he said.
“The problem that creates is if the baby comes out and is not perfect, it has a health defect, cleft palate, or it’s an albino they just throw them out on the streets,” he said. “What we do is we go find those babies, rescue them, take them in, give them surgeries if they need surgeries and give them a home to live in. We have 30 kids there, and the two ways we get the kids is either somebody brings them to us or we find them.”
Since moving with his wife and kids to Alaska to enter the mission field in 1990, Odis Ganey has helped to plant 14 churches and has served in about 65 churches throughout the state.
Ganey is originally from Walker but always felt a pull toward Alaska.
“When I was 7 years old, God laid Alaska on my heart. I’m a Louisiana boy, but all my life Alaska had a special place in my heart and I couldn’t ever seem to shake it, but later on in life, I began to realize God’s call and direction for my life.”
The transition to life in Alaska was not a walk in the park according to Ganey’s wife, Debby Ganey. “The living conditions were much different than what I was used to, the first house we lived in was 540 square feet, a 20 by 27 house. It was tough at first, when we went to the first village we were the minority, so the kids got picked on a little bit, but it got better over the years. When God calls you, he enables you.”
Red Carpet Weekend was started over 20 years ago, but Linda Janet has been the organizer for the past three years and is deeply inspired by the missionaries she helps host.
“I just love missionaries and what they do. I’ve always read about them,” Janet said. “I’ve been impacted by Amy Carmichael and Heidi Baker, a current missionary in Pemba, Africa.”
Janet also serves as the co-children’s pastor at her church and regularly goes into the Rodeo Drive community in Denham Springs to bring children to church, so she considers herself a missionary, but has deep respect for those who leave their homes to do missions work.
“I’m doing it from my home, but they actually leave their families to go out on the mission field.”