derrick williams

The Rev. Derrick T. Williams and Cynthia Vessel Williams

The care and passion that Derrick Williams brings to his calling intoministry is the same that he brings to his calling as a sergeant with the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Williams, 49, said his 23 years in law enforcement has helped mold him for ministry.

"No matter who you are or whether you want to admit it or not, it really is a calling," he said. "You come to this job because somebody else was here, but this takes a committed person who's committed to the call. And what it helps me do is minister to people."

Williams, who has been in the ministry for 16 years, will be installed at 3 p.m. June 2 as the pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church, 4277 Old Weis Road, Zachary. The Rev. Lee Allen Pounds will be the guest speaker.

"I'm excited that God is doing some real good things," said Williams, who comes to New Pilgrim after 12 years as pastor of Liberty Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty, Mississippi. "I just want to see where God is going to lead us in this new journey. … (New Pilgrim) is already a staple in the community, but I see it as the flagship church in that community where we can minister to the hearts of God's people, a diverse group, millennials. Just feeding more of God's children is the goal."

Working at the police department has offered Williams opportunities to reach more people outside the walls of the church.

"They've gotten into my police car and saw a Bible and said, 'Now what you doing with a Bible in here?' and I'd say, 'I'm a preacher,' and they'll immediately say, 'I knew there was something about you, just the way you talk to me, the way you handle me,'" Williams said. "A lot of them who were upset then changed their whole demeanor and apologized."

In addition to having two vocations, Williams is a student set to receive his doctorate of philosophy degree in theology from the St. John Bible Institute in Baton Rouge. 

Two key decisions — one as a teen and another after a tragic situation later in his life — lead Williams to his two callings.

After graduating from Istrouma High School in 1987 at the age of 17, Williams decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy where he spent three years.

"I got myself matured and groomed and grown," he said.

He parlayed that experience into security jobs before starting at the Baton Rouge Police Department, working his way up from motorcycle traffic officer to a commander's post with the Misdemeanor Investigations Division.

His path to ministry wasn't as clearly defined. Williams, who lived in Baton Rouge, was raised and baptized in a small church in the Livingston Parish community of Head of Island. He rededicated his life to Christ in 2001 after joining Sweet Home Baptist Church in Kentwood. Ministry was not a part of his plans, despite some signs from God. 

That changed a year later when his younger brother died in an auto wreck at age 26.

"It was an eye-opener. … I knew before then that the Lord had called me to ministry, but I was running because I wanted to fit in with everybody else and all of the friends and what they were doing," he said. "And after that wreck, that's when I really said, 'OK, Lord.' I immediately reasoned within myself that now is the time."

A bad situation turned into something good, Williams said.

"It was painful," he said. "The calling brought that bright light into it, because God immediately began to open doors and do things. For a long time, that story was my driving force."

Williams learned under the leadership of Pounds at Sweet Home before being named Liberty's pastor in 2007.

The church, including the youth and music ministries, grew under Williams. He had no desire to leave, but God had other plans.

"We had city church in the country," he said. "It wasn't me looking; it was God guiding me and I had to follow. We had one of the most prosperous ministries in that area."

Williams was named New Pilgrim's pastor in mid-April. His first appearance as pastor was teaching a Bible study on Holy Thursday, and his first Sunday message as pastor was on Easter.

The Easter message before a packed congregation at New Pilgrim came only hours after Williams preached his final Easter sunrise service at Liberty.

"It was challenging, but I was excited about it because here it is a new family — a church family — and we're starting this new journey and just excited about it," he said. "The pressure was there, but I accepted it because I want to be pleasing to God."

Williams continues to live by Proverbs 3:4-5 and trust and lean on God at New Pilgrim.

"When I went on this new assignment, (God) said, 'If I be lifted up, I'll draw all men unto me.' You don't have to do anything magical. God is consistent. We get in trouble when we get out of the way of the will of God," he said.

Another day. Another blessing.

Have you ever been overwhelmed by the blessings of God?

The word of God says that the blessings of God will overtake us. Deuteronomy 28:1-6 says, "If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God WILL set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings WILL come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God: You WILL be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. … You WILL be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out."

Picture that powerful imagery: There you are running as fast as you can, giving it all you got, huffing and puffing for all the air you can muster. But no matter how hard or fast you run, the blessings are on your heels. You look back again and blessings are still right there. Then, suddenly the blessings just run you over, overtake you, overwhelm you, flatten like a pancake. 

We've been there at seasons of our lives when God's blessings knocked us over, and all we could say is, "Thank you, God for your blessings." Too often we think of blessings as the big things, the big house, the new job, the new car. So when those kinds of things don't happen, we tend to think we are not blessed. We forget the blessings we take for granted. But the fact that we are breathing right now is a blessing.

I think of some people who are thankful this day for just the blessing of being able to breathe on their own again or to be able to stand again. Think over your life and don't forget about the blessings of God. I think about the miracle of birth and good health. I thank God especially when I see so many people who aren't as fortunate. I think about how God has provided for us, kept us, protected us — all blessings that leave me overwhelmed about the wonders of God everyday.