Horticulturist Alfred Moore ran a blooming Baton Rouge landscaping business for years until God called him to a different field of planting — churches.
Moore, 63, stepped away from his company and his associate minister's position at Bethany Church to found Westgate Church in Port Allen with his wife, Didrea, in 2010.
"The Lord told us we could step away from doing business through the company and focus on loving people," said Moore, who has a horticulture degree from Southern University.
"We named it Westgate because we didn't want one city to be the ownership of the church, so that all the whole entire west is a vision of the church," said Moore, who also started a church in Maringouin with plans for others along the Interstate 10 west corridor.
Westgate also supports several churches around the world, including in West Africa and Bosnia.
"We're so excited about what God is doing," Moore said. "We tell people all the time in our church that we love God first, our neighbors and we love each other … We believe that God has brought those and planted those in our local church that would care and bring them to spiritual maturity."
Westgate, at 1622 Court St., has been involved in showing love for its neighbors through various outreaches, including events for first responders, police officers and most importantly, schools.
"That's really a lot of our focus — being in the schools and just being visible in the schools," said Moore, who has been honored for volunteering in public schools for more than 19 years.
The church's motto is "Reflecting A New Image Of Life" taken from 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
"I always share with people that a life in Christ is distinctive above every kind of life that is around us," he said. "We live this new image before people and people recognize this new image and that we got something that's special, something that's different."
Moore found his new life in Christ at age 21 after he was arrested and accused of trespassing at LSU. He spent one night in jail and was eventually cleared, but the experience had a profound effect.
"My freedom was lost and that bothered me all the time I was there," he said.
Moore said he was reminded of Proverbs 4:5 about trusting in God and leaning not to his understanding.
"My hands went up to the sky and I submitted to God in my momma's living room, and gave my heart to the Lord that night," he said.
After finishing Southern in 1980, Moore started Paradise Landscape Company. He joined the Bethany staff in 1981 while also managing the church's grounds. In 1991, Moore graduated from the Ministers Training Institute and entered into full-time ministry at Bethany, where he served for 29 years.
Moore initially wanted to be a "missionary evangelist" but leading "countless" people to Christ for many years during local evangelistic outreaches — including prison ministry and weekly basketball games — convinced him that pastoring was his calling.
"Being in the pastoral role is caring for people and loving people," he said. "I love everything about pastoring people because I'm happy as a bird eating seeds."
For more on Westgate, go to westgatechurchla.org.