BY JACLYN ROSE –
Located at 107 South 2nd Street in Wickes, Arkansas, First Baptist Church is arguably the oldest church in its community. The original church building, which still stands today, was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), one of the Great Depression Relief Programs put in place by President Theodore Roosevelt, by cementing native rocks together.
In 2007 it had become obvious that the church was outgrowing their current church house and they began discussing their need for a new building. “We had some money put back and started talking about a new building when the local Methodist Church came to us, they had recently been given a great opportunity to move to a new building in town and told us they really felt like God was telling them we were supposed to have their new building. I told them that was wonderful but we knew it was outside of our budget. The building appraised for $450,000. They then told us they could sell it to us for $100,000 because they really believed it was supposed to be ours. We told them we could give them $10,000 down and $10,000 yearly after that. They agreed and we moved our location but by the grace of God we were able to pay that building off in 18 months! It was such a God thing! We were so thankful! We are still growing and are going to need to add some more classrooms at this point but we are so blessed by this building,” explained Pastor Scott Ray.
Ray and his wife Phyllis were married 20 years ago this July and together they have five children and five grandchildren with one on the way. “I believe marriage is the completion of God’s intended relationship for a man and woman,” said Ray. After being saved at age 24, Ray preached at different churches around Arkansas while obtaining bachelors’ degrees in Pastoral Ministry and in Sociology from Ouachita Baptist University and then spending two years on a Masters in Clinical Social Work from University of Arkansas in Little Rock and finally a Nursing Home Administration Degree from Tyler Junior College. Ray eventually moved to DeQueen where he began working at a nursing home and during that time, 14 years ago, God called them to preach at Wickes First Baptist.
Each Sunday the church meets at 9 a.m. with a full breakfast followed by Sunday school. Morning worship begins at 11 a.m. with an evening service on Sunday at 6 p.m. Wednesday night they serve another full meal at 6 p.m. before beginning midweek Bible Study and youth services at 7 p.m.
Youth pastors, Tony and Krinda Gunter, along with the Ray’s have begun working hard to minister to the youth in South Polk County. They have recently purchased a church van which makes several runs to pick up local students for services. The group has between 30 and 40 students for services on Wednesday nights. Ray explained, “We believe you are supposed to work where God is already working, you don’t begin something and then try to convince Him to move with you, and right now God is moving in the lives of the youth in South Polk County. We have seen lots of kids delivered from drug abuse and other abusive situations. I believe there is a difference being made, these students are bringing their moms and dads to church with them and God is doing a mighty work in our area.”