A True Pioneer: Pastor Buddy Leo Peters
With a dedicated crew of faithful workers, the vision was coming into view. Before long, a state of the art sanctuary was built from the ground up. Over the years, there were several additions to the church that included expansion of the sanctuary, the installation of a pastors study and baptismal, a resturant style kitchen and a large fellowship hall. The Gateway Baptist Church had an awesome choir and musical team. Each Sunday, before Sunday school, a full breakfast was served. Pastor Peters didn't want any child to be hungry on Sunday. After hearing a powerful word, there was a homestyle dinner served every Sunday. The fellowship was so great that it wasn't unusual to leave church until 2 or 3 pm. But his vision didn't stop there. Peters then rallied his members for more expansion. This led to the paving of the entire parking lot and the construction of the Lumberton Family Life Center. When Lumberton High School didn't have a basketball gymn, they used the Family Life Center. After Hurricane Katrina, the facility was used as a shelter. Currently, the facility is used for birthday parties and sporting events. The uses are continuing to grow. The members of Gateway no longer have weekly meals but they have Fourth Sunday Fellowship. Also, per the request of Pastor Peters, a hot breakfast is served every Sunday before Sunday school. Over the years, Peters groomed several members, male and female, as they transitioned into tne role of ministers. Each week, he allowed an opportunity for the ministers to use their gifts.
I'm sure there are thousands of things that could be said about Pastor Peters. I thank God for the crossing of our paths. Years ago, I was a member of Gateway but I left to join another church. I didn't leave because of any ill will; I left to help another minister with his ministry. Things happened and I was losing faith in my walk because of the things happening at the church I attended. Without any questions, Pastor Peters welcomed me back with open arms. He allowed me to heal from past hurt. The opportunity to heal allowed me to move forward without becoming bitter. For that, I'm eternally grateful for the ministry of James "Buddy" Peters. As the family grieves, the church grieves, the community grieves, I grieve with them. Deuteronomy 34 recounts the death of Moses, but I could not read this passage without thinking of Gateway, without thinking of the pain you are experiencing through the death of your pastor; the death of our pastor. The account of Moses' death should help us to reflect. Moses had been called by God to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, into the promised land. But the people rebelled. God condemned them to wander for forty years in the wilderness, until the rebellious generations died off, before entering the promised land. Just before his death, Moses went up to a high mountain, east of the Jordan River. He could look over into the promised land, from the Negev Desert in the south, to the Mediterranean Sea to the west, and on to the far north. He could look into the promised land, the goal he had sought for forty years. He could look into the promised land, but he could not enter it. He died before reaching his goal. After his death, "The people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days." This, I think, is the first thing we should learn from this text: Mourning takes time. Grief is not over in an instant.
One reason you deserve your grief is that Pastor Peters was not simply a friend like other friends or an acquaintance like other acquaintances. He was our pastor; our earthly shepherd. He held a special place in our life and in the life of this congregation. Just as the death of Moses marked the end of an era in the history of Israel, the death of Pastor Peters may well mark the end of an era in this congregation. Because Peters has died, things will not be the same here anymore. They will not be the same again. A new era will soon begin. At this point, our New Testament reading has a word to say: Paul writes, "Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Feel free to mourn the death of Pastor Peters. Remember and celebrate his unique gifts for ministry. But do not be anxious. Your future is in God's hands.
Celebration of Life Services for Pastor James "Buddy" Peters will be 11:00 am, Saturday, January 24, 2015 at Gateway Baptist Church, Lumberton, Mississippi 39455