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Lifetime of memories greets Welch at hometown church

FORT PAYNE, Ala. (BP)–Most Southern Baptists have at least one significant church in their lives. Maybe they were married there, baptized there or became a Christian there. For Bobby Welch, First Baptist Church of Fort Payne, Ala., is all that.

And more: He also committed his life to serve Christ as a pastor and even baptized his mother and brother there.

FBC Fort Payne was the last rally point Wednesday, Sept. 8, as Welch’s national bus tour continues trekking across the country. As the bus made its way down little lanes in Welch’s childhood hometown, he recalled good times and bad in Fort Payne.

First Baptist is, for Welch, an island of grace in a town that otherwise was a sea of turbulence in his young life. Living on the other side of the tracks in a “mill village” as he calls it, Welch and others around him faced their share of danger. Many of his childhood associates died violently or are in prison for causing such deaths.

After serving in Vietnam, Welch returned to Fort Payne and his home church. “I went to the pastor and said, ‘Here’s what I can do.’ And he put me to work,” Welch said.

“Bobby was the best RA [Royal Ambassadors] director I ever had,” said Dan Ireland, former pastor of the church. “Bobby was always energetic and driven.”

Ireland noted that Welch organized an early morning prayer meeting on the local school grounds. “We had as many as 200 kids praying before school,” Welch recalled. “Moms in their bath robes and dads in their work clothes would be on the fringe, praying too.”

Welch’s national tour was launched Aug. 29 in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he has been pastor of First Baptist Church for 30 years. Welch conceived of a national bus tour rally as a means of generating a sense of urgency for evangelism among Southern Baptists. The bus tour is a kickoff for “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

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  • Norm Miller