BOUTTE, La. (BP)–West St. Charles Baptist Church in Boutte, La. — roughly 30 miles from New Orleans — capped off a week of global ministry with a cookout in the church parking lot where they watched the Super Bowl on the side of a large truck.
The church is just a stone’s throw from the town of Hahnville, which played host to the NFL’s Global Junior Championship VI, Jan. 30-Feb. 2, where high school athletes from Canada, Europe, Japan and the United States descended on the area to compete for this year’s title.
After a last-minute shortage of rooms, West St. Charles Baptist Church was able to host some of the players from the Canadian team, many of whom came from a Catholic background. Keith Maddox, minister of music and youth at the church, said the experience was a great opportunity to witness to a global culture as well as a chance to change their minds about what it means to be a Baptist.
“We had one guy staying with us who had never been to a Protestant service,” Maddox recounted. “After the service, he said, ‘You guys sing a lot.'”
Tammy Tregre, one of the church members who opened up her home to the Canadian players, said she and her husband, Jeff, were able to talk at length about their faith as well as live it out in front of the players.
“They asked a lot about the difference between our religions,” she said. “I told them that we believe you have to accept Christ in order to be saved, that you can’t be saved through good works. They seemed really receptive.”
Ronald Hilaire, a 17-year-old defensive tackle for the Canadian team, said his experience with the church was “great.”
“The people are great. The climate is great. The food is great. The people I’m staying with are great,” he said. “They all seem like a close-knit family. Everybody is so friendly and they brought us in here and accepted us as their own.”
On the field, however, the Canadians’ experience was not as fulfilling. In the championship game, Canada suffered a loss to the United States in the last seconds of the fourth quarter. The U.S. team, consisting entirely of athletes from the greater New Orleans area, defeated Canada 16-14, after the Canadians attempted a two-point conversion that failed.
After almost a week of ministering to the players on the team, the West St. Charles congregation hosted a large outdoor Super Bowl party, hoping that members would bring lost friends and family to see a “Power to Win” video featuring testimonies by Trent Dilfer and other NFL players about their faith in Christ. West St. Charles pastor Chuck Lowman said a few people raised their eyebrows when he first proposed the idea, “but everybody got behind it,” he said.
“We’re hooked up here to a digital satellite. We’ve been praying that the cable system would suddenly go out. Then we’d be the only show in town,” Maddox smiled.