Historic church rescued with anonymous assistance

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / February 26, 2000

RESERVE – The Rev. Steven Perrilloux of Riverlands Christian Center said theold church building on Northwest Third Street is still a long way away from financial redemption.

A private loan of $68,000 together with community donations have paid off the outstanding debt, but the minister is now committed to repay that private loan.

“Once the $68,000 is repaid we will stop accepting donations to demonstrate the integrity of this ministry,” Perrilloux pledged.

Perrilloux, a native of Reserve, has come a long way from a youth of abusing drugs and being a “gangster” in the town to a position of responsibility and leadership in church.

“Nobody ever thought God would call me to preach,” he added.

In 1991, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church donated its old 1937 church building to him, provided he found a site for it, to help him establish his ministry. Prior to that, for four years, he conducted services in his tinyhome.

“The vision God gave to me was what we could do for black people if they submit to His word,” Perrilloux commented. “Many people want to sugar-coatthe Bible.”He took out a $64,000 bank loan to acquire land and, at a cost of $18,000, the old church was trucked to its present site. Even the Archdiocese of NewOrleans contributed $5,000 to assist. However, with a dwindlingcongregation, now including only about 35 adults and 65 children in a building which can set 300 people, income fell.

After paying the note faithfully for more than seven years Perrilloux struggled with the decision to let the monthly $864 loan payments slide while he kept a roof over his wife and four children’s heads and maintained the building. However, after 18 months of non-payments, the bank came callingto foreclose.

The minister called the experience a test of faith and added, “Do you think God would give me all of this and then do this to me? Ain’t no way!” Perrilloux said the bank knew all along the church was struggling to establish itself, and he prayed they would be merciful. “The truth is going to be told,”he added.

Services were cut back from Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday to only Sunday and Wednesday in an effort to hold down expenses.

Perrilloux spent much of this week at the church, accepting donations from the community, including from other churches. The Rev. Willie Smith ofProvidence Baptist Church No. 1 in LaPlace called Perrilloux “very dedicatedand concerned for the people.”Members of his tiny congregation, childhood friends and fellow ministers stopped by the church. All brought money. All stayed to pray.One young man, fresh from a parole interview, came with his father.

Perrilloux reached into his pocket and discreetly handed the young man $5.

“It ain’t much, but it’ll help,” he said.

Perrilloux does point to several accomplishments in his 11-year ministry, including establishment of the Little Leaders Learning Center (a day-care center) and an auto body-shop to give young men a marketable skill. Inaddition, the church has also sent him as a missionary to Ghana, West Africa, and twice to Brazil.

At the rear of the church, to the right of the entrance, is a tiny bookstore selling books and videotaped sermons.

While the church is saved, Perrilloux said he will continue to raise funds to pay off the private loan.

Return To News Stories