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Service from Reserve to East Africa: Pastor Batiste returns home to continue global & local outreach

RESERVE — Pastor Cory Batiste has long felt a calling to preach, but it took help from children in Uganda and Kenya to find his voice.

The pastor of Beech Grove Baptist Church in Reserve travels to Africa once every two years and looks forward to the 90-minute boat ride separating the island of Bugassa from the Ugandan mainland.

The children of Bugassa steal his heart each time they gather near adults, dressed in their finest clothes, and give their visitors a welcoming hug.

“The school there is nothing but a tin building with some wood,” Batiste said. “They have almost nothing, and it’s breathtaking how much love they show. The hospitality they roll out with what they have means the world.”

Batiste keeps pictures on his phone from mission trips and looks to them for strength to navigate life’s challenges.

Once such time came in late May, when his oldest brother, Albert Batiste Jr., was killed in a vehicular crash in Ascension Parish days after starting a new job.

Batiste, a Wallace native and resident of Ruston for 25 years, moved home in June to be near his parents. Soon after, he took on his first head pastor’s position at Beech Grove with a goal to promote unity in faith and youth support.

Pastor Cory Batiste, a Wallace native, moved back home to St. John the Baptist Parish in June to be near his parents and became head pastor at Beech Grove Baptist Church in Reserve.

Education is a priority for Batiste, who currently teaches science at the St. John Parish Alternative School.

While overseas, Batiste helps build schools and uses his agricultural science expertise to bring farmlands and fresh drinking water to remote villages. A medical clinic he’s helped institute provides HIV and malaria screenings for locals.

Batiste is always impressed to see African teenagers mastering complex mathematics without calculators or other resources taken for granted in the U.S.

He knows funding and resources are also challenges in St. John the Baptist Parish and surrounding areas, albeit on a different scale.

“At Beech Grove, we have a vision of partnering with the School Board for after school mentoring programs to help kids with math and reading,” Batiste said.

“Our desire as a church is to adopt Fifth Ward Elementary. Lack of parental support can happen for a number of reasons, and we want to help out with those challenges.”

Children in a Ugandan classroom provide the voice Cory Batiste needed to become a head pastor.

Located at 117 Beech Grove Drive in Reserve, Beech Grove has been in the community for more than 95 years and has approximately 150 congregation members.

Batiste said it’s a small church environment with a world’s heart, and he wants to build on the work of other St. John Parish pastors to unify the congregations, schools and local government.

A Fall Revival will be held at Beech Grove at 7 p.m. each night from Dec. 11 to Dec. 13, featuring pastors David Carter and Devin Mason of Reserve and Pastor Alexander White Sr. of McComb, Miss. as guest speakers.

The theme of the revival is coming together as one, according to Mason, head pastor at New Rescue Mission Baptist Church in Reserve.

Members of Beech Grove Baptist Church in Reserve convene during a prayer breakfast. Community members say new pastor Cory Batiste is bridging the gap between generations through his lessons.

Mason has longstanding family ties to Beech Grove Baptist.

“When I heard there was a new pastor, I felt it was my duty to extend myself to him,” Mason said.

“I think he has done a tremendous job in bridging the gap between the millennials and the seniors in the church and the community. He’s bringing a new flair and flavor to the church, and I think he will have a very fruitful future.”

Yish Edwards, a congregation member at Beech Grove, said Batiste’s method of teaching is relatable to the younger generation while keeping the old Baptist hymns and traditions.

She said Batiste has brought needed structure to the church, allowing it to grow.