On Easter Sunday as Christians worldwide celebrated new life found in the risen Lord, new life began for Sumatra Baptist Church in the Panhandle of Florida.
The cooperation of multiple churches in Apalachee Baptist Association, along with one pastor’s faithfulness to God’s call, breathed new life into the historic church located in the small town of Bristol.
For years Pastor Stanley Blissett knew that God had plans for him to lead a church. In March 2020, while seeking God’s direction, Blissett sensed God impressing the word “liberty” on his heart and mind.
Around the same time, Blissett, a Missouri native, made a career move to Tallahassee, and he noticed that Liberty County was about a 35-minute drive from his new job.
He soon visited Corinth Baptist Church in Liberty County. There, he met Pastor Kyle Peddie who knew that the doors of Sumatra Baptist Church in Bristol had closed and that revival was urgently needed in the community.
Baptist association responds
Just as Blissett sensed God’s clear guidance to lead Sumatra Baptist Church, other churches in Apalachee Association began to respond to the opportunity of re-opening the doors of the once-vibrant church.
“It has been great to see our small association involved in this work,” said Darreyl Duggar, associational mission strategist for Apalachee Baptist Association.
“We are very active in missions, even though we are made up of only a dozen or so small churches. When I approached the executive committee with the idea of a new church in the area, they all became very excited and were on board immediately.”
Lake Mystic Baptist Church and Corinth Baptist Church, in particular, have partnered with Sumatra Baptist Church. Over the past year, both partner churches have helped with cleaning up the Sumatra facility, making visits, committing to financial support and sending families to help with the church plant.
“As soon as I heard of the need, I knew we had to be involved,” said Cody Watson, pastor of Lake Mystic Baptist Church.
“Lake Mystic has a long history of planting churches, and we desire to be actively involved in planting churches in the Panhandle of Florida and beyond. One of the biggest blessings of the Cooperative Program is that as a small church, we can do more than just give financially, we can step up and be hands-on.”
The inaugural Easter Sunday service was attended by an overflow crowd of about 80 people, which Blissett hopes is just the beginning.
“I am excited and humbled about being chosen by God for His mission and purpose,” said the bi-vocational pastor.
“I’m grateful for the churches and families that have lent their support. God has put together an amazing group of people who love Him and desire to reach the community.”