Faith Life

In the Name of Jesus, Turn It into A Church


By Leslie Paul Wilbert

Leslie Paul Wilbert

Thirty-eight years ago, in Addis, Louisiana, I was talking to Ted Berthelot, Chief of Police, about the increasing crime in that once peaceful town. Chief Berthelot was sharing with me that he knew it was because of two bar rooms. Looking and pointing at one of the bar rooms, he told me, “In the name of Jesus, I’m going to turn this bar room into my police station.” I thought to myself, if he could pray and ask Jesus to change that bar room into a police station then I could pray and ask Jesus to change the other bar room into a church. 


While driving to church in Baker one Sunday morning with a friend and fellow believer, Yancy Guerin, I shared with him my conversation with Chief Berthelot. Being new believers and having been taught that prayer changes things, Yancy and I started praying that God, in the name of Jesus, would turn that building into a church. On one occasion, we drove into the parking lot of that building, got out of our vehicle, laid hands on the building and prayed for God to turn it into a church. For the next 18 years, several times a week, as we would pass the building, we would point to it and pray aloud, “In the name of Jesus, turn it into a church!” As we grew in the Lord and started understanding more about the authority we had in Christ, we would boldly pray, “Jesus, don’t let anything succeed in that building except a church.” 


During these years, a friend of ours was being saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. This man of God felt a call on his life and spent several years in Bible School and serving other ministries preparing himself to fulfill his call to pastor a church. One Sunday afternoon in 1997 as he and his wife were traveling through Addis, they were asking the question, “When we pastor a church, where do you think it will be located?” Immediately, their attention was drawn to the Addis water tower by a large, brilliant flash of light that went off directly above the tower. On the tower they saw the giant, bold words “ADDIS.” Knowing it was a sign from God, they looked at each other, laughed, and said “No way, not Addis!?” 


Two years later, in 1999, under the direction and timing of the Holy Spirit, the church was started in that very building in Addis where the two believers had prayed for it to become a church! It just so happened to be directly across Louisiana Highway 1 from the Addis Water Tower where the brilliant light had flashed two years earlier!
The name of the church is River Ministries International and it is pastored by Butch LaBauve and his wife Susan. For the past 19 years, River Ministries International has been a thriving, life-giving, Holy Spirit-filled church spreading the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to West Baton Rouge, its surrounding communities and the nations of the world. It was really no surprise to the praying believers what God did, because for years God had shown Himself faithful through many other answered prayers.

Leslie Paul Wilbert was born in Plaquemine, LA into a family in the funeral service business, which was established in 1850. He has worked in the funeral home, cemetery, burial vault manufacturing, monuments and life insurance companies. Most of Leslie’s working life has been in the financial services business selling property and casualty, life insurance and investments. Currently, the Senior Wealth Strategist with Ozark Insurance in Baker, LA.

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