A delay in receiving a historical marker did not dampen the enthusiasm of those attending a ceremony at First Baptist Church of George West, which recently celebrated its 102nd anniversary.
The Rev. Bob Hendrick, pastor of the church, officially unveiled the marker, during a ceremony on April 18, and Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff read congratulations notes from state Rep. Ryan Guillen (District 31) and state Sen. Judith Zaffirini (District 21).
Mary Margaret Campbell, chairman of the Live Oak County Historical Commission, also offered her congratulations on the church’s celebration and legacy, and introduced special guests Mary Ann Pawlik, a longtime church member, and the Rev. Bruce Irving, who pastored the church for more than three decades.
“This is a very special occasion that’s near and dear to my heart,” Pawlik said, noting that she came to George West in 1955 and joined FBC George West shortly thereafter.
“I was 21 years old at the time — I am truly 87 years old,” Pawlik said. She and her husband moved from George West in 2017 for health reasons and to be closer to family.
“I had been a member of First Baptist Church of George West for 62 years,” Pawlik said. “What can I say about a church that has meant so much to me and I’m sure to so many of you in the audience.
“I’ve always believed the church is not the building, but I am very proud of this building and served on three renovation committees, although I didn’t always get my way — can you believe that?”
She said the church was “led by the Holy Spirit to gather to worship God and to share Jesus’ love with others.”
Pawlik said she was a longtime member of the Joy Sunday school class, and mentioned the names of several people who encouraged her and others through several decades.
She also pointed out that when the church was first organized by 11 founding members, eight of those founders were women, and that women have played a crucial role in the growth and success of the church.
“There are so many things they taught me — above it all is to have faith, to witness to people and to visit people,” Pawlik said.
“I am thinking of some of the things we did as a church. I am so very fortunate in having so many wonderful mentors over the years and we were so very fortunate to be led by the Holy Spirit in telling people Jesus loves everyone.”
Pawlik credited community founder George West’s vision in providing free land for the churches that would be built in his town.
“Wasn’t George West so very smart when he gave the land for local churches?” Pawlik asked.
“Thank you for being the community I resided in for 62 years. The churches in this community have done so very much for this community.”
Pastor Irving led the church for almost 38 years, from 1982 to late 2019, and offered his appreciation for Pawlik.
“I am thankful for Mary Ann,” he said. “She’s been a driving force in this church and in this community. I hope if I live to be 87 that I am as spry and as sharp mentally as she is.”
Irving said there were numerous people over the years who have contributed to the life of the church.
“The list could go on and on,” he said.
One of those whose outlook had a positive impact on him and on the church was Joyce Shives, Irving said.
“She had a saying, ‘Honey, it’s a whole lot more fun living and loving than fussing and fighting.’ I always tried to remember that.”
The historical marker pays tribute to the people who worked under God’s direction to help and encourage others over the years, Irving said.
“This monument celebrates people and deeds dedicated to God,” he said. “It remembers the 11 people who came together, founded and organized the church. It has grown and grown and the people made the difference. Many have come and gone over the years.”
Irving referenced another story of people participating in a momentous event and creating a monument to remember it as chronicled in the book of Joshua.
“There’s a story in the fourth chapter ... after wandering in the desert for 40 years a new generation was finally about to enter the Promised Land,” Irving said. He noted that Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, told the people that they would cross the River Jordan and that God would part the waters so that they would walk on dry land. A man from each of the 12 tribes of Israel was designated to pick up a large stone and they would each be placed in a specified area to create a monument.
“Twelve stones doesn’t seem like much but it was,” Irving said. “Joshua told the people that in seasons to come, they could tell future generations that the Lord parted the water and they walked through on dry ground. It was a reminder to celebrate God’s great power and his love, and to encourage them to remember that the God who went with them then is the God who was with them today.”
In a similar way, the church’s historical marker can serve as a reminder of those who trusted in God and who built a new church in George West, Irving said.
“It’s a challenge, and we take the lesson the monument teaches us,” he said. “In Texas we love monuments ... remembering the past gives us hope for the future.”
Campbell said she appreciated Pawlik and Irving traveling to George West to be part of the special historic occasion.
Judge Huff read a proclamation recognizing the event.
“Whereas on April 6, 1919, 11 dedicated souls gathered at the George West Printing (Hot Air House) building to establish a church for those of the Baptist faith, and
“Whereas, for more than 100 years the church has been a vital contributor to this community’s spiritual life, and
“Whereas, over the years many lives have been blessed by the faith and loving kindness of the members of the First Baptist Church of George West as they reach out in ministry to those in spiritual and physical need, and
“Whereas, this church family has had an influence for good in our world beyond the bounds of our own community through its mission’s ministry, and
“Whereas, it seems appropriate for the citizens of George West to acknowledge the contributions of this congregation to our community’s spiritual well-being; and that March 31, 2019 was designated as First Baptist Church George West Day, in recognition of the church’s 100th anniversary commemorating 10 decades, and
“Be it further resolved that the community extend a warm welcome to all church members and friends who share in this historical marker dedication, and
“Now therefore, as we convene today to dedicate this marker, we join together to express appreciation to all the churches in our community for their ministries and encourage them to continue to work together in an attitude of brotherly love for the spiritual welfare of all our citizens.”