Yielding his life to Christ early in life, Brown Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Bartholomew Orr began preaching in 1981 at the age of 11.
Pastor Orr has been the senior pastor at Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven for nearly three decades.
Orr is one area pastor who is leading the way in serving the greater community, both at home and abroad, with addressing the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of his ever-growing flock.
Orr is pastor of one of the largest churches in DeSoto County, with more than 7,000 members on two campuses.
"We average 4,000 to 5,000 on the weekends," said Orr, whose church has literacy programs in place for young and old alike along with summer job opportunities like the Brown Youth Initiative and ACTS, Access Connections to Success, in addition to other programs.
"We teach young people life skills like how to prepare a job resume and help them with career building. We are a ministry that ministers to the whole person," Orr said.
The church, which traces its roots back to 1885, shortly after the days of American slavery, has formed a partnership with area churches, bridging the races and different denominations.
Several years ago, Brown Missionary Baptist Church purchased Trinity Baptist Church's campus on Swinnea Road.
For a time, the predominantly African-American congregation shared its facilities with the predominantly white Trinity Baptist Church during the two churches' transition process.
"This was a testimony to the glory of God," Orr said. "A testimony to two congregations, white and black, both of which were really being about how God instructs us to be good stewards of the treasurers and resources that we have."
Orr is part of a growing ministry in DeSoto County, truly a "blessed community," with more than 240 churches and growing. The relationships between pastors and congregations help to administer to the needs of the faithful and the community as a whole.
From manning and stocking soup kitchens and food pantries to staffing emergency response teams, DeSoto County churches coalesce to form a network of service to the community.
Other churches in DeSoto County share that caring and benevolent spirit.
Colonial Hills Church in Southaven and its new Hernando campus, serve a diverse population, from the older neighborhoods in Southaven to newer, growing suburbs in Hernando.
The church mans a STAT team that responds to emergencies in the area, in addition to providing meals to thousands of individuals throughout the year with its food pantry effort.
Colonial Hills Church recently took ownership of more than 11 sprawling acres off Monteith Drive in Hernando for the church's second campus. The main campus is located in Southaven, off U.S. Hwy. 51.
First Presbyterian Church in Hernando serves as the headquarters for the Interfaith Food Pantry effort, which includes volunteers from nearby Parkway Baptist and Holy Spirit Catholic Church. Hernando United Methodist has a global outreach to Russia and Hernando Baptist funds annual mission programs around the world.
Goodman Oaks Church of Christ on Goodman Road in Southaven housed hundreds of refugees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, drawing a visit from former First Lady Laura Bush in 2005. Getwell Road United Methodist and Broadway Baptist on Getwell Road in Southaven along with First Baptist Church of Horn Lake also have ongoing missionary programs that annually impact the lives of thousands around the globe.
Broadway Baptist Church in Southaven, which has a growing youth ministry, is a church which sends missionaries around the world and dispatches them here at home as well.
Historic Memphis churches like LaBelle Haven Baptist Church have established a campus in Olive Branch on Hwy. 305 as they, like other congregations, seek to serve a rapidly expanding area.
According to Orr, who is attending his church's Congress this week, it's all about coming together for the glory of the Lord.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.