BALDWIN — When one half of Myette Point Baptist Church slowly crossed over the Bayou Teche on Oct. 10, the Rev. Joseph Sauce Jr. of Franklin remembers thinking about Joshua 3:15-17 when, according to the Bible, God’s chosen leader Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River.
The country church’s journey from the Oxford Loop area along Louisiana 87 about 10 miles east of Franklin — where it stood for nearly five decades as a quaint, picturesque landmark resplendent in its white paint and stately, thin steeple under a cross — was just about at an end. Sauce’s wife, Florence, and other women watched about a half-mile away at its final destination — some newly owned property fronting the east side of Louisiana 182.
The old church with a storied past didn’t need a miracle to complete its trip, as did Joshua and his nation, but it did need some help. The second half of the church got stuck on the Katy Bridge.
“The first building came across fine. This part got stuck” for approximately one hour, Joseph Sauce, 64, the church’s pastor since 1992, right after Hurricane Andrew, said while sitting Thursday evening at a long table in the addition to the main structure built with the help of his father in the late 1950s.
That delay at the bridge prompted a little cause for concern, so the women joined hands in an impromptu prayer meeting.
“We held hands on the spot they were going to set it down,” Sauce’s wife said.
A cut here and a cut there solved the problem, and soon the other half of the building was delivered to the site by Eunice-based Devillier House Movers & Leveling Co. The halves were rejoined, the cut repaired and, suddenly, there was a new landmark on Louisiana 182.
“We were happy to see when the church came across. We were just so happy. It was like a relief,” Florence Sauce, 63, said while sitting next to her husband, retelling the story of the big move, one that caught some people who frequented the area by surprise.
At least one former neighbor, Regina Broussard, told church officials she hated to see the church go, Joseph Sauce said.
“It was a sentimental thing to some people. It had some sentimental value,” he said, adding he realized it was a landmark for people frequenting the area near the Atchafalaya Basin. People would use it as a reference point to give directions, he said, or admire it as they drove by — as many outdoorsmen did around sunrise, the sun peeking over the levee — for years on their way to the Myette Point Boat Landing
Some people wondered where the building went. Otherwise, the news got around by word of mouth and the church opened to a standing room-only crowd Dec. 2.
Now, he said, local residents say the church looks like it has been there for years. It is immaculate in its appearance because after the move dozens of parishioners spent hours painting inside and outside, fixing windows, putting the floor back together, etc.
The nearest neighbors, the Capritos, were skeptical at first, he said, but warmly accepted it after seeing the steeple lit so beautifully at night.
A concrete parking lot with freshly painted parking stripes and handicapped signs — right next to the ramp for handicapped people — makes up two-thirds of the parking area. The rest is cordoned off waiting to be finished and lined with shells.
“We’re going to enlarge the parking lot,” the pastor said before going inside. “Most Sundays, it’s full out here. When we have a wedding or funeral, there won’t be enough parking.”
There have been two or three Baptisms and, of course, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter services in the new location.
The decision to move was easy, according to Sauce, a shrimper who will be out for opening day of the spring shrimp season Monday piloting his 60-foot long boat in Vermilion Bay near Southwest Pass. Since 1975, he said, the Myette Point Baptist Mission leased the property it was on and the pastor believed it should be on property it owned.
He wasn’t alone in that thinking. Others approved wholeheartedly.
Church officials met in August 2010 with Joseph Tabb, a lawyer, to begin the process of changing “our status from a mission to that of a church.” That started the wheels in motion to look for property to buy and relocate the 3,500-square-foot mission under the guidance of a property search committee of Jerry Marcotte, Adam Frederick and Kathy Sauce Stroud, the pastor’s sister who lives in Centerville. They settled on 2.3 acres here over another property in Sorrel.
Stroud, 54, production clerk at Cabot Canal, the carbon black manufacturing plant, is proud of the church and its surroundings.
“Oh, it’s wonderful. We’re seeing twice as many people coming in now. It’s exciting to see all the people,” Stroud said, noting many of the new parishioners have special talents, such as beautiful voices for singing.
She has been playing the piano during services, filling in for the Sauces’ daughter Laura Hebert, whose daughter Alexys Hebert became paralyzed two years ago from the navel down after taking a flu shot while she had a viral infection. But Alexys, 18, has dealt with the paralysis and is graduating this spring from Lafayette High School after being chosen to represent LHS in the Cox Inspirational Heroes Program.
Alberta Bailey Marcotte, 77, of Sorrel, was raised in the Myette Point community and attended school in a one-room building that once was a former U.S. Army barracks situated along the West Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee. That school later became the first Myette Point Baptist Mission, then a new church building was built while Wilton Anslum was pastor in 1958-59, and that was moved in 1975 to Oxford Loop, where it eventually became Myette Point Baptist Church in May 2011.
There’s much work left to do in their new location, Marcotte, the pastor’s first cousin, said.
“We’re not done yet,” she said.
“We don’t regret moving at all,” Marcotte said. “The church is the people here and the relationships made. It’s family and it’s close. It’s just been my life since I came here in 1973.”
Pastor Sauce, the son of the late Joseph Sauce Sr. and Elmira, took a circuitous route back to the building where as a young boy he watched his father install the floors with the Couvillier family and Dan Lange. After high school, he learned how to shrimp with an uncle, Norman Daigle, and kept shrimping, even after he graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1985.
He served as an assistant pastor two years in Belle River and was pastor three years in Amelia before succeeding Bobby Hines as pastor of the Myette Point Baptist Mission. He was ordained in 1993.
Like Joshua, Sauce has led his flock across the water. Now he’s watching the church put down its new roots and grow.