Community gathers for prayer following mill announcement

Two attendees embrace at a prayer vigil at Centennial Park Tuesday evening. Shortly after the planned closure of Georgia Pacific’s bleached board lines were announced, members of the community rallied to arrange a prayer service in response.

Layoffs are not greater than God.

That was the message those who attended a prayer vigil in Crossett took home.

Members of the Crossett and surrounding communities gathered in Centennial Park on Tuesday night to hear inspirational messages from pastors in the community and to pray in response the announcement of planned closures at Georgia Pacific’s mills.

The news that the Georgia Pacific mill in Crossett was shutting down certain areas and eliminating jobs came early Tuesday morning. The word that 530 jobs would be impacted spread like wildfire through the news and social media.

“I didn’t know what else to do, so I thought we should come together and pray,” said Whitney Gill, one of the people who organized the prayer vigil. “I think we all need to hear a positive message.”

Responding to the news Tuesday morning, the Rev. Jamie Staley of First Baptist Church said he believed it was really important for churches to respond in a way shows “that this doesn’t take the Lord by surprise.”

He also said it was important for churches to be prepared to bless the area in response to the closures.

“Scripture tells us he is a faithful provider,” Staley said. “As a body of believers, we are going to trust the Lord to provide for us through a difficult time and to give us the wisdom to encourage and be a blessing for our community.

“It is hard, and i think this community will be hurting for a while over this, but ultimately we have to trust the Lord to provide as only he can, and we are going to do that.

“As an individual church, we are going to figure out what we can do to be a blessing to this community at this time and ask the Lord for guidance and trust that he will give it.”

When the evening cool rolled into town, a large group of people met and shared hugs and tears at the park as they prayed for the future of the community.

Several pastors — including the Revs. Lloyd Gibbs of Jarvis Chapel Baptist Church, Lyle Hern from South Main Baptist Church, Jesse Radford from Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Jermey McDaniels from New Life Church and J.W. Dobbins from Eden Baptist Church — as well Greg Pierce with the Ashley County Baptist Association spoke at the gathering.

“There is nothing too hard for God; Before there a GP, before there was a Koch, there was a God,” Radford told the crowd as they gathered in the park.

McDaniels encouraged the town to stand and remember that God is on his throne in Heaven.

“He’s still God and He’s still on the throne, so, stand Crossett, stand and give God the glory,” McDaniels said.

Donald Stanford — who was also there representing Jarvis Chapel — said that the news came of a shock to the community and impacted several families including his. Stanford said the attitude around the mill was sovereign as people mulled over the news.

“Everyone went to their own offices and sat and we all pondered what are we going to do and where are we going to go from here?” Stanford said.

Stanford read scripture and told the crowd that he knew everything was in God’s hands.

“What God said was, you’re mine and I’ve got this,” Stanford told the crowd. “GP, for thiry some-odd years, provided a good living for me, and as we stand today we aren’t going to fold,” Stanford said.

Pierce encouraged everyone to gather around the flag pole for a group prayer and allowed anyone who wanted to do so, to pray aloud.

After a while, rain started to fall.

But in the park, the people stood.

Prayers continued to rise.

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