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Reaching out to the community
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Dating back 140 years, the James Paschal Baptist Church is known throughout the community for its congregation striving together in love.

Located at 651 Ga. Highway 142 East, the 200-member brick church offers spiritual enrichment and inspiration for everyday life.

"Whatever circumstances you are facing, whether it is loneliness, depression, unhappiness or family issues, Jesus is the answer to all of life's situations," said their pastor, the Rev. Dwayne A. Stephens.

Each Sunday, Stephens clearly expounds on the pure word of God. He invites the community to join them for praise, worship and fellowship. Sunday school begins at 9:30 a.m. The beautifully decorated and newly renovated sanctuary holds morning worship at 11 a.m. on the first four Sundays and at 8 a.m. on the fifth Sunday. Tuesday evening Bible study is held at 7 p.m.

"We are currently studying how to be equipped for ministry, to remain faithful and to edify others," Stephens said. "We want people to come and feel comfortable and experience Christ here - to feel his presence and experience his glory."

According to the church's mission statement, the members desire to be a Bible-based church where the word of God is alive. Their mission is to be like Christ - to edify believers and to attract unbelievers with the principles of God's word.

"We want to establish a ministry that is filled with the heart of worship and where love fills the place," Stephens said.

The congregation enjoys a blended mix of contemporary and traditional music. The sanctuary choir performs on the first and fourth Sunday; the inspiration choir on the second Sunday; the male choir on the third Sunday; and the youth choir on the fifth Sunday.

The newly organized Men's Ministry meets quarterly with the purpose of equipping men to be devoted to church, home and community. The Women of Virtue Ministry began two years ago and meets monthly.

Last year, Stephens implemented the helping hands ministry to address those in financial need in the community. "I thank God for our members - they are active and believe in participating," he said. "They are very giving."

Stephens said his vision includes a growing children's ministry and working toward drawing more young people to Christ. "Our hope is that this church will grow to take the gospel of Jesus Christ out to the masses and to empower them through the word of God," he said. "I believe this can take place if we devote ourselves to God."

Vivian Sims, church secretary for the past 20 years, said that the pastor is a true man of God, a family man who truly loves the word of God. "When you come to him with questions or need some assistance, he will always direct you to the Bible," said Sims. "He does not waiver; he loves the Lord and he loves his members."

 Stephens was born in 1973 and remains a native of Atlanta. Raised by his grandparents, he has a rich heritage in serving the Lord through his grandfather, the Rev. Eugene Stephens Sr. and uncle, the Rev. E.A. Stephens. A 1992 graduate of Alonzo A. Crim High School, Stephens says he plans to begin seminary courses in the next few months.

Stephens said he felt a call on his life to preach in March, 1998.

"God prepared a work for me," said the pastor. "It was a challenging moment in my life."

He received his license to preach under the leadership of Rev. E. A. Stephens on Feb. 11, 2001, and received his ordination certificate through the One Accord Baptist Church.

Married to Veronica, his high school sweetheart, the couple has three children: Breauna, 15; Dwayne Jr., 12 and Chrishod, 9. "My wife is a beautiful singer and has a phenomenal voice and my son Dwayne plays the saxophone," said Stephens.

In addition to being a fulltime minister, Stephens has been employed for the last 12 years at Art Craft Concrete in Lilburn. His wife is employed in the jewelry department of Wal-Mart in Lithonia.

The pastor's advice to families is to remain in the family structure that originated in the Bible and to raise Godly children.

"It is imperative for families to stay together and be unified as a unit in Christ," he said. "Prayer is essential in a marriage and in a family."

For more information, call (770) 787-3024 or e-mail