Heart issue doesn't stop prison trips
Advocate staff writer
Heart trouble hasn't stopped John Bayer from his heart's desire - preaching to save the lost in prisons.
The Baton Rouge minister, 67, was preparing to preach last week in a prison in Georgia when he experienced his latest heart episode.
"The devil gave me a heart attack my first day in town," said Bayer, the chaplain and director of Free at Last Prison Ministries Inc. and a member of Family Worship Center.
Bayer ended up in a cardiac unit at a Savannah hospital, where he told doctors he was not going to stay more than two days although they said he would need to be cared for a week or more. "I said, ‘God did not send me to Georgia to die in your hospital or spend time in your hospital. You're going to do what you can do in the natural, and God's going to do what he's going to do in the supernatural.'"
Bayer said God worked on his behalf, stabilizing his heart after 18 hours and shocking a nurse caring for him.
"She screamed," Bayer said. "She said, ‘Chaplain John, your machine, your heart rate is normal.' She reached out and grabbed my hand. I prayed for her right there."
Bayer eventually was released from the hospital four hours before preaching to nearly 300 inmates in Georgia. The next day, he preached for nearly 13 hours before moving on to another prison in Nashville, Tenn.
Despite the heart trouble - he claims at least three heart attacks and a stent put in - Bayer said he carries on.
"There ain't nothing wrong with me," he said. "It's just the attack of the devil sometimes to stop you from doing what God wants you to do."
For 25 years, Bayer has had a heart for prison ministry and has ministered in prisons throughout the United States, and he has also traveled to Mexico and Canada. He spends at least two Sundays a month in prisons and spends three to six hours a day writing prison letters, newsletters and planning trips.
"I'm not in prison myself, but Lord knows I've done enough things to go to prison," he said.
The body of Christ is evident in many of the prisons, Bayer said.
"They are as much my brother in the Lord or my sister in the Lord than the person sitting next to me in a church," he said.
No doubt Bayer shares with prisoners his powerful testimony of how God saved him and his wife, Andi, 37 years ago. The couple's lives consisted of alcohol and drug use, gambling and Klan activities. He was also heavily involved in organized crime, and she was involved in prostitution.
Soon after the couple were married in 1975, Andi Bayer came to Christ after watching a "700 Club" program in her California home.
"I was watching some soap operas and was changing the channels to see what else was on," said Andi Bayer, 57. "This man was talking about Jesus Christ and how he could give you a brand-new life. The love of God just got a hold of my heart and I believed it. I invited Jesus Christ to come into my heart."
Her husband soon followed suit. "When I saw the change in her, that's when I said yes to Jesus," he said.
The couple moved to Baton Rouge in 1989 and started Free at Last Ministries 10 years ago.
"I believe there's a great end-time harvest of souls that can be reached in prisons ... That's why I'm in prison ministry. We lead anywhere from 500 to 800-plus people a year to Jesus in prisons," John Bayer said.
To help Free at Last Ministries, go to http://www.freeatlastministries.org or write to Bayer at Free at Last Ministries Inc., P.O. Box 84051, Baton Rouge, LA, 70884.
"Transforming a Generation Beginning Now Through the Power of God" will be the theme of the National Holy Trinity Baptist Church Baptist Fellowship Association's Holy Convocation.
The event is set for Sunday through Thursday at Saintsville Church of God in Christ, 8930 Plank Road in Baton Rouge.
"I'm elated in the fact that all of God's people will get together and just bear witness to a mighty move of God, as he pours out this spirit," said Bishop C.L. Shepherd, Southern Regional bishop and co-pastor of New Philadelphia Full-Gospel Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
The 14-year-old National Holy Trinity Baptist Church Baptist Fellowship Association comprises more than 60 churches from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, Shepherd said.
The convocation's theme comes from a vision from God to Bishop Harris Hayes, the association's presiding bishop and pastor of Good Shepherd Full-Gospel Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Shepherd said.
"We're in a time now where we need to be engaged in getting out into the community and working from the youth all the way into the elders in the community, and giving them the word of God," Shepherd said.
He added: "(Hayes) says transforming a generation by providing educational opportunities ... working with church leadership to create momentum that will attract the young people, that will attract single mothers, that will attract those that are just down on their luck and give them the opportunity to use the word of God, to live by the word of God and seek out those things that are beneficial to them and will help them overcome their situations."
The Holy Convocation starts at 7 p.m. Sunday with a Gospel Explosion featuring several church choirs, groups and soloists.
Classes will be held at 8:30 a.m. to about 11:15 a.m., followed by midday worship and another service at 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Shepherd will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday. His wife, Paula Shepherd, co-pastor of New Philadelphia Full-Gospel Baptist Church and first vice president to the women's president in the association, will speak at 7 p.m. Monday.
Other speakers will include Bishop George Veal, of Richland and Mount Calvary Baptist churches of Norwood; Bishop Ernest Mills, of New Rising Sun Baptist Church in Baton Rouge and Greater St. Paul Baptist Church in Port Allen; and Bishop Charles Carter, of Alexandria.
For more information, call (225) 928-6887.
New radio format
Gospel music has been replaced by continuous laughter on Baton Rouge radio station WSKR AM 1210.
Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Baton Rouge last week launched Comedy 1210, an affiliate of the nationally syndicated "24/7 Comedy."
The move comes 11 months after the station switched to "Hallelujah 1210 AM," a 24-hour all-gospel format.
"Despite solid caller support, the station did not develop the ratings needed to stay in the gospel format," said Bob Murphy, regional programming manager for Clear Channel.
Comedy 1210 includes some of the top comedy acts and comedians, such as Chris Rock, Ray Romano, George Lopez, Kevin Hart, Asiz Ansari, Ellen Degeneres, David Spade, Frank Caliendo, Eddie Murphy and Jeff Foxworthy.
"We were looking for content that wasn't a duplicate of other formats in Baton Rouge," Murphy said. "We're excited to offer Baton Rouge its first all-comedy programming radio station."
The Comedy1210 website is http://www.Comedy1210.com. It can also be heard at http://iHeartRadio.com.
Clear Channel Baton Rouge also owns and operates 1150 AM WJBO, WYNK 101.5 FM, WFMF 102.5, 96.1 The River and Downtown Radio 97.7.
"Comedy 1210 offers our listeners a new format that is fun and engaging to listen to with a unique benefit for advertisers," said Michael Hudson, Clear Channel's market manager.
Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email firstname.lastname@example.org