Native son returns to lead weekend Crusade for Christ
Last updated 12/5/2023 at 8:30pm
On a stormy night in November 1957, young Gerald Edwards survived a tornado that destroyed the old Stark High field house where he and seven others were after a Carr Junior High football game.
Now, Dr. Gerald Edwards, an esteemed Southern Baptist minister and leader, will recount his survival as one of the testimonies to be heard this weekend during the Christmas Crusade for Christ in the Orange County Expo Center.
Each night will include a meal for fellowship and music from The McNeills, a Christian singing group that performs old-fashioned gospel and hymns, plus contemporary music. Tim Sawyer with McDonald Memorial Baptist in West Orange has been rehearsing a choir of local singers for the event.
The crusade is also sponsoring the Christian Wrestling Federation for youth and families at First Baptist Bridge City, First Baptist Vidor, and Little Cypress Baptist.
Edwards, who is currently director of missions for the East Texas Baptist Area in Rusk, is bringing the crusade to his hometown.
"Orange County meant a lot to me, even though all my people are gone," he said. He wanted to bring the crusade to Orange as an appreciation for all the love and support from his coaches, teachers, and the community when he was growing up. In addition, he wants to share with local residents because they have gone through so many weather disasters in recent years.
His parents were Vernon and Bessie Edwards and his biography says he was saved during a revival at North Orange Baptist Church, his home church growing up.
He recalled the night of the tornado and the protection God gave. He had his father's car parked outside the Tiger Den fieldhouse, which was back of the old baseball field. The game had ended and about 500 kids were in the nearby gym for a homecoming dance.
"A coach's wife called and said the tornado warning had been lifted. That's when it hit," he said. He had been about to go outside to the car and missed being there by seconds. The roof of the fieldhouse blew off and landed on the car. A 2x4 board went through the windshield of the driver's side where he would have been sitting. "My parents thought I had died." The tornado missed the crowded gym.
The next day, he and his fellow class leader, Mike Waters, the son of the pastor of Orange First Baptist, led students in prayers.
Edwards and his fellow Baptists from around the county have been organizing the crusade for six months. But he emphasizes the revival is for all denominations and those seeking to learn more about Jesus.
The event will be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with a community meal. Churches and groups from his East Texas area will be providing meals like smoked brisket and chicken, chicken and dressing, and chicken spaghetti. A cooking area will be set up in the Expo Center parking lot.
Senior citizens will get a special time to begin at 4:30 p.m. each evening. They will meet in the main auditorium to visit, hear testimonies, and listen to music. There will be drinks, snacks, crafts, and gifts for them.
The meals will be served from 5:30 to 6:30 every day with senior citizens getting to go first in line for the buffet. Special music and testimonies will begin during the mealtime at 6. Meals will end at 6:30. Then the McNeill family will give a concert from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Worship will be held from 7 to 8:30.
On Sunday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., the "Children's Hot Dog Choir" of local will rehearse for a performance. A free pizza supper for youth will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. in a room separate from the worship area.
Youth is a special focus for the Christmas Christian Crusade and the Christian Wrestling Federation is a way to attract them with professional athletes and their antics. The athletes also give testimonies and lead prayers. The free event will include free pizza at each of the three locations.
Friday, the wrestlers will be at Little Cypress Baptist Church, 3274 Little Cypress Drive with the bell beginning at 5:45 p.m. The wrestlers will be at First Baptist Bridge City, 200 West Roundbunch Road, with pizza served at 1 p.m. and the bell starting at 1:45 p.m. The group will be at First Baptist Vidor, 350 North Main Street, with pizza at 6 p.m. and the bell at 6:45 p.m.