Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Benicia Byrd, Wrenisha Loyd and Justin Washington stood near the altar at historic St. Paul United Methodist Church and waited for the start of the gospel song “I’ve Got a Reason.”
On cue the two females began to dance with fluid movements as Washington used his talents to mime to the song. Their longtime instructor Angela Malveaux smiled with pride from the aisle.
Malveaux has worked with the young adults for upwards of 10 years and treats them like her own children giving advice and even going as far as checking up on them in college.
Doris Hayes, council on ministries chairperson at St. Paul UMC, has also watched the youth grow into successful adults.
“We, as members of the church, know that black history, the next generation, begins with our youth and young adults who God has entrusted to us to teach them the way to success,” Hayes said. “We as members agree that education is the key to this success and utilize al ministries of the church to stress that all things are possible if you put God first and stray the course in securing a higher education after high school.”
And while the church takes care of the spiritual side of the youths upbringing they also help with the educational side as well through scholarships and grants.
The Bettye L. Davis Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 1993 to offer incentive to students seeking a higher education, Hayes said. Students with a 3.0 or higher grade point average are eligible for the scholarship and students with at least a 2.0 GPA are eligible for a grant.
Byrd, Loyd and Washington are among a group of church members who received scholarships from the church. Washington is a 2011 Wiley College graduate who plans to attend medical school in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the fall. Loyd is a 2011 graduate of Lamar State College-Orange who is a licensed vocational nurse employed at the Medical Center of Southeast Texas. She is currently enrolled back at LU-O to become a registered nurse. Byrd, who is taking a break from modeling, is also looking toward the medical field and is enrolled at Vista College in Beaumont.
The three agree the church and their faith has been a major influence on their lives and helped direct them on the right path. Praise dance and miming help them connect with God. When at college the young adults learned there was not a venue for their worship style so they worked to start one.
“They didn’t have a mime group at Wiley College so me and my best friend started one,” Washington said of the Expressions of Praise Mime Team.
Byrd started a community praise dance team, Love People Inc. Praise Dance Team.
“Dancing is my passion and to do with that, with God, is a blessing,” Byrd said.
Loyd had a hand in starting a praise dance team at LU-O after she met other young adults with the same vision. The group is called Lamar Ministry of Praise.
“We wanted to reach those with the same passion for God,” Loyd said.
Now, with years of praise dance/mime experience, the trio continues this form of worship as a community service and for their own fulfillment. Washington often finds himself dancing in his car at red lights, he said with a laugh and Loyd was once asked by a hospital patient for an impromptu performance.
Washington, Loyd and Byrd are just a few of the many youth from St. Paul UMC who have gone on to college and successful careers, something church leaders are very proud of and harkens to proverbs 22.6 — “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”