Pastor Eradly Ben, Sr., of Antioch Baptist Church and Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, is pictured here sitting on the organ bench inside the sanctuary of Antioch Baptist Church on Lincoln Road in Ville Platte. He will celebrate his 55th year of pastoring in October. Over his more than five decades, he has influenced five family members to also become pastors including his son Eradly Ben, Jr., in Point Blue (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
A way of being
Most carpenters in the area pass their trade of building houses down to their sons and other family members. Some other families take this to the next level by passing on the family trade of building the house of God here on Earth.
One of these families is the Bens who pastor churches from Bayou Chicot all the way to Houston. Located at the center here in Ville Platte is the patriarch of these pastors Eradly Ben, Sr., who will celebrate 55 years of pastoring this coming October.
“I just felt the urge and the need to become a preacher, and I didn’t think I was going to be pastoring that early in life,” Ben, Sr., said. “I was about 28-years-old when I started. I started preaching November 21, 1962, and I was called to pastor at my first church on October 15, 1963.”
His first call to be a pastor was at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Tate Cove. He said there was fear involved when he first took the job. “When the former pastor died, I was nine-months into preaching,” said Ben, Sr. “I was a member of the church, and the officers said that they would like me to pastor them. They said they would work with me and help me. That’s what they did. I had some good people behind me and with me. From there it went on fine. The older I get in it, the more I love it.”
While at Mount Pilgrim, he oversaw the move of the church from Tate Cove to its current location in the Kennedy Subdivision south of Ville Platte
Over his time of pastoring, Ben, Sr., served one year at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Kinder, 10 years in Opelousas, and 34 years at St. James Baptist Church in Bayou Chicot. He presently serves as pastor still at Mount Pilgrim as well as at Antioch Baptist Church on Lincoln Road.
Also over his time of being a pastor, he has seen changes within the churches from a lack of people being involved to, what he calls, a weak faith.
“The timing we are in now is prophesied in The Bible,” said Ben, Sr. “It tells us we would experience a change in time and a time where people go through a weak faith where they are not as faithful as they should be in believing in Christ. It will change because God always has a plan, but nobody knows what His plan is going to be. He predicted that He will come back with His people on His side. I see a speck of light right there.”
Through these changing times, Ben, Sr., tries to constantly be that example of Christ to his congregations. “I try to be the best that I can be,” he stated. “As far as a moral life is concerned and as far as what I say, I like to tell the whole truth. It’s their choice to take it or leave it. I also like my example of fellowship because I show them how to share their love with others. That makes me happy when I see that closeness.”
Because of his examples of preaching and fellowship, Ben, Sr., has influenced his only son Eradly Ben, Jr., to follow in his footsteps. “I’m glad about it, and I’m proud of it,” said Ben, Sr. “When he started pastoring, he stayed with me for seven or eight years, so I taught him a lot of things to do. He’s very successful and is doing good with the church in keeping things going and keeping the people together.”
Ben, Jr., calls his dad his biggest role model after Jesus Christ. “I’ll soon be 57-years-old in October, and I’ve been knowing dad as a pastor since I’m two-years-old,” he stated. “When I was growing up, I started looking at dad and hearing dad. A lot of things that he would say would soak into my spirit and into my heart. It stayed with me for quite a while. I did try to run from it, but the Lord had His hand on me the whole time, and dad showed me many things. He is my number one idol upon this Earth.”
The calling for Ben, Jr., to become a pastor came upon his heart 17-years-ago. “It’s all about what God wants,” he said. “He really works through the hearts of people, and you really have to have a desire to pastor people.”
He continued, “My desire was fulfilled when the officers of St. Peter Baptist Church in Point Blue called me to preach a few Sundays, and I even served for their Lord’s Supper Communion Services. It took four or five months before they decided to call a general meeting and unanimously elected me as their pastor. I’ve been there ever since.”
Beside having a son as a pastor, Ben, Sr., has a son-in-law Matthew Alfred, Jr., who serves as a pastor in Chataignier and in Eunice.
Ben, Sr., has also spawned several cousins to pastor God’s people. Norris and Rodney Ben are in Houston, and there are Allen Ben in Mamou and Eunice and also Tillman Ben in Bayou Chicot.
Both Allen and Tillman as well as Norris and Rodney served with Ben, Sr., before becoming pastors at their own churches. “They’re all special to me because they all helped me,” said Ben, Sr. “They would help me teach Bible class, and I would put them over certain areas of the church. I hated to see them go, but I knew they had to build their own churches because that was their desire.”
“They could have chosen any profession and gone away from pastoring,” continued Ben, Sr., “but they are trying to do the same thing I’m doing.”
Allen and Tillman both credited Ben, Sr., as being a big influence on them deciding to become pastors.
“I felt the call of God to pastor because I had been assisting the late Pastor Atkins Leday, Jr. in his Plaisance and Opelousas churches during his illness,” Allen said. “As I had been trained under my pastor and cousin, Dr. Eradly Ben, Sr., I felt led to accept this appointment at Mohorn Baptist Church in Plaisance in 1990. A year later I accepted the call to pastor the Zion Traveler Baptist Church of Mamou, and in 1995 I was called to pastor the New Zion Baptist Church of Eunice. I felt called to be a pastor because I was brought up to love and respect people, to always see them at their best in all phases of life, and, most of all, I always had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Tillman, who pastors at Morning Pilgrim Baptist Church in Bayou Chicot, felt a similar call that was impacted by Ben, Sr. “I was under his leadership since I was a little boy back in Tate Cove where he started pastoring,” Tillman said. “I grew up at Mount Pilgrim, and I always admired him and wanted to be just like him. I never imagined that one day I was going to actually be preaching much less pastoring. So, he’s been a big influence on my life.”
Through all of his years and influences of being a pastor, Ben, Sr., still enjoys what he is doing. “I still enjoy the ones I am working with, and they seem to love me,” he said. “I love them the best I know how and try to meet their needs at a certain point.”
“I’m not tired of it after all these years. The more I do it, the more I enjoy it,” he concluded.