GULFPORT -- Rev. Bill Towles, senior pastor of Lighthouse Full Gospel Fellowship, said he is grateful for God's grace in leading his church into its 40th year.
Towles taught drafting for 21 years through Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College but in the early 1970s, he said, he felt God called him to begin a new chapter of his life by forming Lighthouse Full Gospel Fellowship.
At first, a handful of faithful friends met in their homes for prayer and Bible study. The first week in 1974 that 10 people met in Towles' home, the group decided to tell others about the meetings and ask them to come the next week.
Towles said he was surprised when 93 people showed up seven days later.
Men from the gathering went out that afternoon and found a storefront on Pass Road where they could meet. Soon a neighbor, Irma Rich, gave the fledgling church a piece of property on Dedeaux Road. Construction began and a permanent home for the church was completed in 1978.
Towles said the nondenominational church was born out of the charismatic movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He said he didn't feel "adequate" when God called him to pastor a new church, because he hadn't had any formal training.
LFGF takes as its motto the words of Christ from John 8:12: "I am the light of the world: He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life."
By 1980, LFGF added a fellowship hall and then an educational building and food pantry facility in 2008.
A men's prayer group is held every second Saturday of the month at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast. Visitors are welcome.
A pastors' gathering takes place every Wednesday at 8 a.m., when pastors on the Coast are invited to attend a meeting and then dine out for breakfast at 9 a.m.
The "Manna"-fest Blessings Food Pantry is open from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and directed by Cindi Borries.
The Back Pack Blessings Ministry of LFGF is directed by Colette Towles, the pastor's daughter, and serves three elementary schools. She said she is grateful for the help her daughter, Olivia, and volunteers provide.
LFGF will hold spring and Easter events this year and will host a 40th anniversary celebration in October.