Youth pastor shares faith around the world

Published 6:26 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Darren Walker is leading children and sharing Jesus all over the world — St. Croix, Bulgaria, Ecuador and right here in Beaufort County.

Walker, the associate pastor for youth and children at First Free Will Baptist Church, has been traveling in the name of Jesus and serving the church for almost an entire decade. Walker recently returned home from a mission trip to the island of St. Croix, he helped organize a trip for a team to travel to Ecuador earlier this summer, and now, he is looking forward to a trip to Bulgaria at the end of the month.

“When we go to these places it’s not evangelizing everywhere. It’s trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus and showing Jesus’s love through our actions,” Walker said.

Walker took a team of teenagers from First Free Will Baptist on a mission trip to the Virgin Islands, and he said it was far from what people picture. In St. Croix, 50,000 people live on the island, and over half are homeless or in poverty, according to Walker.

“It wasn’t anything you would expect. It’s not the resort area like St. Thomas is. …

They have three resorts on the island, and you think, ‘Wow, it’s really nice.’ Then you drive out of the front gate and it’s like, ‘Wow, I’m in another place,’” Walker said.

He said his team spent the weeklong mission working with the homeless population, cleaning, painting and preparing homes and doing yard work. They also cleaned and repainted a house for a new principal to live in.

Darren said the youth were very responsive — some were homesick at times, but they were eager to help out.

“Some of them are already talking about wanting to go back sometime soon,” Walker said.

Not long back from St. Croix, Walker is now looking ahead to a trip to Bulgaria as part of the Hanna Project, a faith-based nonprofit designed to fight poverty, disease and disaster. It’s his ninth trip to Bulgaria, and marks his sixth visit with the Hanna Project.

Walker said while this is a trip where he doesn’t necessarily bring a team of children with him, as the Hanna Project is more for adults, he has taken teenagers before. Children under 18 are required to have a parent or guardian travel with them.

While in Bulgaria previously, Walker worked at a school for students with mental and physical disabilities and helped put basketball goals outside, as well as handicap-specific equipment. He said he’s helped hold English clubs in the mornings, sports camps at night for children and even held marriage and parenting seminars.

“Last year we worked at a hospital at the children’s ward. We furnished new beds, repainted everything. … It looked like nothing had been done to it since the 1940s — World War II type stuff,” Walker said.

When he returns to Bulgaria at the end of the month, Walker will be working on putting in a greenhouse.

Here in Beaufort County, Walker leads first-graders all the way up to seniors in high school through walking with Jesus. On Wednesday nights, he teaches a group of seventh- to 12th-grade students about Jesus in a one-on-one type of setting, along with teaching an Awana program for younger grades.

He said he treasures the time with them because it lets him see the children growing and maturing spiritually first hand.

“I really enjoy that because you can watch as you go. I’ve been here 10 years, and I’ve got kids now in my teenage group that were in my children’s group. Now they’ve become leaders, when once upon a time they were just little kids in children’s church,” Walker said.