Missionary returns to Southampton to preach in Newsoms

Published 11:37 am Saturday, June 13, 2015

After spending more than five years completing missionary work in southern Japan, the Rev. Armand Jalbert has returned to Southampton County to preach at the Newsoms Baptist Church.

Born in New Hampshire and raised in Florida, after high school Jalbert joined the Navy where he served for 10 years.

“I was in the Navy, and it was horrible, and I was angry and complained a lot but that’s just sailors,” he said with a laugh in his office in Newsoms Baptist Church’s parsonage.

While stationed in Yokohama, Japan, Jalbert met his wife and a Southern Baptist pastor who preached at the English language church he attended. He immediately decided to return to the U.S. and become a pastor.

“God just laid his hands on me and said: ‘This is what I want you to do,’” he said.

Jalbert attended the Baptist College of Florida and was ordained as a Baptist minister. He then spent the next 35 years bouncing around the world.

“My wife and I have certainly done enough traveling,” he said good-naturedly.

Jalbert has preached in Maine, Spain, Northern Virginia, Sedley, Portsmouth and Misawa, Japan.

In fact, he and his wife were in Misawa when the massive earthquake and tsunami that triggered the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster decimated the East Coast of Japan.

“We lived on the coast, and the pier that used to be about 10 minutes from our home in Japan just washed up in Oregon about two months ago,” he said with a grim expression.

Jalbert proudly described how his former parishioners at Sedley Baptist raised $8,000 in donations — with Sunbeam Baptist chipping in another $1,000 — to benefit those affected the earthquake and resulting tsunami. After his time ministering in Japan, Jalbert and his wife relocated to Virginia. While preaching in Portsmouth, he received word that Newsoms Baptist was searching for a new pastor, and he gladly accepted.

“The people of Southampton County are a kind, caring people, so of course it was nice to come back. I’ve spent a lot of time in big cities, and you really miss the sense of community there is in small towns,” he said. “It’s just been great.”

Members of his new congregation are inclined to agree. Lisa Skeeters, a member of the Newsoms Baptist and the leader of the church’s youth fellowship, gushed about Jalbert and his commitment to bettering the church.

“It’s been a very positive experience; very spiritually uplifting. He and his wife bring energy to our church and we are eager to see his plans for the future,” she said.

Having moved around so much, one would think that Jalbert would be used to the routine of starting over at a new church, but he said that every new church is different.

“The idea is to see what God is doing in the church and to find out the people’s spiritual needs, and then to investigate how to use their spiritual needs to make positive changes in the community,” he said.

Skeeters also commented about how he has involved the youth in church.

“He’s introduced all kinds of exciting ideas, like taking a trip down to Boone, North Carolina, to see the Samaritan’s Purse Headquarters, and he’s discussed sponsoring mission trips and all kinds of things,” she said.

Jalbert believes that involving the youth in the ministry, particularly in mission work is the key.

“I’ve spent a lot of time preaching at military bases, where the congregation’s average age is 28. And church can be pretty boring for kids, but I have found that if they can see the reality of Christ and can be involved in meaningful ministry, that impacts their lives and keeps them involved in the church community.”

Jalbert believes that the most important thing to teach youth, particularly children, is to ask the question “Why?” He wants them to understand why it is important to be religious rather than to just do as they’re told.

“But the most important lesson I try to teach to my congregations,” he said, “is that what God wants more than anything in the world is for us to love him. He doesn’t like religion. It’s not a matter of rituals or religious activities. It’s supposed to be a loving relationship with Him and a want to love and serve Him.”