GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A Gulfport church celebrated more than a century teaching South Mississippi about Christianity on Sunday.
"We were launching balloons, because our mission is amplifying hope across the coast by connecting people to life with Jesus. We've printed that on the balloons," said First Baptist Church Gulfport Pastor Jimmy Stewart.
First Baptist Church Gulfport hit a pretty big milestone, and the balloon release was a part of the celebration.
"120 years ago, one young lady, 18 years old, started a bible study class in downtown Gulfport that lead to this today," said Stewart.
That's 120 years serving the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
"The power of God started under the trees in the boxcars, and we went from building to building and how God has kept us together," said Thelma Ward, who has been a member for more than 60 years.
The celebration started with Sunday morning worship, with some very special guests.
"The William Carey University Choral came in from Hattiesburg. Their choir, their orchestra came in to help us celebrate," said Stewart.
Once the service was over, the church released the balloons and then enjoyed a huge feast.
"I love it. I mean, the food has been immaculate thus far. It's been an awesome experience," said member Hersey Pulley.
Members with more than a half a decade in the church say it's been great watching it evolve.
"It's just grown unreal, and it's just fabulous bringing more people to Christ," said Genie Carson-Webb, who's been a member for more than 60 years.
Newer members say it's the atmosphere that keeps them coming back.
"Overall, the mission that they stand for, connecting people to Christ, that's what they've been doing. They've been doing an awesome job at it, so therefore, it's one of those things where it's not just for the little crowd. It's for the older crowd. It's for the younger generation. Everybody can come. Everybody can get together. It's an awesome place to worship," said Pulley.