MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Sweezer welcomes everyone in God’s House
Published 6:37 pm Monday, November 19, 2018
By Gabrielle Terrett
The Vicksburg Post
With more than 50 churches in Vicksburg, there are a handful that stand out. They work hard to better the community, spread the word of God and simply just be a church.
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Among this handful of churches is the The House of Peace Worship Church International founded in December 2001 and led by Senior Founding Pastor, Apostle Linda Sweezer. Sweezer opened the church shortly after discovering her calling from the Lord to minister to His people.
“What made me want to start this church is called moving by the voice of God,” Sweezer said. “The Lord spoke to me. I’ve been preaching almost 23 years and after preaching for a number of years I was under a local pastor here in Vicksburg and the Lord just spoke to me and said ‘I’m calling you out to pastor.’
“I was the local pastor’s youth pastor for the entire youth ministry and from there the Lord said ‘It’s time. I want you to begin a ministry.’ I didn’t know that was on my life. So I just took off with no members and started and God has blessed it ever since.”
Becoming a part of the church was always on her agenda but she never believed that she would be where she is now.
“I started preaching in a local church called Mount Zion #1 M.B. church. I did almost every job in that church from being the announcer to the assistant secretary, the secretary of the Sunday School, the secretary of the church, singing in the choir,” she said. “You name it, I did it.
“At the time I was called to preach it was February 5th, 1995. I was all the way in the back of the church taking up people’s money. They would come back to a little window, pay their tithes and we would take note of it back there and that’s what I was doing when God sent us a new pastor to that church.
“When he came he looked at me and said ‘There’s a call on your life to preach. Did you know it?’ I said, ‘oh you know God doesn’t use women to preach. It can’t be.’ We didn’t have women preachers here and he kept saying it was there and I just kind of smiled and kept moving.
“It was then though that I got called to preach. February 3 I got filled with the Holy Spirit, February 5 the Holy Spirit told me I had a calling on my life to preach,” Sweezer continued. “I called my pastor in the middle of the night, his wife answered the phone, I was crying and she said, ‘I already know why you’re crying let me pass the phone to my husband.’ From there, February 5, I answered to my call to preach.”
Throughout her time in the church, Sweezer began to see a pattern in churches and she was not pleased with the absence of God in most establishments. This led to her churches motto.
“I’m very down to Earth, very easy going and I believe in face to face ministry with the members,” Sweezer said. “At this church it’s so important to let the members know that our motto is real. Our motto is ‘This is the Church where the Holy Spirit is in Charge,’ and it is so. “This means that the lot of people who attend this church are ministered to individually and we really do a whole lot with the children and families. We don’t just minister to the parents but we really reach out to the children.”
All are welcome
Sweezer believes that what sets her church apart from others is that everyone is welcome and no one is turned away.
“The basic message that I preach is the Grace Message,” said Sweezer. “The Grace message is very strongly spoken in this way that what’s said in this way we are saved by Jesus Christ not by our works, Ephesians 2:8. So I think one of the things that has made this church successful and that has caused it to grow and do a lot of the things that we have done and are doing in the community is that we believe everyone is important.
“We believe that Jesus loves the prostitute, the drug addict, the drug dealer and that they can come in and find Him by the grace of God and be used by Him to do ministry.”
Along with being a church that she deems different from all other churches, Sweezer’s church is also one that is well known in the community, offering a number of services to the community.
“I think everyone that is a Christian has an evangelistic call on their life and they need to know that whatever area you’re in, journalism, nursing, agricultural, you’ve got ministry on your life. “Then as a corporate church we do things. We evangelize.One of the things we’re doing right now is our tutorial program. We are reaching out to all the kids in the community. We tutor them and feed them dinner and we’ve received some money to help us do this and also we tutor them free from 2:30 to 5.
“That’s one of the things that we do. In the summertime we serve between this site, our site in Rolling Fork and we’ve reached out to Carey, MS and between those sites we had almost 600 children that we served throughout the entire summer and you can imagine how many thousands of meals that was because we did breakfast and lunch.”
“We believe in going outside of the four walls of the church and into the community and making a difference.”
Being a part of the religious community in Vicksburg comes with a sense of service. At the House of Peace Worship International the members have just that as they mirror the actions of their leader.
The church has three different sites — Vicksburg, Rolling Fork and Atlanta, Georgia — and all have come together to minister to God’s people in a way that makes them feel welcome in His house. Sweezer enjoys her work and she hopes that she can display her devotedness to everyone she comes across.
“I love what I do. I’m absolutely in my element as a pastor and teacher. I love to preach and teach and I love people so it’s my heart so I believe that God is doing a great work.”