Rev. Ricardo Handy Sr.: Tragedy leads to preacher's ministry
Sometimes tragedy can lead you to a higher power.
That was never more evident than for Rev. Ricardo Handy Sr.
The man that has grown a ministry of 30 to over 500 has had ups and downs along the way but his faith is what he always returns to.
"I went through a period where I was at a low point in my life and God began dealing with me," Handy said. "Through me seeking him, he began to let me know that this is what he wanted me to do."
Handy's cousin James Anderson Dunmars was killed July 15, 1994. Almost exactly three months later, the 20-year-old ministered his first sermon on his father's birthday Oct. 16.
"We were real close," Handy said of his cousin. "I never thought I was going to be a preacher. It was kind of scary at first but there was no doubt in my mind I was called to do it."
A strong Christian upbringing also played a part in Handy's rise to the head of Mt. Zion Inner City Baptist Church.
"My whole entire family was church going people so I was influenced by that but it was because of the tragedy that lead me to seek God and caused me to walk out as a minister of the Gospel," Handy said.
Handy, 39, grew up attending Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church under Rev. W.L. McNell and Little Rock Baptist Church under K.E. Papoleon.
It was at Little Rock that the 1993 graduate of Plaquemine High School delivered his first sermon. Rev. George Barrett, a close friend, was pastor at the time.
"I ended up becoming a pastor," Handy said. "I started off very young. Next year, I will be preaching for 20 years."
Another big influence in Handy's Christian walk was Rev. Samuel Singleton.
"I went to him when I was seeking God about whether or not to be a preacher and he led me in the right direction and influenced me to understand what God was trying to tell me," Handy said.
Mt. Zion currently host two services every Sunday and Handy said workshops and training have sharpen him. The church also hosts Family Night every Tuesday that includes a Bible study and worship.
"Our mission is building faith in family," Handy said. "I have a mixed congregation. We have a lot of young people but we do have a large number of seniors. It is a blend. We have generations in our church. You see grandparents, their kids and grandkids. It is a very family-oriented church."
Spirituality is also a big part of Handy's household. He and his wife LaTroya Ware Handy have been married since 2000 and have two children, Sydney Jarve, 13, and Ricardo Jr., 7.
"It is just in our roots that we raise our kids in the ministry," Handy said. "Faith in the work of Jesus Christ is our biggest goal and helping them become the type of people God wants them to be."
Handy said Mt. Zion has members from Plaquemine, Baton Rouge, White Castle, Addis, Gonzales and Lafayette.
"I feel like I have a calling for this particular area," Handy said. "Not just a calling to preach. God has really blessed me and send them from all corners of the world."
The story of Mt. Zion Inner City begins in an abandoned racquet club. That is where Handy had a vision for his church.
"This building wasn't even for sale," Handy said. "It had been empty for years. I actually found the guy's number that owned it and called him for about six months but he never answered my calls. One day he got the message and called back but said it wasn't for sale.
"I told him we had outgrown our church and were looking to buy some property to relocate. He didn't want to sell it but said 'I will sell it to you."
From the purchase, it took two years of renovations for the church to be moved in during 2005.
"It was a racquet club," Handy said. "We changed it into a church. The walls actually stopped right here and we built the rest of this. Where these beams are, they had three racquet areas like they do on the other side and there is a swimming pool and basketball court on the backside."
Mt. Zion Baptist Church Inner-City of Plaquemine is located at 24400 Eleanor Drive. The church's website is www.mtzionmic.org.