Community-Minded Minister Departs

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DURING A CELEBRATION of the completion of the Renew the Blue project in 2013, Superintendent of Buena Vista Schools John Keeler presents Brian LePere with a paint brush. Looking on is Brian Bowles, then principal of Parry McCluer Middle School. (N-G file photo)

On the morning after the 2012 derecho, the Rev. Bryon LePere was out in the community bright and early, wielding his trusty chainsaw to clear wood debris in the yards of numerous Buena Vista residents. Having arrived in town less than a year earlier to be pastor of the Buena Vista Baptist Church, LePere, who can best be described as a whirlwind of energy, was demonstrating his active approach to conducting mission work in the field.

The next summer, LePere spearheaded “Renew the Blue,” leading an army of volunteers in sprucing up the aging Parry McCluer Middle School. The project resulted in the painting of 19 classrooms, the entryway, auditorium, office hallway and four bathrooms as well as installing carpet in some areas. Over the years, there have been many more examples of LePere sharing his Christian faith by being actively involved in efforts to better our community.

Alas, all good things eventually come to an end. LePere, who has delivered more than 500 sermons during his decade-long tenure at the Buena Vista Baptist Church, preached a farewell sermon Sunday before a socially distanced but well-attended congregation. He and his wife Annie, child care director for the Rockbridge Area United Way, are heading to Richmond, where he is to become senior pastor at Gayton Baptist Church.

At the conclusion of Sunday’s service, an outpouring of well wishes was extended to LePere and his family by appreciative community leaders. A presentation was made by Buena Vista Police Chief Keith Hartman and other members of the department to LePere, who has served as police co-chaplain with Andy Wolfe. Melvin Henson, a City Councilman and member of the church, presented LePere with a plaque to commemorate his many contributions to the city.

Mike Gibson, representing the church’s deacons, recited a multitude of community and church projects LePere has been involved in over the years. During the pandemic, LePere organized a much-needed preschool and day care center held at the church. He organized many meals for parents and children of Enderly Heights Elementary School’s Blues Excelling at Skills and Talent (BEST) afterschool program.

When called upon, he’s been more than willing to utilize his chainsawing skills. He participated in revitalization projects at Glen Maury Park and Penny Park. He headed up a community service to provide school supplies for teachers. He could frequently be seen working a grill at the concession stand at Parry McCluer High School ball games. With both of his children having been members of the PMHS band, he has been a big supporter of the Marching Blues, volunteering his time and talents. He has coached soccer at PMMS.

LePere has led church mission trips to New York City and the coalfields of deep Southwest Virginia. He’s taken youth to the Roanoke Rescue Mission and directed a church youth group that met Wednesday mornings before school. He’s overseen family movie nights and family game nights at the church.

Bryon and Annie LePere have raised their children here. Their son Nathan is now a student at Bluefield College and their daughter Mary is set to graduate from PMHS this year. Annie LePere has been a partner in many of the above-stated endeavors. She has taught Sunday school and shared her musical talents – she’s a fine pianist and skillful vocalist who has been an integral part of the church’s choir.

The departure of the LePeres will undoubtedly leave a huge void in our community. We will miss them but wish them the very best as they immerse themselves in mission work in the field and continue to live their faith in a new community.

The News-Gazette

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