Inspiring Okeechobee: The Phillips family is loved by their church

OKEECHOBEE — Pastor Eric Phillips and his wife Mandy are celebrating their 11th year serving at Everglades Baptist Church (EBC) this month. Both Pastor Eric and Mandy are from Garner, N.C., and Pastor Eric attended North Carolina State University from 1993-1998, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in middle school math and science education. In 2012, he graduated from the New Orleans Theological Baptist Seminary with a Masters of Divinity degree. Pastor Eric is also a certified biblical counselor and offers free biblical counseling through his church to anyone in the community.

In the years since they have been a part of Everglades Baptist Church, the Phillips family has grown considerably. They now have seven children — six boys and one girl.

Pastor Doug Nickalson of Everglades Baptist Church and Pastor Eric had attended college together and even though they had gone their separate ways after college, they had remained close friends. When Pastor Doug felt the church needed a second pastor on the staff, he thought of his old friend, and after much prayer, both men felt God was calling the Phillips family to EBC.

In 2007, the Phillips family, which at that time consisted of Eric, Mandy and three children, became a part of Everglades Baptist Church. Eric became the official pastor of biblical counseling but also serves in other areas such as discipleship and the children’s ministry.

In the years since they have been a part of EBC, the Phillips family has grown considerably.

They now have seven children — six boys and one girl. Proverbs 18:22 says He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. This is certainly true in the case of the Phillips. I don’t know what Pastor Eric or EBC would do without Mandy. She is always busy doing something. Joanne McDuffie, a friend of the family said, “Every time I see Mandy she is rushing somewhere and her kids are all following behind her in a perfect line.”

Mandy home schools her children and is very active in the home school community, holding a leadership position in the local home school group for the last few years. All of their children are active in sports, and this usually means Mandy must take someone, or several someones to practice almost every day. She usually does this with a smile. Often you see her taking a walk around the field to get in some exercise of her own while the kids practice.

Mandy also fills many roles in the church and is always busy with women’s ministry or working in the nursery or decorating tables for dinner on the grounds. She is not one to sit around and let others do the work.

Pastor Eric is bi-vocational and teaches at Okeechobee Christian Academy. So not only is he a pastor, but he is also a full-time teacher, a biblical counselor, a father of seven and a girls’ basketball coach.

Yvonne McElheny remembers when she first met Pastor Eric. She said it was like meeting another of her sons. She liked him immediately. He just jumped right in and helped when they needed help, and not everybody does that nowadays. She also said he challenges her to dig deeper into the Word of God, to find the answers she seeks within Scripture. She feels Eric and Mandy are both a tremendous asset to the church and the community, and she loves them both very much. Her husband Bill said he came to salvation through a study through the book of John he did with Pastor Eric. Amy Cortez, another church member, said he has helped her many times when she has been hurting. She said her son is incarcerated, and Pastor Eric took the time to go see him. “Who does that?” she asked.

James Presley said there is so much to say he doesn’t know where to begin, but one thing he can definitely say is Pastor Eric is not just his pastor, he is his true, reliable and selfless friend.

“He has been there encouraging, uplifting, praying and mentoring me as I face my struggles and difficult times.”

Pam Presley said Mandy has been a “loving and caring sister in Christ who made time to talk, invest and speak truth into her life.” Both Mr. and Mrs. Presley feel Pastor Eric and Mandy went above and beyond by spending so many evenings with them as they went through marriage counseling while preparing to become husband and wife. They would love to say more, but want to just conclude with a huge “Thank you! We greatly love and appreciate you and all that you do.”

Rachel Nickalson said she loves the way the Phillips both live out sacrificial love to their family, church and community. “They are caring, helpful and have servants’ hearts,” she said.

She also appreciates they way they open their home to many.

The entire church wanted them to know how much they are loved and appreciated.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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