As many know, I am celebrating fifteen years of pastoral service here at First Baptist. The church just announced that they are giving my family a trip to the Bahamas over the Christmas break. This is pretty overwhelming, yet greatly appreciated.
I've shared with many of you that truly, we as a family, have only been on one vacation. That was to Orlando with family from Arkansas. It was probably a bigger deal to the other family members in that we can drive down to Disney any time we want. All other vacation days are used to travel and spend time with family in Tennessee and Arkansas. Now, don't get me wrong, those are restful, fun times, but not the type of vacation we're going to experience in a few weeks. I'm sure it's going to be a blast and hopefully a time of rest for us.
So, thank you church for this wonderful gift.
It doesn't seem that we have been in Orange Park that long, but truly fifteen years is a good while. A lot has changed in fifteen years in our family and in the community.
When we came here in 1993, our daughter Ashley was only 4 months old. Now, she's driving. Daniel was born in 1995 so Orange Park is the only home he's ever known.
When I came to the church, Dr. Allen Harrod was pastor, Steve Griffith was Minister of Education, and Rick Hunt was our Minister of Music. Those were great days and a fun team to work with.
Over the years, we have had others serve on staff. I'll try to remember them in order:
- Robert Rumfelt, Minister of Singles
- Art Hooker, Minster of Singles & Evangelism
- Shelvin Lamb, Worship Pastor
- Jack Partridge, Associate Pastor
- Stanley Puckett, Education & Adminsitration Pastor
- Skipper Rodgers, Children's Pastor
- Lyle Bobo, Single Adult Pastor
- Kip Hutto, Student Pastor
- Ryan Rouse, Student Pastor
- Josh Dryer, Community Missions Pastor
- Brandon Phillips, Single Adult Pastor & Worship Leader
There have also been numerous administrative and church & music staff over the years:
- Bert Gates
- Debra (Mathis) Zumbro
- Gail Osborn
- Judy Pulliam
- Shari Barbaro
- Mickie Dowdy
- Larry Huff
- Johnna McKinnon
- Misty Harris
- Janice Backer
- Connie Helmer
- Bob Phipps
- Mary Smith
- Al Williams
- Von Swiger
- Diego Jaramillo
- Leon Lopez
- Lucy Lopez
- Fred Gottshalk
- Ed Hill
- David McGuffin
- Linda Liechty
- Edith Murray
- Joe Ganci
I'm sure I've missed some, but it shows how many people have served at First Baptist over the past decade and a half. These are the ones who were on the payroll. The volunteer list is even larger.
When we came to Orange Park, the present worship center was not built. Construction began in October 1993. I remember meeting in "A13" for student ministry. Then, when we opened the new worship center, the excitement of moving the youth ministry to it's current building.
Fifteen years ago we had the "Lemon Tree". This little building that housed the church kitchen was located where our current gym is. It's not fondly remembered by many, but it served it's purpose for years.
When we came here, we rented a home off Plainfield. After about a year, we purchased our current home in Fleming Island. This was before Eagle Harbor opened and the only stores out on the island were Burger King and the Lil' Champ gas station. We thought we were moving so far away from everything. In just a little while, everything moved out to Fleming Island.
There were only three high schools in our community - Clay, Middleburg and Orange Park. The vast majority of students in our church went to Orange Park. Now, we have Clay, Middleburg, Orange Park, Ridgeview and Fleming Island and the soon to open Oak Leaf. How things have changed.
There have been many changes over the years. Some good, some not so good. Some exciting, some challenging. This is true in the church as well. How exciting to be in a church that doesn't fear change, but embraces the opportunity to do "whatever it takes" to transform lives and a community.