I’ve marveled at how a series of events led to understanding God’s truth and changed their lives forever.
The first story I ever heard was from my father, James Jenkins. My dad was a very ordinary young man who loved sports and played high school basketball and football. He never graduated from high school because he enlisted in the U.S. Navy before he was 18 to be part of WWII. I believe he told them he was 18 and they didn’t check to see if this was true. After two years in the service, he came home and married a sweet girl named June Moore. Six years later, at the age of 25 he had three daughters. He worked hard for his family but still liked going to the pool hall after work to play a game with the guys. It was not unusual for him to join in a game of poker afterwards and spend his winnings to buy his daughters a winter coat or a new pair of shoes.
In 1953, my dad was working in Wichita, Kansas, at Beechcraft, wiring aircraft. The guys usually brought lunches from home and enjoyed sitting together during their break. On several occasions, one of the guys would ask Bible questions, directing them at the more religious (and rather self-righteous) guys in the group. Dad, not a churchgoer or at all religious, listened gleefully when one of his friends would ask “trick questions” which the guys couldn’t answer. One day the question was asked, “Why did Jesus speak in parables?” The more religious guys answered that it made it easier for the people to understand. Dad’s friend replied, “That’s not what the Bible says,” and he quoted scriptures. Dad thought this was great and privately went to his friend to ask where he got all those questions and answers. His friend replied that he read The Plain Truth magazine. Dad immediately wanted to know how he could get this magazine so he could join in on the lunch conversation and in his words, “Ask some questions that would stump these guys.”
Once the magazine arrived, he couldn’t put it down, and also opened up his Bible for the first time. He began to see things he’d never seen before and the more he read, the more interested he was. Surprisingly he found out that his mother had been receiving The Plain Truth for years and he never knew it. He heard there was a radio program as well and began listening to Herbert Armstrong on a regular basis. He was now 27 years old, and that was when I was born.
Now with four little girls, he began to look at life differently and make changes. He contacted the Radio Church of God and requested a ministerial visit. He was baptized by Gerald Waterhouse on a baptism tour in the spring of 1954. Two years later, another daughter was born. There was no church congregation in the area, so he studied at home and each Sabbath he read Bible stories to us. I remember him reading the Monte Wolverton Bible stories and always stopping at the most exciting place, saying, “This is where we will pick up next time.”
Finally, a church congregation started in Wichita, Kansas, and we began attending Sabbath services. During all this time, mom was not at all interested in this new religion of his. She liked some of the changes dad was making but also liked her family’s Christmas and Easter celebrations. She would not go to weekly Sabbath services with us, but would go to the Feast of Tabernacles. Mom recalls that she thought that dad would eventually give up on this crazy religion. However, my dad was committed and never looked back. He became actively involved in the local congregation and started attending spokesman club. He had never been comfortable with public speaking and worked hard to improve himself, becoming a great storyteller as the club improved his speaking ability. He loved people and enjoyed serving. When my dad was ordained a deacon, my mom was surprised as she was convinced that he’d never go anywhere in this church with a wife at home who would not support his new religion.
I remember her saying, “Wow, he is going to leave me behind. Maybe I should check this church out for myself.”
Eventually mom started attending Sabbath services and at the Feast of Tabernacles 1961 in Big Sandy, Texas, she counseled with a pastor and was baptized. Together they began to serve the congregation in Wichita, Kansas, and dad was ordained an elder. In 1965 dad was invited to attend Ambassador College in Pasadena, California, for a one-year training program and later was sent to New Orleans, Louisiana, as an associate pastor assisting Vernon Hargrove. In 1967 he pastored for the first time the congregations in Jackson, Mississippi, and Monroe, Louisiana, and for the next 35 years, my parents loved serving God and His people in Missouri, Nebraska, Wyoming, New Jersey, Texas and then Mississippi where he later retired.
God’s calling changed my dad’s life and the lives of his mother, his aunt, his wife and all of his children and grandchildren. Submitting his life to God, he lovingly served many church congregations all over the United States. It’s a blessing that God reached down, saw one ordinary young man and touched his life—which changed the lives of many others. To God be the thanks and to Him be all glory.