The urge to spread the word of God has taken Jason Perry on quite a journey.
He has ministered to congregations in his native Tennessee, inhabitants of impoverished towns and villages in Mexico and people in Roswell.
Today Perry will begin a new adventure as senior pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in Artesia.
Perry, the bowtie-wearing minister of education and music at Tabernacle Baptist Church for the last 11 years, held his final service Dec. 30.
New Hope was started late last year and presently has a 35-member congregation, Perry said in an interview Thursday. The church occupies the building that housed the former Centre Avenue Baptist Church.
The pulpit committee at New Hope approached Perry about the job around August. After a great deal of prayer and thought, Perry said he officially accepted the position with New Hope in November.
Despite the new job, Perry said he and his family will still live in Roswell and he will commute to work.
“We are staying in Roswell, we are staying put,” he said.
Though there are many things he will miss about Tabernacle — the Christmas and Easter musicals and vacation Bible schools — he said he feels the calling to minister in Artesia.
“Artesia is a community that is growing and there is a need for New Hope in Artesia,” he said.
The population of Artesia includes those who struggle emotionally as their husbands and fathers go off to work in oil fields for days or months at a time, and other people who come to the area to work, but feel separated from their families, he said.
Though he loves Roswell, Perry said he looks forward to ministering in Artesia, where he has already begun to make contacts.
From Chattanooga to Roswell
For Perry, 44, his faith has been a core part of his life since childhood.
He hails from Chattanooga, Tennessee. His paternal grandfather, who was a United Methodist minister, was a big influence on him.
Perry said he had planned to go to college to study music, but as he was finishing high school, felt a calling to enter the ministry.
“My desire was to be a high school band director, and the Lord changed that in my heart,” he said.
Perry asked his grandfather how a person knows if they have been called by God to enter the ministry.
Because life in the ministry can be sad and lonely, Perry said his grandfather told him he should enter the ministry only if he thought he would not be able to live a happy life otherwise.
“So I accepted the call into the ministry at a very young age,” he said.
As he worked toward his master’s degree in Theology at Faith Bible Baptist College, Perry worked as a youth pastor at a church in Chattanooga. He later became senior pastor at another church.
Eventually, he would feel a calling to bring the word of God to Hispanics. He and his family moved to Mexico to do missionary work with two other American families. They traveled into the mountains of Mexico and spent hours on sand roads and horse trails to bring the message of God to remote villages and small towns.
In addition to holding evangelical services and distributing Bibles, Perry said he and his companions would often bring food and blankets to the populations. They would also sometimes administer eye exams and give free reading glasses to people who needed them.
“They were very, very responsive to the message that we brought. It was a pretty amazing experience,” he said.
Perry and his companions at first were not welcomed warmly. Landlords would not rent them land or places to stay, stores would not sell them appliances and restaurants denied them service.
“They saw us as white Americans and did everything they could to keep us from being there,” he said.
As an outsider, Perry said he had to prove himself to the local populations.
“Regardless of what they had to say, we loved them and we stayed faithful and never showed signs of any bitterness and hatred toward their people, and one by one, we started winning them over,” he said.
Perry and the other missionaries remained steadfast, exposing people to their message as they renovated buildings and built Sunday school classrooms.
Once when Perry and other missionaries prepared to leave one town, the locals threw them a going away party. The president of the town issued a proclamation and said while Perry’s body might be American, his heart was that of a Mexican.
“We worked very vigorously in Mexico and came to love the people and they came to love us,” he said.
Perry said he did see tragedy in Mexico, too, including violence from drug cartels, and a few members of his church were assassinated.
“So we saw a lot of great things in Mexico and a lot of sad things in Mexico,” he said.
After six years in Mexico, health issues soon compelled Perry and his family to return to the U.S. His health would improve and in 2008, Perry began work at Tabernacle Baptist.
In addition to his ministerial work, Perry has made his mark in Roswell in the larger community. He is the current president of the Roswell Rotary Club, former chairman of the Chaves County Republican Party, District 8 public education commissioner for the state of New Mexico and sits on the board of directors for Main things first Ministries.
Like with his faith, Perry’s civic involvement was influenced by his grandfather who told him his impact on people in a community would not be as great without being active in the community.
“So he said, ‘Don’t just serve the church, serve the community in which you live also,’” Perry said.
He added he has taken that advice to heart in every community he has lived in.
Challenges of life in the ministry
“A lot of people think that a pastor works three hours a week: Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night; the rest of the week they play golf,” Perry said.
He said he is often so busy, he is lucky if he is able to fit in one game of golf a year. In addition to church services, Perry said that he also often has to counsel couples who are about to be married or who have marital problems, people preparing for funerals, or people struggling with their children.
At night, he will get calls from people who have to cope with sudden deaths or hospitalizations. The ministry can also often be lonely.
“Pastors have so many people to help and so many people to try to encourage that you often can’t be really close to people, have best friends or really close friends,” he said.
Finding a balance between work and family life can also be hard.
“Sometimes it’s hard to take off the pastor hat and put it down and put on the father hat and just not be a pastor for a little while,” he said.
Despite the challenges and hectic schedule, Perry said his life in the ministry is something he would not trade for anything. The biggest reward as a pastor, Perry said, is when people make a profession of faith.
“When they make that profession of faith and they turn from who they are to who Christ is, allow him to give them eternal life and then for me to start seeing God working in their life as they start to receive and utilize the principles of scripture that — as a pastor — I teach to them. That is the biggest blessing,” Perry said.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.