Pastor Jay Thomas lives by Philippians 1:21: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Thomas, who arrived at First Baptist Church in Harker Heights 18 years ago after serving a pastorate in Holland for 17 years, has not traveled far from Texas. He was born in Mexia in 1943, graduated high school there and studied math and engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station.
He later worked as a quality control technician and director for General Analine and Film Company in Dallas.
Although he attended church as a child, Thomas said he did not see ministry in his future. He was 30 when he felt the call to preach the Gospel.
“I saw the book by Billy Graham called World Aflame and God dealt with me about ministry,” he said.
In 1976, he enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and earned a degree in theology.
Thomas said his goals for the church are not as important as God’s goals.
“The question is what are God’s goals for this place?” he said, adding that Harker Heights Food Care Center is housed at the First Baptist Church. The two rooms they initially shared eventually grew to four and the food bank has fed a record number of people from the facility.
Another ministry, Bread of Life, is also housed at the church. Led by Lou Ferzacca, the ministry is dedicated to feeding the hungry and providing for the poor, Thomas said.
“Once a month they gather in the fellowship hall of the church for a meal,” he said. “At Christmas, toys are distributed to children as well.”
Thomas and his wife Verna have three children and seven grandchildren. He enjoys telling the story of how he became the owner of a red 1966 Thunderbird convertible with white leather interior.
His cousin, who formerly owned the vehicle, was downsizing his lifestyle and wanted to sell the Thunderbird.
“I jokingly told him I would give him $1.25 for it,” Thomas said. “My cousin said it was mine and he even paid the tax, title and license.”
The First Baptist Church of Harker Heights is at 100 E. Ruby Road.