HARKER HEIGHTS — At Sunday’s retirement ceremony, Harker Heights Food Care Center Director Linda Dawson shared fond memories of the Rev. Jay Thomas’ 18-year career.

“You’ve seen me through sick times and bad times and good times,” Dawson said. “Words cannot explain what it takes to have the heart of a pastor.”

She said Thomas, who retired after preaching at the First Baptist Church for 18½ years, helped start the food bank.

Wearing a leather vest, blue jeans, a rawhide holster and a red bandana around his neck, Thomas told believers to pray right and think right to blaze paths to glory.

“Some people have a willfully dead battery,” Thomas said. “They don’t want to be charged up by the spirit. Don’t be stuck on the sideline; be moving on the main line. You make your commitment today to be moving on with Jesus.”

Along with witnessing baptisms and spiritual rebirths, Thomas delighted in helping spiritual novices develop mature relationships with God, he said. It was rewarding to minister to poor children, and watch their faces radiate “tremendous,” love-acknowledging smiles.

Thomas said there was one reason why he pastored.

“God calls, and I’m obedient,” he said. “It’s that simple, but that’s what it is.”

Congregant and food care center recipient Oscar Brock said he was inspired by Thomas’ main message:

“Never give up on who you are,” Brock said. “Never give up on your dreams. No matter how dark a day in your life, Jesus never gives up.”

Whether Bible passages were straightforward or complicated, Thomas translated them with learnable simplicity, said 20-year Youth Director Thomas Holibaugh.

Thomas’ Sunday retirement drew 150 people to the church service, which preceded a recognition luncheon.

Along with other speakers, Jimmie Auten, retired director of missions for the Greater Fort Hood Baptist Association, honored Thomas’ career and service to the community.

“He’s wonderful people,” congregant Nancy Rosenberry said. “He married my husband and I two years ago. He made our wedding very special.”

At the end of the service, several of the attendees walked one by one to the front of the church and said goodbye to the 35-year pastor, who previously preached at First Baptist Church in Holland.

“May God bless you and keep you,” Thomas said. “May his grace shine on you in the most marvelous ways.”

Contact Brian Bradley at bbradley@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7567

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