By GRACE GADDY
PALESTINE — The Assembly of God Church of Glad Tidings in Palestine has some glad tidings to report with the addition of Wesley and Holly Jones to their youth ministry staff.
The couple officially joined the parsonage in September 2013 and said they've since been working to nurture and build meaningful relationships with area youths, including the dozen or so that meet Wednesdays at the church.
In an interview with the Herald-Press, the two said they are excited to meet more of Palestine and told how they both had hearts for ministry, having grown up in evangelistic families.
Holly, 27, daughter of Rick and Terri Smith, was born and raised in Palestine.
“My father was an evangelist,” she said. “We've been on the road traveling from state to state to state since I was a little girl.”
Wesley, 26, son of Scott and Tina Jones of Missouri, also grew up in a ministry-minded family and was a friend of Holly's brother Zach, who is a gifted musician.
The Smiths relocated to Nashville so Zach could play guitar with Southern Gospel group The Crabb Family, and Holly tried her hand at cosmetology school. But something was missing, she said.
“I had a year at Paul Mitchell (the School) in Nashville, and that was just for aesthetic skin therapy,” Holly said. “And I did work at a spa in Nashville, but ministry just kept coming back.”
“We lived the exact same life, just different states, because my family was traveling and did revivals for some 13 years in Missouri,” Wesley said. “It's amazing how much our lives are similar.”
The two struck up a friendship as young adults, and marriage followed in October 2010.
When Holly's father acquired a pastoral position at Flynn Assembly of God, the two said they felt led to return to Holly's roots in the Lone Star State.
“We came back, and we've been here for about two years now,” Holly said.
From there, Glad Tidings Pastor Charles McShan mentioned to Holly's father, a longtime friend, that the local church was looking for youth pastors — something that had been building in the young couple's hearts.
“We grew up in ministry our whole lives,” Holly said, echoed by Wesley — “it's all we know, is ministry.”
“And that has always been our desire, to bring more people to God,” she added.
The two connected with McShan in August 2013 and started at the church the following September. Now some eight months later, the two said they just wanted to introduce themselves to Palestine and continue to encourage and minister to young people.
“We want to let Palestine know that we're there,” Holly said. “We have great visions for the future... a gym area (for instance) where all the kids can come and just hang out and be in a safe environment and not be on the streets.”
Adding to this, Wesley said there are “a lot of hurting kids out there.”
“I want to let them know there's a place for them,” he said, echoed by Holly — “where nobody is going to judge them, nobody is going to make fun of them. Our desire is to see more kids come in, and our group to grow and explode in Palestine.”
Wesley said the goal was to see kids come to know the Lord.
“The most awesome feeling was a couple weeks ago, I led one of the youths to the Lord, and it was the neatest feeling,” he said. “I want to do some more of that. I want to show others Christ and the love He has given me, and let them know that He does exist and there's hope for them.”
Glad Tidings services start with Sunday school at 10 a.m., worship service at 11 a.m. and evening Sunday service at 6 p.m. at the church, located at 201 Ragland St. in Palestine. The youth meet at 7 p.m. in the fellowship hall on Wednesdays.
The first Wednesday of every month is “Fun Night,” Holly said, “where we just kind of get together and do games and fun things.”
“We welcome all kids to come, ages 13 to 19,” she said, Wesley adding, “It's a good place where they can come and be a part of a family.”