Heeding God's call: Ministry brings Jon Watson and family from Texas to Calvary Baptist
WORTHINGTON -- Brother Jon Watson only has to open his mouth to give away that he doesn't originally hail from these parts. His speech has a distinctive southern drawl, and he addresses people as "ma'am" and "y'all."
"I tell people now that I'm from southern Minnesota," he said with a grin, "but I'm originally from the panhandle of Texas, 70 miles east of Amarillo, where all those wildfires have been."
He may not speak like a native of southwest Minnesota yet, but Watson and his family are feeling quite at home in their new environment. They recently moved to this area so he could pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Worthington. Watson had previously been an associate pastor at a congregation in Amarillo.
The ministry is still a relatively new calling for Watson, who once worked in the oil fields in Texas.
"I got saved at the age of 24," he said. "I was late in accepting Christ. It all started with somebody knocking on my door and asking that wonderful question, 'Do you know that you've been saved?'"
Although Watson had been raised in what he calls "a good Christian home," he hadn't attended church for more than a decade when that question was posed on his doorstep.
"When I truly accepted Christ, that's when my life began to change. It's been an amazing 15 years," he said.
Because of his circumstances and family obligations, Watson wasn't able to attend a Bible college, but he pursued the ministry through correspondence classes. He worked as an associate under another pastor in Amarillo for the last five years.
"When God called me to go into ministry and knowing I would someday pastor a congregation myself, well, about a year ago, while I was an associate in Amarillo, I knew he was leading me to the north," Watson explained. "Then I got a call from a friend who told me there was a church in Worthington that was looking for a pastor. That was the first part of September, and they'd had an interim pastor here. We came up here and spent a few days in November and just fell in love with the town and the people. They were having a revival at the time, and I knew the first day I got here, knew it was where God wanted us to be."
That feeling has been reinforced since the Watson family moved here, settling into a house in Brewster in January. He and his wife, Tracy, have four children. Their oldest son, Justin, 20, didn't make the move from Texas, although he plans to visit soon. Kalie, 15, Jon Morgan, 13, and Kendall, 11, are home-schooled for now, but will be enrolled in a Christian school at the beginning of the next school year, Watson said.
"The kids are really enjoying the area," he said. "People at the church have opened their arms to us, and it's almost like home. My 15-year-old just said that the other day. Being from the south, which is known for its friendliness, well, everyone here has been so hospitable, it's amazing. I've been spoken to as much as I've spoken to other people."
The first six weeks of Watson's ministry at Calvary Baptist have naturally been a transition period, getting to know the members of the congregation and vice versa. But Watson has already begun to identify some things he'd like to accomplish at the church.
"There are right around 35 members," he said. "It's a smaller congregation, and our goal is to see some growth, have people come to accept Christ as their Savior. We've had visitors ever Sunday since we've been here. The friendliness is just overwhelming."
To emphasize that welcoming atmosphere, Watson wants to have a sign made up for the church that says, 'Where Everybody Is a Somebody." That's not the only change he's planning physically at the church, which Watson said is sorely in need of paint and other minor repairs.
"There are some challenges," in the church, he said, "but through the Lord and other pastor friends I have, those things are overcome. I want to see God work in wonderful ways in people's lives, see people have those victories in Christ, see God's hands in it."
Because Watson knows firsthand that people can truly be saved through door-to-door evangelizing, he plans to do some of that himself.
"There are people in the community who haven't accepted Christ as their Savior, people just like me," he said. "To know that heaven could truly be my home, know that my sins are paid for and I don't have to worry about that anymore. I want to share that with people, that they can truly have that kind of peace."
The Sunday schedule at Calvary Baptist begins with Sunday school and adult Bible study at 9:30 a.m. Services are at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday, and there's also a midweek service at 7 p.m. Thursday.
"We want to let people know we accept people where they are and will do our best to help them if they'll let us, first and foremost spiritually," Watson emphasized.