April 9, 1987, is a day that the Rev. Jerry Jones and his family will never forget.
Jones came home early from work that day when a neighborhood child delivered the shocking words that no parent wants to hear - "Your son has been hurt."
Jones hurried to the tree house that his two sons, Reggie and Wesley, had built. As he approached the area, he saw his youngest son, Wesley, lying motionless on the ground.
Jones dropped and prayed. The calming presence of the Holy Spirit directed him as he examined his son. The week prior, Reggie had taken a CPR course. Being careful not to move his brother, he quickly stabilized Wesley's neck with a jacket. Jones alerted the paramedics and his son was airlifted to Egleston.
The fall broke Wesley's neck leaving him paralyzed from the chest down, with limited movement in his arms and fingers. His father, brother and mother, Sherry, stayed at the hospital with him for the following six months as he received therapy at the Shepherd Center and Egelston Hospital.
Jones, Senior Pastor of Stewart Baptist Church in Covington, said his family never lost their faith in God.
"I always loved people and would feel sorry for whatever they were going through, but now I can feel their hurt," said Jones. "Through my son's experience, I learned that God is exactly who he says he is - all knowing, always there."
Confined to a wheelchair, Wesley graduated from Georgia State University as a psychology major and currently hosts "Unlimited Outdoors," an informative and inspirational outdoor television program; he offers encouragement to people who face disabilities and obstacles.
From this experience, Reggie Jones wrote "Triumph over Tragedy," which tells the story of how God can take someone ordinary and do something extraordinary. Both he and Wesley are both professional speakers and have their own company, Words of Triumph Motivational Speakers, and give testimonies of how God has brought them through the fires of life.
Jones is a native of Atlanta and a 1965 graduate of Druid Hills High School. He attended DeKalb College before serving the Air Force in Viet Nam from 1966-1970 as a crew chief on KC-135 and B-52 aircrafts. Jones enjoys bear hunting and holds a ham radio and a pilot's license.
Jones accepted Christ when he was eight years old. He said he always felt the pull of ministry but ran from the calling. A successful award-winning IBM sales representative, he recalled the day he stood in the parking lot of IBM headquarters and confessed to God tearfully that he couldn't run from his calling any more. He resigned his position with IBM and told his pastor, Dr. Larry Meadors of Stone Mountain Baptist Church, that he was ready to move forward in the ministry. Jones brought the message the following Sunday and was ordained the next week. Days later, he was called to Eastland Heights Baptist Church where he served from 1987 to 1990.
Before Jones came to Stewart Baptist Church in March 2007, he was pastor at Union Baptist Church in Conyers. His wife Sherry works with the Rockdale County school system.
"Living a Christian life is a daily experience," said Jones as he picked up a rock on his desk that reads ‘POW'- a reminder of the importance of prayer, obedience and staying in the word of God.
Stewart Baptist Church has served the community for the past 103 years. The original structure was destroyed by a tornado in 1949. SBC offers a traditional service with southern gospel and light contemporary music.
As Jones looks to the future, he spoke of a congregation that has doubled in size since 2007 and described members as being the friendliest, sweetest, open people. SBC is a mission-minded church that supports foreign and local missions such as Faith Works. Jones believes that one day Stewart Baptist Church will be a world wide ministry. The Rev. Dan Kiefer has served on the ministry team as a full time youth pastor since September 2004. The youth will collect Christmas boxes for Samaritans Purse Operation Christmas Child this year.
Admission-free, the community is invited to the second annual Christmas drama, "From the Christ Child to the Judgment" on December 5, 6, and 7 at 7:00 p.m. Directed by Sherry Jones, the play features a cast of 110 people in full costume. Last year, the attendance for two nights brought in approximately 1,000 people with an estimated 40-50 who accepted Christ as a result of the drama.
Stewart Baptist Church offers Sunday school at 9:45 a.m. and morning worship at 11 a.m., followed by Awana and youth at 5:45 p.m. and adult worship at 6:00 p.m. Midweek services are held on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Of all the things Jones is grateful for this holiday season, he is most thankful that he, his wife, two sons, daughter-in-law Dawn and grandchild Ashley are Christians.
For more information on Stewart Baptist Church located at 158 Stewart Church Road in Covington, call 770-788-7177 or visit www.stewartbaptist.org.