Minister celebrates 20 years with Carthage church

By Chris Roberts

Globe Staff Writer

CARTHAGE, Mo. - When Joe Lee Tompkins moved to Carthage 20 years ago following 19 years of evangelism across the country, he was given a mandate by one of the oldest members of First Church of the Nazarene.

"The first Sunday I was here, one of the charter members of the church (which began in 1922) told me, 'We expect you to stay,' " Tompkins said. "I never thought I'd stay 20 years."

It's the longest he's lived anywhere, even longer than the years he spent growing up in Jonesboro, Ark. His wife, Deletta Tompkins, said that should make them official "Carthagenians."

The Tompkins will be honored Sunday for their 20 years of service to the church with a special Sunday morning worship service followed by an all-church dinner. But Joe Lee said it is the congregation that should be getting the honor.

"The people have loved and nurtured us as we have endeavored to love and nurture them," Tompkins said. "These 20 years have been a wonderful journey. The staff and congregation have ministered to me and my family. I feel blessed to minister to this church."

The Tompkins have ministered in a variety of ways during their 20-year tenure. In addition to preaching on Sunday mornings, Joe Lee also makes home calls and hospital calls, counsels those needing help, conducts funerals and sings in the choir, which his wife directs. Since he first started in 1983, Joe Lee has taken into membership 327 new church members, dedicated many babies, performed weddings and baptized a long list of people in the community.

Joe Lee also serves on the Carthage Ministerial Alliance and was formerly president of the group. Along with his wife, he has conducted the National World Day of Prayer observance. He has also served on the Red Cross board and participated in the city's annual Laymen's pre-Christmas services.

His wife has been in charge of the music program of the church, has introduced and directs "Wisdom of the Word" Bible study, organized a women's ministry outreach, coordinates a prayer-cell program and plans other women's retreats.

"There are so many things we have done here, it's hard to remember," Joe Lee said. "The work of the church keeps us ultra-busy all of the time. Our greatest accomplishment, I think, is bringing together a more cosmopolitan congregation, and becoming one of the leading centers of Weslyan holiness in the Four-State area."

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