Article By: Suzanne R. Holsomback
"My Truett years were great," says 1997 Truett graduate Jeff Raines. "I was in the first class at Truett and found out about it through that initial publicity surrounding the founding of the school. Given the turmoil at other Baptist seminaries at the time, Truett was an easy choice. I also found Dr. Robert Sloan's (then president of Baylor University) vision of a smaller seminary with seminar format classes and the study of original texts very compelling."
Laughing, Jeff remembers feeling like a guinea pig those first few years. "But," he says, "there was a family feeling with the original class and faculty." He also says, "My memories [of Truett] are not so much about certain events as about the positive give-and-take of our class discussions. Dr. Chip Conyers in particular, was masterful at shepherding discussion through the big theological issues."
Jeff's journey to ministry began early in life. He was born and raised in Arlington, Texas and found himself surrounded by church ministries through the activity of both of his parents. It was during high school though, when Jeff felt a pull toward vocational ministry. "I wrestled with a sense of calling, probably back to the eleventh grade," Jeff says. "Our family was at First Baptist Church, Arlington at that time, and I was able to preach as a part of our 'youth week.'" Still contemplating ministry, Jeff graduated from high school and moved to Waco to attend Baylor University where he majored in Business.
"I went back and forth through college on the idea of ministry, and one reason I finally decided on a business major was I felt I would be going to seminary and would get my academic religious foundation there. My sense of calling grew stronger through practicing ministry and taking advantage of opportunities to serve such as disciple now weekends." Alongside meaningful ministry service opportunities Jeff also acknowledges the influence of his home pastor, Charles Wade, and his college pastor, Ken Massey, as people that shaped and directed his journey into ministry.
Jeff finally committed to vocational ministry and to the decision to attend seminary the summer before his senior year in college. He says, "That fall I took 'Introduction to Ministry' at Baylor with Winfred Moore. An internship was a part of that program, and he assigned me to work with Howie Batson at Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Waco. I have worked with Dr. Batson since that time."
Jeff currently works as the associate pastor at First Baptist Church, Amarillo. He says, "Initially my role was predominately a pastoral care position, but that has evolved, somewhat, into missions, teaching, pastoral care, and technology." Jeff's ministry description changed through the years, but his ministry altered forever on February 23, 1998. That February evening, the church's missions committee asked Jeff and his wife, Darcie, if they would explore opportunities to establish partnerships with sister churches in Uganda.
Thinking over the first mission trip to Africa, Jeff says, "that trip and the partnership that followed really sparked a passion in me for cross-cultural missions and for engaging my congregation in missions around the world. Since that time we have developed partnerships in Zambia, Kenya, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil." Smiling, Jeff admits, "this is easily the most rewarding aspect of my job."
Jeff has now been in full time ministry for eleven years. His place of service has changed, as well as the focus of his ministry. God's calling for Jeff truly has been a call of following God wherever God leads - to Waco, Amarillo, or Uganda.