ROCK CAVE — A local pastor will be celebrating 40 years of service this Sunday at the Rock Cave Baptist Church.
Parishioners have organized a 40th anniversary celebration in honor of Pastor David Jessie, of Rock Cave, who has been leading the church since he was 24 years old. The celebration will get under way at 10 a.m. at the church, 97 Baptist Church Road in Rock Cave, and will be followed by a special dinner at noon at the Family Life Center in Jessie’s honor.
Jessie, a graduate of John Wesley College in Greensboro, N.C., met his wife, Lynn, in Bible college, and soon after, the two received a call from God to serve in West Virginia — so they did just that.
“We had felt called to mission work, but the Lord directed us to come to West Virginia,” Jessie said when he spoke with The Record Delta Thursday.
Soon after, Jessie’s friend, also a pastor, had informed him of an opening at the Rock Cave Baptist Church, so Jessie and his wife journeyed to the Mountain State in early April to introduce themselves to the people of the church by delivering several sermons. He remembers the exact date — April 3, 1977. By April 6, the church had selected him as their new pastor, and the Jessies moved to Rock Cave on April 28, 1977.
He and his wife raised two daughters in Rock Cave — Amanda Barker and husband Nathan Barker of Fairmont, and Courtney Cash and husband Joe Cash of Tennessee. Today, he has six grandchildren. Reflecting back on the past 40 years, Jessie said he can’t come up with just one favorite memory because there are too many. His favorite thing about ministering to his congregation has been the way God has blessed him and his family in multiple ways since 1977.
“I think (my favorite part has been) mainly how the Lord has blessed us throughout the years,” Jessie said. “We’ve seen people saved and we’ve seen the church grow and we’ve seen people be called to ministry. How the Lord has blessed us down through the years and blessed our family is what stands out.”
So, what does he most appreciate about being a pastor?
Simply serving, he said. And there’s plenty of people to minister to — the Rock Cave Baptist Church boasts a congregation of about 110 attendees “on a good Sunday,” Jessie said.
“I enjoy preaching and just ministering to people, and also visiting people,” the pastor added.
To prepare to preach, Jessie spends plenty of time in prayer, asking God to lead him in a direction that will be helpful to his congregation. A typical Sunday at Rock Cave Baptist Church begins with Sunday school at 10 a.m., followed by a sermon at 11 a.m. A second service takes place at 7 p.m. that evening.
Due to a deep love of the mountains and the community in southern Upshur County, Jessie and his wife have no plans to leave any time soon. He will likely spend the rest of his days preaching at the church until he retires, he said, but he’ll stay attentive to the will of God.
“When I feel like it’s time to retire, I will,” Jessie said. “I have no plan to go and pastor anywhere else; I’ll probably finish up here.”
Jessie said he wanted to thank his wife, Lynn; the parishioners of the Rock Cave Baptist Church; and above all, God, for the past 40 years.
“If it wouldn’t have been for the support of my wife and my family and the Lord and the people of the church, it never could have transpired, these 40 years,” he said. “The most important thing in a person’s life is to receive Jesus Christ as savior and the most important thing that a pastor can do is spiritually feed the church and to lead them and be a shepherd and care for them, and I’ve tried to be a good shepherd.”
He’s succeeded, according to long-time parishioner and church treasurer Barbara Gregory. Gregory is on the committee that organized the anniversary celebration — a process which began back in September 2016, she said. She was glad to do it because Jessie has never failed to respond when he hears the call.
“He’s never failed to be with one of his parishioners when someone’s died or been sick,” Gregory said. “When my mother-in-law died, he was in Tennessee visiting his daughter and he drove back that night. He’s really dedicated; he’s just a wonderful person, he and his wife. They would do anything for anybody. They’re good Christians and a really good example for their church and their community — just generous. If you need something, you just call. I can’t say enough about them. It’s been an honor to work on this (anniversary celebration) for them.”