Salute Our Heroes: Topeka pastor Raymond Jefferson dedicates his life to serving others
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A two-story house at 320 S.W. Tyler that is more than a century old may not look much like a church from the outside.
Then again, a church isn’t just a house or a building.
It’s the people.
And in this case, the person behind the Jesus Only Faith Tabernacle church is Raymond Jefferson Jr.
“I feel like maybe God directed me here,” the 65-year-old Jefferson said recently, as he sat in the church’s chapel, which was set up in the front room of the two-story house just west of downtown Topeka. “Because I always liked to do things for other people in the community, even since I was a little boy. I would like to do things to help other people.”
A native of Leavenworth who came to Topeka in the late 1970s, Jefferson has dedicated his life to serving others.
Over the years, Jefferson said, he has served as a foster parent to 63 children, many of whom had special needs, while working as a paraprofessional for nearly three decades in the Topeka Public Schools.
Jefferson is following in the footsteps of his parents, including his father, the late Raymond Jefferson Sr., who was a minister in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World denomination.
The elder Jefferson served as pastor of the Jesus Only Faith Tabernacle church from 1975 until he died in May 2015.
At that point, the younger Jefferson became the church’s pastor, a role he has continued to this day.
“I saw how my parents looked out for people, and I always wanted to be like that,” Jefferson said. “And also Jesus looked out for people. He fed the hungry and he attended to people’s needs. When he saw the woman at the well, he didn’t condemn her for her sins but he was there for her.
“And that’s the way I feel about being here. I’m here for anybody in Topeka that would like to come here – not just for church. It’s not a requirement for you to be a member of my church for me to help you. If you’re in need, and I know it, and you ask me, I’m gonna do what I can to help you.
“I can’t help everybody,” he added, “but I sure wish I could sometimes.”
He said being located in a neighborhood on the west edge of downtown Topeka allows himself and his church to be of service to those in need of help.
“We came here in 2017 or 2018,” Jefferson said. “This an over-100-year-old house, and it didn’t look anything like this. I want to improve it even more than what it is. We put a lot of money into this building, just making it so it was decent and that the people can come here and feel comfortable.”
The church meets at 10 a.m. Sundays for Sunday school, with the morning service following around 11:15 a.m.
A Sunday evening service gets underway at 7 p.m.
Other services are held at 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The number of attendees varies, Jefferson said: “There’s some days we have as many as 20 or 25, and there’s some days we only have like 10 or 15. The lowest amount that I’ve seen – a couple of times we had five people show up.”
Jefferson preached his first sermon when he was 12 years old and became a licensed minister at age 16.
He said he preaches exclusively from the King James Version of the Bible and adheres to long-held Christian principles.
“In this day and era that we live in,” he said, “and this has been going on for awhile, people, instead of conforming to God, they want God to conform to them.”
In spite of seeking to be of service to God and his fellow man, Jefferson said he doesn’t hold himself up as being someone special.
“I don’t look at myself as being better than anybody or an extra-good person, or so wonderful and all that,” Jefferson said, “because I’m not.
“The Bible says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And there’s been times I’ve made mistakes. And even after I’ve been in the church, even since I’ve been a preacher, I’ve had to beg pardon from time to time, by something maybe that I said or the way I acted.
“I don’t want to be looked at as somebody that’s so good, because I’m just a human like anybody else. I feel like I should help because at times when I was down and out, somebody helped me.
“So, I’m not here to set myself up as somebody all wonderful and all that. I’m just a person who’s trying to help people.”
For more information on Jefferson’s church, call 785-506-4515.
Copyright 2021 WIBW. All rights reserved.