By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
FT. WASHINGTON, Md.—James Dixon Jr., pastor of El Bethel Baptist Church, Ft. Washington, and BCM/D missionary for African-American church development, and his wife Dessie Dixon are now serving additionally as pastors’ family ministers.
Together they have served for 37 years, and they both share that they’ve been through the mountaintop experiences and the heartaches of ministry, and they’re excited to share the wisdom of their experience with others. They both know also that sometimes what is needed in ministry is the power of presence.
“Just being there is powerful,” James said. Both he and Dessie want to “be there” for other ministers and their wives.
Serving as a Chaplain, James will provide ministry to pastors, giving encouragement and support as needed. He will also assist his wife in the planning of the ministers’ family getaway and other pastors’ support events.
Dessie will serve as interim missionary for pastors’ wives, continuing the ministry that former ministers’ wives missionary, Sherry Lee, launched and energized. Dessie will coordinate the ministers’ wives retreats and other events and oversee the network. She’ll also be available for women who just need to talk with someone who understands.
James surrendered his life to Jesus when he was 25 years old. He went to church faithfully from the time he was a young boy, but never made a true confession of faith. He credits the influence and prayers of Dessie for his acceptance of Christ Jesus.
James recalls encountering some very difficult times in his life that were interfering with his attitude and marriage, and Dessie knelt down in front of him and began praying for him and that made a huge impression on him.
The next day, while in a college class, he began thinking of Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” James was convicted in his heart and surrendered then and there. God called him to the Gospel ministry on that same day, and he’s been preaching for 37 years.
In his ministry to pastors, he will emphasize prayer above all things. James readily shares that he has had his struggles in and out of church life and spending time with Jesus has been his source of strength.
“My prayer life has been the sustaining factor. It’s my lifeline,” he said, adding he will encourage pastors to be true disciples and then lead others in discipleship.
He also wants to encourage pastors to take vacation time for themselves. Some pastors are afraid to leave their church or congregation. “[We must realize that] it’s not our church, its God’s. God is in charge, and it’s okay to get away at times,” he said.
Another area he will emphasize is putting family above the church. James admits there was a time when he did not do this, and it caused a difficult strain in his own family. He doesn’t want others to make that mistake. “God created the family before he created the church. Family is important to God,” James said.
Dessie is thankful to have served with Sherry Lee and admires her passion for the ministry to ministers’ wives.
“Those are big shoes to fill,” Dessie said, and she’s honored to be asked to serve but with God’s help she will walk in her own shoes and follow His directions.
“I have a special passion for ministers’ wives,” she said.
Dessie said she knows how ministers’ wives can feel secluded, overwhelmed and at times insecure and afraid. Getting away for awhile with other women or as a couple is a necessary refreshment.
As a young girl, Dessie went forward at her church to “take the pastor’s hand and give her heart to God.” But no one told her how to “give her heart to God.”
When going through personal difficulties late in her teens, she began to question her faith. She turned to her mother. Dessie admitted, “She challenged me about praying, and it upset me because I was praying.”
But as she began to question herself, the Holy Spirit prompted Dessie, saying “If you’re praying, you’re not praying to me.”
She knew then that she was “going through the motions and was reciting her prayer but not really talking to God.”
She started over, getting down on her knees with a serious cry. “I asked God to come into my life, change me and live inside me,” she said. “I didn’t hear thunder or see a lightning bolt but I really knew it when the Holy Spirit leaped into my heart. My life has been different ever since! I know a real and personal encounter with God changes lives.”