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Living Life to make a difference

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    Examiner photo by Connie Clements: According to Pastor Charles Tompkins, “Learning how to deal with personalities is the hardest part of being a pastor but when you reach them, it is the most gratifying.”

Pastor Charles Tompkins’ mission each day is to make a difference in someone’s life and put a smile on their face. He describes smiling as “a type of healing” that motivates him.

Tompkins was raised in a home by parents who valued education, and he continues that teaching legacy at his church, Salem’s House of Blessings, and by ministering to inmates at the Grimes County jail and collaborating with ministers of other faiths through the Grimes County Ministers Fellowship (GCMF).

A curtain rod mic

Tompkins could easily have spent the last 35 years in front of a blackboard instead of a pulpit. His mother was a Hempstead principal for 40 years, his father a Prairie View A&M University professor, two brothers became educators, and Obra D. Tompkins High School in Katy is named after his uncle.

Tompkins said, “I’m the only one in the family who didn’t become a teacher, but yet I am a teacher.”

As a child, Tompkins never thought about becoming a preacher, but he certainly liked to pretend.

He said, “I took my mother’s curtain rods down and made a microphone, wrapped myself up in her quilts and had a robe on. This was when I was five or 6 years old. I never thought that this was what I was going to do.”

Tompkins went to work for the Texas Highway Department, retiring from a supervisory position in 2013 after 32 years of service, but during that time he also worked toward his Doctor of Divinity degree at Mount Zion Christian Bible Institute.

Salem’s blessings

Tompkins recalls the exact date, Aug. 5, 1986, when he received a deacon’s invitation to come preach at the Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Grimes County, and the rest is history. The little 1913 white frame church sat on a hill along Highway 90 four miles northeast of Navasota until cost-prohibitive repairs prompted its demolition.

In 1995 Tompkins’ congregation purchased the former Bethel Baptist Church at 1515 Sycamore, now called Salem’s House of Blessings. The church has about 100 members.

Tompkins said, “Because of social distancing, we’re still meeting but not in big numbers as before, so we’re praying and hoping that however this goes with the vaccine, we’ll be able to come back together and meet on a regular basis.”

The well-maintained grounds are also home to the former Salem House of Blessings Day Care, aka BJ’s Christian Learning Center, begun by Tompkins’ wife, Bettye, around 1998. When the pandemic closed schools in 2020, Bettye retired but the couple now use the building to prepare afterschool meals for 90-plus children, delivering most to their homes.

Uniting churches

“Retired from the job but not from life,” Tompkins is vice president of the Grimes County Ministers Fellowship (GCMF).

Tompkins said, “We’re trying to bring people together. We have our own buildings, our own places of worship, but we never get a chance to unite, to really see what the Holy Spirit is doing. I don’t believe we can see what God is doing if we’re allin separate places.”

Annual community events like Holy Week and Thanksgiving services were canceled in 2020 because of Covid-19, but that hasn’t stopped the organization from gathering in small groups to pray for our country on the courthouse steps or for teachers and students at Grimes County school campuses.

It was also through GCMF that Tompkins met pastor Mac Vaughn and became a volunteer chaplain at the county jail. There he counseled and prayed for inmates and their families until Covid restrictions prohibited jail visitations.

The young, and life decisions

When counseling teens and young adults about life decisions, Tompkins urges teenagers searching for guidance to look to those who are positive. Tompkins said he grew up in an era when parents were the role models. They attended his sports events, but the emphasis was on homework and good study habits.

For teens without that support at home, Tompkins said, “Look for kids who are positive, who would not take advantage of their peers or weaker kids.”

Tompkins advises young adults to find their gifts, their talents, and their purpose in life.

He said, “Don’t waste your time trying to imitate or emulate someone else. What God has given to you; he has not given to someone else.”

Tompkins continued, “We rebel against laws we don’t like but they are there to influence behavior. We need to get young people to embrace the law and understand the laws. Experience is not the best teacher. Obedience is the best teacher. If you miss obedience, experience is the only teacher you have, and if experience is your teacher, you experience loss.”

He continued, “We live in the world and we need wisdom. I want people to be knowledgeable and use it to their full potential because knowledge is knowing how to do something, and wisdom is knowing when - but you won’t know when until you know how.”