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Pastor John Rayford
John Rayford - Mount ...
John Rayford - Mount Moriah Christian Church
Mt. Moriah Christian Church
John Rayford, Senior Pastor ...
John Rayford, Senior Pastor of Mount Moriah Christian Church in Bloomington, IL,
Pantagraph.com - News - Humble background shapes pastor's vision 06/12/05
> NORMAL -- John Rayford is reminded of humble beginnings every time he opens his Bible.In it, he keeps a photograph of his first home.
It was a four-room, 20-by-20-foot house in Arkansas with no indoor plumbing -- a home he
shared with his
parents, five siblings and four relatives.
The parents and the Rayford children moved to California when he
was 5, but took 18 months to get established enough to get a house.
, who is black, was taunted at school with racial slurs, and he
would return home emotionally bruised."Some days," Rayford
said, "I was called everything but my name."His
mother would raise his
spirits.Rayford, 46, is senior pastor for Normal's Mount Moriah Christian Church, the church that is preparing to move to the site of the former Bloomington Junior High School, 510 E. Washington St., last known as Washington Square East.He
has taken to driving the near-east-side neighborhood.
The neighborhood struggles economically, although the lawns and the housing show comforts far exceeding those of his
looks at faces.
Some of them are proud and determined.But some are depressed, hopeless, faithless.He
wants to change that.
...Before becoming a preacher, Rayford was a success by society standards.He
was a star running back in college for Cal State-Fullerton, not far from Disneyland.He
went to training camps in 1981 with the Dallas Cowboys.
conceded it wasn't, that ultimately he
would be called to church service.
But it was a broken wrist, not a spiritual calling, that ended his
1981 camp with the Cowboys.
The next year, at the San Francisco 49ers camp, he
wasn't getting playing time, and he
became unwilling to endure the grind of a sport that no longer captured him.He
left camp -- but, again, not for ministry.
After leaving football, he
found success in sales.But he
greatest fortune was meeting his
future wife, Jenai.
Today, Jenai and John Rayford
have been married 20 years, 11 months, 3 weeks and 4 days.He
always knows the count.Rayford
resisted ministry until 1991.Then, he
navigated full-time jobs, in addition to ministry.
In May 2002, he
decided -- rather, he
will say, God decided -- that he
must give his
full occupation to Mount Moriah.
The Rayfords had moved from California to Bloomington in 1994 in answer to a promotion for Jenai at State Farm Insurance Cos.She currently is a subrogation section manager.John was hired by State Farm in underwriting and received a couple of promotions.
Mount Pisgah Baptist Church hired him as associate pastor.He
was content working for Pastor Frank McSwain and excited about the church's building project on Bloomington's West Market Street.
But early in 1998, Rayford
felt an urging to leave Mount Pisgah -- a command from God, he
confided in Jenai, who responded that she
had felt the same insight, Rayford
left with no directions for his
future in ministry.
"I was completely at peace," he
said."At that point, I knew I was in the Lord's will."He
applied for ministry jobs and received offers.He
felt it was divine will to say "No" each time.
One day, he
felt another command."Go home and teach your family."
On Sunday, May 31, 1998, Rayford
held a Bible study in his home on Ravenwood Circle with Jenai, son J.R., sister-in-law Wendy Gardner and mother-in-law Evelyn Gardner.
Some of them offered their driveways, and some of them came to church, Rayford
The Rayfords gave of themselves.John
gave up his
pool table to make room in the basement, and the family sacrificed any sense of privacy.
John recalls coming home one night to 30 Christian college students who had invited themselves over to hang out.None of his
family was home until he
arrived, and Rayford
was fine with that.
From that Ravenwood Circle home, with two stops in between, Mount Moriah enters a 154,000-square-foot building, four stories in places, in which the church will be one tenant, using about 40,000 square feet, and the building manager to 38 other tenants.
The outsider might conclude that Rayford
still is a star, but the minister said he
wants no part of celebrity.His
answer is that he's
listened and obeyed, hearing God not in a booming voice from a parted cloud, but in quiet times through, as Scripture calls it, the Lord's "still, small voice."