Egan Park welcomes new pastor
Dr. Gavin Gressett's ministry began virtually at the moment of his conversion from atheism to Christianity in 1973.
He and his wife, Rae, became involved in street ministry and in prison ministry, sometimes just walking into bars and taverns, spreading the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Gressett entered full-time pastoral ministry in 1988 and recently completed his Doctor of Theology degree. He accepted the call to serve at Egan Park Baptist Church earlier this year.
Gressett is clear about his purpose as a minister of the gospel.
"We're here for the lost," he stated, "to preach the acceptable day of the Lord."
Gressett's speech is well-seasoned with the salt of the gospel, his testimony unashamed.
He has served in ministry in Fort Stockton, Texas, and in Monahan, Texas, and most recently in a variety of locations as dictated by Rae's employment as an Independent Medical Contractor.
The couple would travel to her assignment where Gavin would contact the local Director of Missions and make himself available in the community for pulpit supply and ministry needs.
"We've traveled all over the United States," he explained, adding that while he served in the U.S. Army they were also able to serve the ministry in England, France and Germany.
Gressett recalled with pleasure the Open Door Ministry he was called to Andrews, Texas, where he served in a jailhouse ministry.
In the 18 months of that ministry, he distributed more than 300 Bibles and 250 to 300 individuals received Christ.
Gressett acknowledged that some of those conversions may have been simply a matter of "jailhouse religion," but pointed out that two or three of those making a profession of faith are now in ministry themselves.
He also shared the story of one man, who each week, would raise his hand to indicate his desire to accept the Lord.
"We would make the invitation while everyone had their heads bowed and their eyes closed," explained Gressett, "and then those who wanted to receive the Lord would simply raise their hands.
"After raising his hand for the fifth service in a row," Gressett continued, "he approached me after the service and said, pointing to his chest, 'Something's different now, in here.'
"That is the joy of the ministry," Gressett said with a smile. "That's my payday."
The jailhouse ministry touched not only the lives of those incarcerated, but of their families as well and finding no easy acceptance at established churches in the community, the families turned to the Gressetts for an answer and the Open Door Ministry was born.
Seven people turned out for the first service. That number increased to more than 150 within six months.
The congregation met in an old dry cleaners store and as the day for the first service drew near, contributions to the ministry came from far and wide.
The Second Baptist Church brought a pulpit, Calvary Baptist provided microphones, a Quaker church in Ohio sent Bibles and a Baptist Church from Denver City, Texas, provided hymnals.
"The congregation came from every denominational background imaginable," said Gressett. "We had Quakers, Methodists, Catholics, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists and boy did we have church!"
Gressett brings that enthusiasm to his ministry in McCook and is looking forward to being involved in the community and with the ministerial association.
"We liked McCook immediately," he shared, pointing out the bold pro-life messages on the billboards outside of town.
"You just wouldn't see that anywhere else we've been," Rae interjected, mentioning her service with the Right to Life chapter in Texas.
Gavin is convinced that the Lord has moved to call him to McCook.
"He has a work for me to do here," he stated, explaining that the call from the search committee at Egan Park was at first confusing.
"The woman (Marilyn Matson) that made the initial call introduced herself, named the church and the town, and said that they had seen my resume and wanted to meet with me.
"That was fine," he continued, "but she kept saying McCook, Nebraska, and I knew I hadn't sent any resumes to any churches in Nebraska. I couldn't figure out how she got my name, let alone my resume."
The mystery was ultimately solved, but the experience affirmed the couple's decision to leave their four grown children and grandchildren in Texas and to make a new home in McCook.
Egan Park Baptist Church (Southern Baptist) is located at 409 W. Q. Sunday School is at 9:30 a.m. with worship at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. The Wednesday evening prayer service begins at 7:30 p.m.