The Bible poses this question: Can two walk together unless they agree? Truly, they cannot, and this is why Bishop Larry Jones and his wife, Pastor Gwendolyn Jackson Jones, do it so well. They walk with God’s grace. Cooperation, collaboration and communication — they use them all.
Number eight in a family of six boys and four girls (two brothers are deceased), Jones grew up in Bulloch County in the Whitesville community. His parents, the late Rufus Jones and Willie Lou White Jones, were farmers.
Unfortunately, his father died before he was born. Therefore, his oldest brother LeRoy became in Jones’ own words, “my father and my best friend.” Leroy taught him how to dress and how to play basketball. An extraordinary athlete in high school, standing 6’2”, Jones won several awards at Statesboro High School, including the MVP Award, averaging around 18 points per game. After graduating from Statesboro High School in 197, Jones joined the Army, and in 1974, he played basketball in Germany.
A country boy by nature, Jones still reminisces working hard as a farmer’s child, enjoying his mom’s home cooking, and he still eats his favorite — pork ‘n beans and wieners. Great men come from humble beginnings. Jones accepted his ministerial calling while in West Palm Beach, Florida. It was there that he stood up as a servant of the Lord, and he has been standing up for God ever since. The late Pastor Early Humphries (Church of God) was his role model, advising him to love God, love people and to pay your tithes.
Called into ministry in 1988, Jones has ministered for 27 years at the Whitesville Full Gospel Baptist Church, a small Baptist church that has made a big impact in the Whitesville area. Jones’ own unique style has moved serving God to new levels.
Jones' passion is outreach ministry. In the summer of 2018, he started the first “drive-thru" prayer ministry on Martin Luther King Drive (formerly Blitch Street).
Twice a month from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, you can find Jones sitting, waiting for people to drive up and stop. They tell him what they need, he prays for them, and then they leave. Many have returned with glaring testimonies. These services have been curtailed due to the harsh weather, but will definitely return summer 2019.
Next, Jones’ outreach ministry touches the elderly; he has a “passion for them.”
His mom lived to be 92 and Jones attributes his “Don’t forget about the elderly” mindset to her longevity. He passionately believes that pastors must prepare the elderly “to transition.” Therefore, his church each Sunday ministers to Brown’s, Heritage and Westwood nursing homes.
Even though Jones is known for his ministries, one of his greatest accomplishments is the BLJ Grace Center. This multipurpose building sits majestically on 12 acres and has become the hub of the Whitesville area. Jones' initial vision was to give the neighborhood boys a place to play basketball, but his vision grew much bigger.
This multipurpose center now houses pre-K and mentoring classrooms and has been used for events such as weddings, singing programs and funerals. He named it the Grace Center since this is what Jones says he mainly preaches about.
Pastor Gwendolyn Jones
No great man ever walks by himself, and such is true of Jones. His rib is his wife, Pastor Gwendolyn Jackson Jones, the daughter of Charlie (C.J.) Jackson and Bernice Latimer Jackson. As the only girl among five brothers, she learned to be strong, but supportive, which were qualities that attracted Jones to her as a mate.
Dating since high school, they married 42 years ago which they celebrated this month. Gwendolyn says that being a pastor’s wife was something she wasn’t totally committed to at first, but then God called her into ministry in 2003.
“I have chosen you,” God told her, and in obedience, she submitted to his will.
The couple has raised three loving children: Todric, Erica and Gwenetta; and nine grandboys (including a recent set of twins) and one granddaughter. To them, their parents are loyal, dependable and true believers. Love keeps them together.
In addition, Teresa Jackson calls them “anointed,” promoting a “life-changing ministry” where the “Word of God is alive.” In addition, Felecia Parks Okunbor says that they “have a genuine love for God’s people,” which keeps them humble and relatable to the common man as they give, but expect nothing in return.
The Jones' partnership has caused the Grace Center to flourish. Their vision for it is to “meet the daily needs of the overall person both socially and economically.” Consequently, their current activities include a Friday night social for the elderly, adding a 2018 senior ball and a new Boys-to-Men program that will begin this month.
The couple will also be implementing a plethora of new services such as diabetic foot care, cancer care, math SAT workshops, a black basketball league and athletic Hall of Fame along with another outreach program called “Under the Tree” ministry.
As trailblazers, God has filled the Joneses with vision and has given them the heart and the desire to serve his people. Because of their cooperation, collaboration and communication with each other and with God, God has not only given them his grace but also a center filled with it called the Grace Center.
May it forever serve God’s people, “gracing” Whitesville with its majestic presence.