The Rev. James Moore of Orangefield announced to a solemn crowd last Wednesday night that he would resign after six years as pastor of the Orangefield United Pentecostal Church. Moore will move to Longview, Texas with his young family, where he will continue his noteworthy ministry.

Pastor Moore and his wife, Cheryl, came to Orangefield in 2005, after evangelizing for nearly a decade. The couple’s youth concerned a number of the thirteen members who were attending at the time. Yet, Moore had been in Bible college and preaching publicly since he was younger than fifteen years old. The 25-year-old Moore quickly proved that age has nothing to do with dedication and determination. Through bible studies, prayer, and good old fashioned TLC, he and his wife brought the church from 13 dedicated members to more than 150. 

While the Rev. Moore worked diligently to win the confidence of the local community, Cheryl Moore built a noteworthy Sunday school from scratch. She started with one little helper and a handful of giddy children. She has done amazing work. She is now known by all of the Orangefield children who come from far and wide, with and without their parents, to enjoy “Children’s Church,” Sunday School, games, and puppet shows. Along the way, the couple’s children Daniel, Julianna, and Joel have taken part in and added to the Children’s ministry. 

Having to rebuild the church after Hurricane Rita in 2005 and to cope with the loss of their home by fire last year only drew the church family together. The Moores lived to serve others and made the fact known to all. They lived their lives with their eyes wide open, looking for someone that they could help, build up, encourage, and serve. The church has been not only a growing, thriving church under the Moore leadership, having added more than ten new members so far this year, but also it has a deep history, going back many decades, boasting some of the original members on its membership role.

In time, Moore’s youth and wisdom came in handy as the church took an odd shape, reflecting its odd pastor. Unlike a typical church, Orangefield UPC was mostly youth, the average age of membership being 23, and steadily declining as there has been an ever increasing growth in young members. Moreover, the church was atypical in that it is 70 percent men.  Moore had a way in dealing with men, with young people, with troubled people, and with lonely people, reminding them that everyone matters and that they can change the world with a little bit of faith. 

The church body reflects Moore’s leadership in the countless teenagers that attend the church faithfully with and without their families. The more than twenty youth who attend without any encouragement from their families, some without even the approval of their families, do more than merely attend. Over the years, they have become remarkable, trustworthy citizens, college students, preachers, teachers, musicians, and have made numerous other impacts on the Orange community. Also, they have played a tremendous role in mentoring other troubled youth in the Orange area. The Rev. Moore, undoubtedly would deny the credit for helping these kids. He would humbly call them “low maintenance” and laugh. 

He would tell them the story of the isolated zebra. “Always stick together,” he would say. “A lone zebra is easy to spot by a lion.  But the zebra’s defense mechanism is in his stripes. When zebras stick together, their lines move up and down and left and right, and all the lion can see is mass confusion. It hurts his eyes, and he runs away. Always stick together.”  And that they have.

From the time he was fifteen, Kendall Morphew was inseperable from his pastor. This past Wednesday night, he was inconsolable. Morphew said, “I can’t put into words how much he has benefited my life. If it was not for him, I would probably be selling drugs right now.” Morphew has grown into a responsible, intelligent college student with aspirations of being a police officer. He is a mountain of encouragement to those who are lucky enough to know him.

Cory McCarver was another youth greatly affected by the work of Moore. McCarver stated, “Ever since the third grade, I have not had a father at home. When I started going to Orangefield UPC, Bro. Moore stepped in and filled the void in my life that needed, so desperately, to be filled. I am 20 now and would not be the person I am today had not Bro. Moore been there to lead me.”

Moore has left behind him a large group of capable people ready to rise to whatever task lay before them. The board of trustees: Jackie Williams, Claude Taylor, Brian Gibbs, and Chris Williams, met on Sunday to initiate a search for a new pastor. At the suggestion of the board, the church unanimously agreed to hear the Rev. Jeff Sanders of Arkansas as a possible replacement, and to vote next Wednesday on approval. Sanders is a man already well-known and well-respected by the congregation, and a man who understands the great love that the congregation has for their former pastor.

As with the loss of any loved one, we must take one day at a time, leaning on each other and never giving up on our journey. Those who are at a loss for words would do no better than to remember the words that their pastor once spoke to a dumbstruck crowd of believers: “We’ve got to have the mind of a Cortez Peters- I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to.  My ships are all burned and I’m pressed against the waters of the sea.  I might die, but I’ll die fighting. I might struggle, but I’ll struggle in the fight. This is my inheritance from God, and I will not walk away from it.”