Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Living

February 7, 2012

‘We are like a big family’

JACKSONVILLE — This just might be a record. If it's not, it's close. The Rev. Benny Walker has been a pastor at Taylor's Chapel Community Church in Tecula for 64 years.

But pastoring a church and looking after his congregation is not all this man has been doing for the last 70 years. He has been walking with and talking to the Lord, and leading others to the Savior for most of his life. He has not kept count of the weddings, funerals, baptisms and other important moments in life in which he has assisted.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, he went into the service and stayed until the war was over. It was during World War II, while he was in the Army Infantry stationed overseas, that he began having a little Sunday church service for the men.

Officers heard about it, came one Sunday and sent for Walker to come and talk to them. Without a guess, the officers told him they wanted him to continue doing the services, but to include the whole company. Walker said he considered it a blessing.

After conducting many services for the company, a Protestant and Catholic chaplain were brought in, and they would have communion on ship.

Once home from the war, he began studying at the seminary, now known as Southwest Assembly of God Seminary at Waxahachie. It was during this time that he began his ministry.  He received a bachelor's in social studies, a master's in education from Stephen F. Austin University and a public school administration degree.

Walker said he and his late wife, Louise, were both school teachers. He taught at New Hope School for several years, instructing seventh and eighth graders. He later taught for 34 years at LaPoynor. His teaching career lasted a total of 40 years.

Walker said he enjoyed working with youth groups, and during his time at New Hope, he also was a Boy Scout leader.

While simultaneously pastoring, in 1947 he and Mrs. Walker started their ministry at Taylor's Chapel in a little square building that had once been a residence. Many of the families who were there then, are still there, as are their descendants.

 "We are now with the fifth generation of some families,” Walker said. “We are like a big family.”

Not long after they started, they built a larger structure, making additions to the side and to the front. In 1987 the Benny and Louise Walker Family Life Center was constructed. The rich history of the church, began way back.

Walker said one year in January they told the children if they were at Sunday School every week until Easter, they would get a Bible. The turnout was great and they handed out lots of Bibles that Easter.

This is the only church Walker has pastored, but on occasion, he filled in for other pastors. He also conducted many retreats for children and youth with his wife.

"Coming here and building this church is like Moses leading the children from bondage," he said. "It's been wonderful."

Walker was born in Cross Roads, Tx. into a family of 11 children. His father was a farmer from Alabama growing mostly cotton, corn and peas. Of the four boys and seven girls in the family, there are three boys and three girls remaining. Walker attended school in Cross Roads before entering into the seminary.

Of his many experiences and memories, Walker said one of his most rewarding came at the end of the war. His company was assigned to releasing civilian Japanese prisoners from an old prison on the Philippine island of Luzon. He said they looked for the prisoners for three days, stopping often to pray, not knowing what they would find. They were finally found, all in one room, scared and starved.

While the prisoners were imprisoned on the island, they had taken scraps from clothing, any thing red, white or blue, and constructed an American flag. They would place it in a window upstairs for a time and then take it down because they were afraid that the Japanese would see it and kill them. Prisoners asked he rescuing unit to sign a Japanese combat shirt when they were liberated.

In 2007 there was a reunion of the prisoners and their families in San Augustine, Fl. The purpose of the reunion was to honor God for intervening in their lives and releasing them from bondage. Walker and many of the rescuing soldiers went to the event, and saw the combat shirt they all had signed.

Walker said he too had some close calls. When he was a youngster, he was swimming in a stock tank when he got a cramp and almost drowned. The late Vernon Harton pulled him out. Walker was able to pay back the debt to his hero later in life. When Larry Taylor nearly drowned in a stock tank as a youngster, Walker pulled him out.

Serving in the Army in Bouganville, Guadacanal and many islands of the Philippines, Walker said he feels God watched after him. He said his favorite message is, "Be faithful to death, and He'll give you a crown."

With the life he has lived, the work he has done and the faith he has, we expect him to have a wonderful crown waiting for him. He will be 90 years old today. He will be honored from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Family Life Center at the church, and his friends are invited. We hope to be among those helping him celebrate.

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