OKEECHOBEE — After more than a year of searching, waiting and praying, Brighton Baptist Church has a new pastor.
For more than 24 years the church was led by Pastor Calvin Fryar, but due to health concerns for Fryar and his wife, he stepped down, leaving the pulpit vacant.
After Fryar left, several pastors from Everglades Baptist Church filled in, taking turns preaching on Sunday mornings.
Buckhead Ridge Baptist Church helped by sending missionaries from their church to serve at Brighton. Three couples were sent by the church to become regular attendees and to help the church in any way they could.
In January of this year, a retired pastor from Ohio, Bill Allen, felt called to step in as interim pastor so the members would have the same preacher every week and the church could possibly begin to grow.
Working diligently to canvas the neighborhood and meet people, Allen was able to slowly draw some people in the doors. Prior to his arrival, the church had eight regular attendees, including the six missionaries, but during his time at the church, that number more than tripled on some Sundays.
Allen always told the congregation he was there on an interim basis and when God called a new, permanent pastor, he would step down.
When Allen began pastoring Brighton, he invited his friends, Greg and Jenny Thacker, to join him at the church, and soon, Thacker knew where he was supposed to serve.
This month, Thacker told Allen he believed God was calling him to lead the church, and Allen was happy to step back and allow the new man to lead. The church voted to have Thacker as their new full-time, permanent pastor.
Thacker and his wife, Jenny, are also from Ohio and have known Allen for many years.
Prior to his retirement, Thacker ran his family business which was started by his parents in 1980. His son now runs the business, and Thacker still receives some proceeds from that, allowing him to dedicate his time, without pay, to the church.
Thacker was not raised in church but had Christian grandparents. “I always believed God was real and the Bible was His word,” said Thacker.
As a young man, he began reading the book of Revelations but found it difficult to understand. He decided to back up a book and read Jude to see if it helped make sense of Revelations. He continued backing up and ended up reading the entire Bible backwards. By the time he got to the book of Matthew though, he knew he wanted to be saved, he explained. “I was begging God to save me because I knew I was a sinner.”
Two weeks later, there was a knock on his door. It was a stranger, who turned out to be a pastor. “Next thing you know, he starts witnessing, and my wife got saved.” (He clarified that this was his first wife, who later passed away.)
Thacker married his second wife, Jenny, in 2013.
Though Thacker has some health issues, he is not ready to sit in a recliner for the rest of his life and plans to keep working.
The Thackers took a missionary trip to the Philippines in 2018, and when they returned, they both knew God was calling them to ministry they said.
After the death of Thacker’s father, the family moved to Okeechobee to be closer to Thacker’s mother so they could help her in any way she needed. She is a “Snowbird,” travelling back and forth between Ohio and Florida each year, but the Thackers made the decision to move full-time to Florida last year.
The Thackers have been spending all their spare time visiting people in the areas surrounding the church and cleaning up the facility. They want everyone who passes by to know the church is open for business.
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you say to the Lord, ‘Here’s my hands and my feet. Do with them what you will,’” said Jenny. “Here I am. Use me.” She loves nothing more than to organize banquets and fellowships, cook for large crowds and go on mission trips both in and outside the country.
“We want to be a church that supplies the needs for the family,” said Thacker.
Brighton Baptist Church has Sunday School classes at 9:30 a.m., worship services at 11 and 6 on Sundays, and on Wednesdays, they meet for dinner at 6 followed by a Bible study at 7 p.m.. Everyone is welcome.