A Product of His Raising
An age-old question asks, “What makes a man a man?” Some people compare themselves to others to determine their manly worth, while others say the more “things” a man acquires, the more he is worth. Is it a combination of qualities like masculinity, power, hard work, strength, reliability, or sensitivity? If not, then many people might just agree with me that a man is a person who is a product of his raising.
It is a privilege for me to introduce you to such a man, Pastor Raymond Ingram. Raymond Ingram was born to proud parents Darius and Francis Ingram in the Shady Grove Area approximately eight miles South of Highway 59 in Gary, Texas. He had five brothers and one sister, all of whom learned by example the value of hard work. Besides having the responsibility of raising seven children, Raymond’s mother was a nurse at Panola General Hospital and at nursing homes in Marshall and Center. Raymond’s dad also worked hard as an entrepreneur repairing cars and as a carpenter who crafted church furniture.
Raymond says that every time the doors of Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church opened, he would be there, whether he wanted to be or not. He watched his mother work hard as the church secretary and participate in a women’s group called the Heroines of Jericho. The group attended “circle meetings” each week at different women’s homes for Bible studies. “My siblings and I were taken along religiously each week, having the opportunity to be molded by the Word of God spoken by these wonderful women. I also got to see my father, a deacon at Shady Grove, work in the church and later accept his call to become a pastor. He first pastored a church in Jefferson and then a small church in Shelby County near Timpson. Ultimately, I was a preacher’s kid!”
The leadership of his parents was poured into Raymond during his youth. As a young man, he had the opportunity to showcase his leadership skills by singing in the choir and by joining “The Palace,” a youth organization through Shady Grove Missionary Baptist. Raymond and the group traveled to Ft. Worth to present oratories and songs worshiping the one true God. Raymond also had the opportunity to join Boy Scout Troop 249 as a youngster. The Boy Scout meetings were held at the Presbyterian church by Carthage High School, and Mr. Nichols was the Scout Master. Young Raymond showed strong leadership skills, and Mr. Nichols suggested that he go through leadership training called Order of the Arrow. From this training, Raymond knew that he wanted to work at the George W. Pirtle Boy Scout Encampment as part of the leadership staff, and he spent several summers there mentoring and training younger scouts.
While Raymond was being molded by his parents, his grandparents made a huge impact on his life as well. Raymond’s grandmother participated in the summer feeding program at Turner School, and he has fond memories of serving the community every summer with her. They began early in the morning, and his grandmother would have Raymond and his brother Glendel working until every last person had been fed. Raymond’s grandfather was also a pastor and according to Raymond, “I think this is where my drive came from.” Raymond’s grandfather would travel from Shady Grove to his job in Longview at the telephone company, then drive to seminary in Dallas and in between, pastor a church in Longview. He later pastored a church for many years in Shelby County named East Liberty. Raymond Ingram saw passion, initiative, and determination in his grandfather, and it was implanted in him to capture this energy for his own.
Raymond counted his whole community as family, agreeing with the statement, “It takes a village to raise a child.” He was surrounded with teachers, preachers, entrepreneurs, and leaders. Two women he especially remembers, Ms. Lily and Ms. Martha. He says, “Ms. Lily attended my church and saw something in me at a young age. She would always encourage me, telling me I would be pastoring one day because God had His hands on me. Ms. Lily encouraged everybody, but I remember her calling my name, pulling me aside, and talking to me about my future.”
Then there was Ms. Martha, Raymond’s Sunday School teacher. According to Raymond, “She was very influential and had a special way of helping me understand the lesson. I met her at the impressionable age of 10, and she passed away only a few years later when I was 12 or 13. In those short years, she made a huge impact on my life by being able to help me understand the Word of God!”
As Raymond became a man, he took all of the things he had learned as a child and applied them to his life. Because he knew the direction he needed to go, he was on track when he met his future wife. It’s not very often a man can say he literally gets to marry the woman of his dreams, but this is an honest-to-goodness statement for Raymond about his beautiful wife, Monica. He met Monica Brown in junior high and according to Raymond, the Lord showed her to him through a dream. Monica also said she dreamed that one day she would marry a man named Raymond Ingram. Monica didn’t just dream his name; she dreamed the entire wedding! The next day, she was determined to find out about the man in her dream and asked her friend, “Who is Raymond Ingram?” Her friend pointed him out, and that was not just the end of the dream but the beginning of a small spark.
Strangely enough, Monica and Raymond really didn’t talk to each other until after he graduated from college. Raymond had moved back to Carthage and was the manager at the Sonic Drive-In. He gave Monica her first real job, but after the boss-employee meeting, there was no serious relationship kindled. Raymond left Carthage and moved to North Carolina. Although he kept in contact with Monica, nothing serious became of it.
Raymond was called to preach at the young age of 13, but he knew he was too young for that responsibility at the time. However, the intensity of the call to preach grew greater each year, and he finally accepted the call when he was 27 years old in Charlotte, North Carolina. His love for the Word of God, for people, and for ministry in the church in Charlotte began to grow and thrive. While he was in North Carolina he decided it was time to find a wife. He remembers putting $2.50, which was a lot of money for him, into a pay phone to call his father and talk to him about his decision. After the serious conversation with his father, a series of life’s unfortunate trials began for Raymond. His grandfather passed away, followed by his aunt and then his dear father, so Raymond kept having to come back home to Texas for funerals.
After one of the funerals, Raymond went back to North Carolina and called Monica. Their conversation turned to talk about marriage, and Raymond remembers praying about the possibility of marrying Monica and wanting to feel the peace that only God could give. The couple began to make plans for the wedding, and Raymond started to get cold feet, but he says God got his attention one Friday night. Every Friday, Raymond would detail his car at his dad’s shop. That particular evening, walking into the house to get towels to dry the car, he prayed, asking for assurance that he would be doing the right thing if he married Monica.
Raymond asked God for a sign: if she was the one for him, let the lightning flash three times. The sky went completely dark with no lightning and not even a rumble of thunder. He gathered the towels and walked back to the shop. The moment his foot touched the concrete in the shop, the lights went out, and he perceived that this could be God answering his prayer. Raymond lifted his foot up again and the lights came on and proceeded to go on and off as he continued lowering and lifting his foot. On the fourth time, Raymond said to God, “If this is You confirming my decision, please let the lights stay on when I put my foot back down,” and they did! With all doubts removed, Raymond and Monica were married five months later on August 12, 1995.
The couple has three children, JaCorbian (27), Darrian (18), and Destinee (16). JaCorbian is a cell phone specialist for AT&T in Lonvgivew, Darrian is a senior at Carthage High School and planning to go to Tyler Junior College to pursue a business degree, and Destinee is a junior at Carthage High School.
Raymond worked for two years at Shady Grove Baptist Church as associate pastor and became pastor at Social Point Baptist Church in Tenaha, Texas under Brother Lymessia. It was a small country church with a congregation of about 25-30 people. Brother Lymessia left to pastor a church in Jefferson, and Raymond says he tried everything to get them NOT to choose him as their pastor. But one of the women of the church, Ms. Mitchell, said that the Lord told her in prayer that Raymond would be the pastor of the church. There was no arguing with Ms. Mitchell or the Lord, and Raymond remained at Social Point Baptist Church for eight or nine years.
Raymond says, “The Lord then impressed upon me that I needed to begin a new work in Carthage, and New Life Fellowship Church was born. The group started with me, my family, and my sister-in-law as a Bible study group out of my home. We then moved into a business office near the courthouse, and our number grew to more than 15. Within six months we moved to a larger location and stayed there about two years, and as we continued to grow, the church moved to another building for four years and then to its current location at 522 Beverly Street.”
The group that started out as an informal Bible Study with only family attending grew into a church with structured services. Now prayer meetings followed by Bible Study are held each Wednesday, and on Sunday, a worship service and classes for women, men, young adults, and youth. Ministries in the church include going into the community, washing cars, working within the college community, and the King’s Cabinet that helps with feeding the needy.
Raymond says that the poor are near and dear to his heart. He shared statistics in Panola County showing 54% of the population struggling with hunger. The King’s Cabinet group partners with the East Texas Food Bank of Tyler to help feed people and is always looking to begin partnerships with businesses and local farmers. The King’s Cabinet is open every third Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the New Life Fellowship Church. Raymond says that everyone is welcome. Some minimal information is required from people served, but he firmly states, “We don’t want to get in anyone’s business; we just want to share the love of Christ.”
Another outreach program that Raymond was involved in was called Boys to Men. Three years ago, he and Pastor Keefe Cropper of First United Methodist Church developed this mentoring program and, along with several other local men, served in it weekly. When Pastor Cropper left and the program stopped, Raymond was very concerned about filling the void left in ministering to at-risk young men and women. His vision for a mentoring program, LifeCode, was brought to life through the help of the church and as a part of Raymond Ingram Ministries.
LifeCode is currently held at the Turner Building. It started in the Fall of 2017 and involves various community leaders. These leaders donate their time, resources, wisdom, and insight to redirect today’s at-risk teens. The program promotes good character, leadership, and morality, as well as teaching different types of life skills. One week the teens had a Car Care 101 program which explained how to change a flat tire, check oil, water etc. Another volunteer, Officer Carl Harris of the Carthage Police Department, came and talked about Arrive Alive, which helps teens learn how to interact with the police. “We want to give these teens tools to help them,” says Raymond. “We even have plans for a chef come in and teach them how to create a meal with what is left over in the refrigerator. We also had a great LifeCode Mentoring Banquet to share with parents and others some of the things the students have learned during our first year and to help the community become more aware of the program.”
LifeCode has from 15-20 youth in attendance, and Raymond hopes to increase these numbers next year. For more information about LifeCode and the opportunities to help, contact Raymond Ingram at 903-431-8160, Otis Amy at 903-746-1582, or Monica Ingram at 903-407-5812. There is also a Facebook page for LifeCode. Although the program has ended for the semester, there will be related activities planned throughout the summer.
Continuing to be a man greatly influenced by his raising, and reminded of the belief that hard work pays off, Raymond has authored several projects, including “Breaking the Chains—Dealing with Generational Cycles.” Others include: “Living Godly in an Ungodly World” and “Trivia Family Feud—Exploring the 10 Commandments through the Eyes of Christ in Today’s Culture.” Copies of the Bible Study programs can be obtained from Raymond. He has also recently authored a book which will be released soon entitled When a Man Covers a Woman, which examines the man’s role to his family, wife, and children and the wife’s role to the family in God’s design for marriage.
In addition to serving as a pastor, mentor, author and family man, Raymond Ingram is a businessman, writing annuities and selling life, accident, health and supplemental insurance. He and Monica also have a catering business. It is easy to see that this very busy, very productive man with a heart for God and a passion for serving people is certainly a product of his raising!