A new pastor and his family have moved to Overgaard in answer to a call to the pulpit from Overgaard Baptist Church. Pastor Eric Woods and his family including his wife of 22 years, Lori, and their two daughters, ages 8 and 3, relocated from Chino Valley, AZ about three months ago. Pastor Eric was raised in Navajo County where his parents were teachers in Greasewood on the Navajo Reservation. “Holbrook has been my base for most of my life,” he shared with me. In fact, he graduated from Joseph City High School, a longtime rival of our Mogollon Mustangs.
“Rick Samon has really been working to win me over and I’m starting to feel more comfortable rooting for the Mustangs,” chuckled Woods. Samon is a church parishioner and shop teacher/coach for Mogollon High School.
Pastor Eric shared he always hoped he would be able to return to Navajo County and specifically the Apache-Sitgreaves Forest to live. “I really love it here,” he said. He enjoys hiking and cycling and will have plenty of opportunity living here.
When he first entered the work force he went into the business sector as a business manager and then into the insurance industry. As he explained, “We had a new pastor at my church in Holbrook and I told him we needed to get our youth ministry back up and running. The pastor looked at me and said he thought that was a great idea and I should go ahead and get started. That took me by surprise, but was the beginning my journey into the ministry. That was in 1998 and I was more and more drawn to ministry and the church. So much so that in 2001, my wife and I moved to Wake Forest, NC where I enrolled in the Southeast Baptist Theological Seminary.”
After graduation in 2005, the new Reverend Woods was asked to be a church planter in Chino Valley near Prescott. After nine months of ground work, he started Summit Bible Church in April of 2006. The new pastor became involved in the community volunteering on several boards including the local Chamber of Commerce and Parks & Rec. The economic recession hit soon after they opened their doors; the Chino Valley area was severely affected making survival tough for a new church. In 2009, a member of the church asked Woods if he’d like to serve as chaplain for the elder care facility she managed and he accepted. His position eventually included many facilities: Independent Living, Assisted Living, Long-term Care facilities plus Hospice. “I covered a large area,” Woods shared. “At first I wasn’t sure of how I’d handle the older generation as most of my experience to that point had been working with youth and then the new church. But, I think I learned more from them than they did from me. I like to tell people I have like 90 grandmas.”
Pastor Eric and Lori are a couple acquainted with loss as they have had five children but three of them are now in heaven. They obviously have a heart for those who grieve from personal experience. When the opening at Overgaard Baptist came up, Pastor Eric was the pastor and youth minister of his church and the busy chaplain driving hundreds of miles per month. “I loved our little church,” Pastor Eric shared. “We had been there for nine years. But, I was driving one day and something just clicked. I thought, I’m ready for a change.” He’d received requests before to apply for pastoral positions around Navajo County, but when he applied for Overgaard Baptist and was excepted, he had peace with his decision.
In describing his style of leadership and his plans and ideas for his new congregation, Pastor Eric told me he practices “verse by verse expositional preaching.” I asked him what that means in plain English. “I preach the Bible,” he replied. He’s community and outwardly focused and is challenging the congregation to live intentionally and focused. His love of working with children and youth is still apparent. “I like to live moving forward,” he said. “I’m really not a status quo kind of guy.”
While Dr. Tom Doubt was serving as the interim pastor, the church began a 57 cents fund-raising campaign. You may know the story of the little girl in the late 19th Century, who died but left a note with 57 cents to build a bigger Sunday School building so kids wouldn’t be turned away. When a newspaper picked up the story, land was given to the church and a lot of money was raised for a new church. The story goes Temple Baptist Church in Philadelphia and Temple University were built because of this little girl.
Pastor Eric said they plan on using the monies raised to fund an Awana program for youth. “We’re a ways out on that, but we want to begin laying the groundwork over the next year,” he said. Across the globe, Awana gives kids from every background and cultural setting a place to belong, build confidence and grow in faith.
The first project that he’s already accomplished is to install new lighting in the sanctuary and repair the parking lot. The church has built a new pastoral office space which will be completed soon and Pastor Eric is excited to have a place for his reference materials (which are considerable.)
Welcome to this new family to our community! Overgaard Baptist and Pastor Eric invites everyone to visit them especially if you need a place to worship over the holiday season. Come and share their excitement over what God is up to in their midst.