When Johnny Rayford received the e-mail to Mississippi pastors requesting volunteers across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, he decided he had to respond.
When Johnny Rayford received the e-mail to
Mississippi pastors requesting volunteers across the Mississippi Gulf
Coast, he decided he had to respond.
Rayford immediately gathered all the equipment he
would need and headed south. However, his truck was not loaded with
chain saws, cleaning supplies or water.
Instead, Rayford brought cooking pots, four portable
gas burners, propane tanks, a pile of spices and boxes of food on the
He then ended up at First Baptist Church of Bay St. Louis, Miss., doing one of the things he does best.
Rayford serves as pastor at Crestwood Baptist Church
in Jackson, Miss., and admits he is not good with a chain saw. “But I
can do some cooking,” he insists.
At one time, Rayford owned a Jackson restaurant
called “A Little Taste of New Orleans” and was pastor of a small
church. But a fire that destroyed his restaurant sent him in a new
direction. He decided to be a fulltime pastor.
“My restaurant was my passion,” he says. “And when
it becomes your passion, it consumes you. When the restaurant burned
down, I lost it all. So, I gave myself to God. Now, he gets everything.
He’s my passion.”
Two years ago, Rayford began a church with just five
people. Today, the congregation has 125 people worshiping on Sundays
and almost as many involved in daily ministries, including food,
clothing and after-school programs.
However, Rayford still has not lost his love of
cooking. He cooks every third Sunday for all New Life church members.
And in Bay St. Louis, he cooked for all the volunteers and First
Baptist Church members cleaning up their flooded and damaged facilities.
“Your taste buds will be dancing,” Rayford promised
the workers who walked through the church’s newly-cleaned and
Rayford came from a cooking kind of family. “My mom,
my sister, my father, all of ’em are good cooks,” he explained. “They
get in the kitchen and make magic.”
So does Rayford. The first afternoon, he whipped up
clam chowder, red beans and rice and fried chicken. The next day, it
was smothered pork chops and fried catfish.
But when workers at the church asked for recipes of the dishes – and many did – Rayford politely refused.
“I share the gospel,” he says. “I share the good news. But I don’t share my cooking secrets.”
Disaster relief volunteer Elaine Jollay of Columbus,
Ga., says she was disappointed not to be taking Rayford’s secrets home
with her. But as she ate her fourth piece of fried chicken, she added –
“I love those disaster relief volunteers who cook for us. But as long
as Johnny’s here, I’ll be eating with him.” (BP)