AFLEX–Aflex is a small community in Pike County bordering West Virginia and situated along the Tug River. The once-thriving area, fed mostly by coal and railroad commerce, is now experiencing poverty due to the decline of both industries. Jeremy Smith, pastor of Aflex Baptist Church, knows the area well.
Smith was 27 years old when God called him to preach and started serving at Open Arms Baptist Church as an adult Sunday School teacher. Smith said at the time, “I was a little hesitant to tell my wife that God was calling me to preach, but much to my surprise, she already knew. God had revealed His desire to her heart, because when God calls a minister, he also calls his wife.”
Jeremy worked as a coal miner for 12 years, but recently lost his job due to the closing of numerous mines in the area. Smith said, “Through federal grants and financial aid programs, I am currently enrolled as a full-time student at Big Sandy Community and Technical School, aiming for a degree in Industrial Maintenance.”
Prior to being called as pastor of Aflex Baptist, he and his wife were serving at Sidney Missionary Baptist Church as Sunday School teachers and helping with the youth. Smith first came to Aflex because of a series of health issues with the former pastor, Gary May. May died in April of 2015, leaving behind his wife, adult children, and a small congregation at the church.
According to Smith, “His wife, Pat, very much a cornerstone in the congregation, was determined to see the ministry continue. I received a call from the church, asking me to preach on May 3, 2015. After preaching there almost every Sunday through July, and being asked to take the position as pastor, we had a meeting with the active members in the church.
“I wanted this meeting to be completely open, to lay the cards out on the table, so to speak,” he continued. “I told them to ask us whatever questions they had, and we, in turn, would do the same. I wanted to know their vision for the church, and if they were willing to make changes to see the church grow. After all hearts and minds were clear, we left the meeting with one request: ‘Don’t say we’ve never done it that way before.’”
Smith said that he and his wife were burdened by the lack of youth in the church, which led them to develop a youth recovery mission.
“Only days after accepting the call to pastor, we planned a back-to-school night and invited kids from all over the area to a special Sunday night service with an ice-cream social and a treat bag with school supplies,” he said. “The turn-out was even better than I had hoped. I don’t remember an exact total, but we had around 40 people in attendance that night. It was the beginning of a wonderful work that God had in store for our little church.”
Fast forward almost two years and you can see that God is doing a great work at Aflex. Sunday morning average attendance is about 35. They have a youth group of about 20 kids ranging from ages 3 to 16.
One of Smith’s greatest joys has been seeing people place their faith in Jesus and follow Him in believer’s baptism. He said, “I have had the pleasure of baptizing 10 new members into the family of God; we have had four members join by letters of faith from other churches, and some who have made a profession, but have not followed up in baptism.”
One of his favorite salvation stories from the church is from a lady named Irma. Irma has many personal challenges and has attended church with her mom, Lou, for many years. One day, Irma told Lou that she would like to be baptized, and Lou was able to share Jesus with her adult daughter.
Smith said, “The next Sunday, Lou told me the good news and explained that Irma wanted to be baptized. We set a date when her family could be there, and I had the pleasure of baptizing Irma. Lou later gave the testimony that she and Irma were in the car and Irma was smiling. She asked her why she was smiling, and Irma told her she was just so happy.”
She had peace with God and wanted to be faithful to Jesus through believer’s baptism.
When asked how Kentucky Baptists could best pray for him and the ministry of Aflex Baptist, Smith replied, “When praying for our church, pray for us to grow spiritually, and that new leaders will be raised up in the church so that we can adequately meet the needs of our church and our community. Pray for our church financially as the decrease in mining and railroad jobs has influenced the entire community. Pray for a church bus, as we have several members who don’t have reliable transportation and we could do so much with a bus ministry.
“My vision is to see the church grow in number, in faith, and in biblical knowledge,” Smith added. “In the short term, we are also hoping the buy the parcel of land beside the church to expand our parking.”
Smith is one of many bi-vocational Kentucky Baptist pastors doing great work who need our prayers and support. Pray for Smith and encourage other faithful pastors like him. (WR)