Truth, Transparency and Transformation

A few years ago, Jasper Hughes was sleeping
under bridges, addicted to and dealing drugs. He
had separated from his wife, Linda — who was at
the time working for the Dallas Independent School
District — and their three young boys. He lived alone,
surrounded by prostitutes, drug dealers and gang activity
in a crime-heavy area of South Dallas. He was at
rock bottom, and something had to change — an
epiphany Jasper remembers as occurring on a Tuesday.

“Frito Lay was my dinner,” he said, “and I worked with the
Labor Pools. I had moved. I was staying in an apartment-like
place off of Grand Avenue [in Dallas]. My wife came to visit
me. I had been praying. I had made up my mind it was time for
me to change, so I asked God to intervene, and He did it for
me. That’s when my change began to take place. I felt myself
in present danger, I was not comfortable in that area — in that
lifestyle — anymore, and I felt it was time. I know that was just
God tugging.”

Now, Jasper is the pastor and co-founder (along with Linda
and three Ennis residents: Alice Lindsey, a retired schoolteacher;
Anna Ewing, a local businesswoman; and Paula Blessing) of
The Way, Truth and Life Church. The Church was officially
founded approximately 14 years ago, and has recently established
a consistent congregation of 65-70 people. The group has really
begun to shine in the past few months, according to Linda.
“It is amazing,” Linda said. “We’re looking at the hand of
God. We’ve been obscure, like in hiding, for a long period of
time. Our ministry was known more or less to people just in
this area, because of the GED program we had for about six
years, and we would sponsor youth rallies, back-to-school kind
of things. Things we would do would be just for this area. We
would put it out there, but you know it would only be a few
people in this area who would really, come.

“It is the church’s time,” Linda said. That, coupled with the
atmosphere of acceptance that pervades the church, explains
the sudden increase in congregation. “We’re not like most
churches — and I wouldn’t want to say anything that would
judge other churches, but there’s a lot of freedom here. And
we’re multicultural, truly diverse. We’ve never wanted to be
known as an African-American church, a white church or a
Hispanic church. We’ve always wanted to be known as a church
where you don’t have to be anybody to be somebody. We’re
eclectic. Don’t put us in a box.”

The thrust of the church’s ministry
revolves around empowerment. This
is why much of the church involves
children and young people. In addition
to the GED program, Linda and Jasper
founded a child care center in 2002.
Jasper and Linda have been married
for 33 years. After their reconciliation,
they had two more children, both of
them girls. When they met, Jasper had
recently come out of the Navy, where
he had served three years. He said he felt
the call of the Lord when he was 17,
but instead decided to join the military.
Even after his three-year term of service
ended, he still ignored the call to ministry.
He became a drug dealer — a fact
unknown to Linda for nearly the first
13 years of their marriage. When he —
with the help of God — overcame his
addiction, he heeded the Lord’s word, got
back together with Linda and set out to
become a pastor. “I ran from the Lord
for 21 years before I finally accepted my
calling,” Jasper said. “You know, God
will let you do that for a while, but when
enough is enough, He [pulls you back in].
So He broke me. I always tell everybody
that He rode me as if I was in a rodeo.
He put the spurs on and the bridle in my
mouth and He broke me. That was my
turning point.”

Jasper is soft-spoken, with a ball cap
pulled low over his brow and a T-shirt
that accentuates his large biceps. His
muscular, stocky frame makes him look
more like a club bouncer than a pastor,
but his honest, down-to-earth demeanor
makes him approachable and easy to
relate to. “I usually tie in a lot of what I
have done and bring it into my messages
to make it real for the people,” Jasper stated.
“If I can tell them something about
what I have been through and what
has happened to me, then it will help
them. There are three things I preach
that I’d like to see in each and every one
of them, and that’s truth, transparency
and transformation. If we’ve got those
three things in our lives, then God can
help produce some mighty things for us.
So I’m real transparent. It just opens it
up more for the people when I can talk
about myself. People feel comfortable
when they feel you are for real. Matters
of the heart, that’s what I call them.”

Linda is more extroverted — she
speaks passionately and exuberantly
of the church and its endeavors. Jasper
saves his talkative side for the pulpit. The
pair is as close to perfectly matched as
possible, and it shows in the success they
have managed to cultivate together.
After reuniting, Linda and Jasper
moved to Ennis, where they decided to
build a house. They purchased land after
having it surveyed, and were set to move
forward when they ran out of money.
Their plans seemed at a stalemate, when
Jasper and Linda went to Dallas for a
ministerial engagement. “It was there
someone said to me ‘Well, I heard you
moved to Ennis to build a church,’”
Linda said. “I told my husband, ‘That’s
how rumors get started.’” So, instead of
a house, they built a church, which has
become more than a home for their
ever-growing congregation.

Linda met Alice Lindsey at an Ennis
Bible study and they quickly hit it off.
The ministry officially began in Alice’s
home. Now, 14 years later, they remain
hard at work, attempting to bring peace,
positive change and hope to their
community. “Right now we’re all seeking;
we’re all hoping we can find a true way —
that we can bring things together. We’re
still here. We’re still striving to do all we
can do, while also being led by God,”
Jasper said. “We’re listening to the voice
of the Lord.”

Written by Adam Kohut