Picayune People: Granite Shoals minister Jeff Garner takes his job to heart
Ask Jeff Garner about his children, and he will quote Psalm 127:5. “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”*
He and wife LuzCinda certainly do, having raised 14 biological children and one adopted.
“We have had a blessed life,” said the new pastor at First Baptist Church of Granite Shoals. “People asked how we did it financially, but the Lord always provided.”
Now empty-nesters, LuzCinda works as a home health nurse, while Jeff has come out of retirement yet again to return to the pulpit in a career path that has varied over their 40 years in Burnet.
“I felt called to preach when I was about 30,” he said. “I did a lot of fill-in work in Baptist churches in the Highland Lakes area. When I was 50, God called me to Emmanuel Baptist in Oatmeal. I was pastor there for 12 years.”
In 2021, Jeff retired from preaching as well as his job as a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, a position he held for 33 years. For the first eight years, he worked part time delivering mail while also working full time as a compliance officer at First State Bank of Burnet. He left the bank job after 13 years.
The Garners have been married for 42 years, ever since Jeff was a sophomore at Baylor University in Waco. LuzCinda attended McLennan Community College in Waco, earning her licensed vocational nursing degree. She has returned to nursing now that the kids are grown, Jeff said.
They moved to Burnet after graduation and became members of First Baptist Church of Burnet, where he sometimes preached over the years. His very first sermon was delivered at First Baptist in Lake Victor as a visiting lay preacher.
Retirement lasted only a year after the post office job.
“God led me to turn in my résumè and become a preacher again,” he said. “I’m so excited to be here in Granite Shoals. I love the church. I love the people.”
His biggest challenge as the pastor at this 60-year-old church will be helping it rebuild after the pandemic, he said. Before the 2020 lockdown caused by COVID-19, the church had about 150 members. It dropped to 35 but is climbing again with about 55 now back in the pews.
“Quite frankly, churches all over have suffered due to the pandemic,” he said. “But a lot are regaining members and rebuilding.”
Early last year, he went to a seminar where the discussion centered on starting new churches.
“I realized it would be wiser at this time, rather than planning a church, to be a pastor of an established church because there are so many needs,” he said.
To extend the church’s outreach, Garner will be recording sermons for homebound congregants. The church live-streamed sermons during COVID, but now the push is to bring everyone back into the building to reconnect as a community.
With that in mind, Garner is also working with the Highland Lakes Crisis Network, a nonprofit organization that brings together area churches to help with disasters and solve some of the region’s social ills, such as hunger and homelessness.
He also has his eyes on the future. Five or 10 years down the road, when his wife retires from nursing, Garner said they both plan to become foreign missionaries.
“One of the highlights of my life was that I got an opportunity to go to Russia as a foreign missionary for two weeks,” he said. “I was really blessed by that. My wife and I feel we are called to be foreign missionaries someday. We believe God will send us out.”
Meanwhile, Jeff and LuzCinda plan to enjoy their 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, although many of them live some distance away. One in particular, 6-year-old Krissy, lives in Lampasas and visits often. Garner showed off a heart-shaped pin she gave him on Valentine’s Day that he proudly attached to the lapel of his suit jacket.
“One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Chronicles 16: 9,” he said. “‘For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.’ That’s one of my key elements to preach on is the heart. A perfect heart is a balanced heart. Everything that happens, God uses for good in the life of Christians.”
Can I hear an “Amen?”
*King James version