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Jackson was called to preach at age 10

Ken Jackson, pastor of Luverne United Methodist Church, knew from an early age that God had called him to minister. It happened in Smyrna, Ga., when he was 10-years-old.

"My family was real good friends with our pastor there," said Jackson. "He was someone you could look up to and consistent in the way he lived his life. He just affirmed in me who I was and what God was leading me to do."

Jackson experienced an equally enlightening affirmation when Virginia Law, the widow of an Africa-based missionary, delivered a stirring testimony at the church in Smyrna.

"Her husband had been killed in the Congo by people fighting in that region," he said. "And she talked about this love she had for the people who had killed her husband. It was a passion. I saw that in both her and our minister."

Jackson's father was in commercial construction, building high rises in cities throughout the southeast. Born in Mobile, Jackson spent a majority of his early childhood traveling with his father from one big project to the next. When he was in the sixth grade, he said, the family finally settled in Montgomery where he finished school, started his own construction business and married his wife, Cindy, in 1985.

Jackson said he started ministering in 1990, filling in for pastors at rural churches around Montgomery. At the same time he was also a full-time college student, business owner and father. He and Cindy's first child was born in 1993.

"I had to sell my bass boat," he joked.

In June 1999, he and his family moved to Wilmore, Ky., where he attended Asbury Theological Seminary. At a conference he also ran across Law, the woman who had inspired him so many years before.

"I was talking to a lady and noticed her name tag and where she was from," he said. "I told her that I knew Virginia Law, who was a missionary in Africa, that was from her hometown. The lady then pointed her out to me and where she was sitting."

Jackson was appointed minister at Luverne United Methodist Church on Father's Day. For he and Cindy, he said, it's like coming home. She's from the Camp Ground community and graduated from Crenshaw Christian Academy.

"It's a calling, not a job," said Jackson of being a minister. "I like the relationships you have with people. The realizations they have when they grasp Biblical truths and are set free of bondage - be it spiritual, financial or whatever."