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Hackathorns right at home in Brantley

Originally from Ohio, Pastors Ron and Joanna Hackathorn spent 30 days traveling across the United States before hearing God's call and settling in Brantley at the Word of Faith Church.

God's call, said Ron, came in the form of an email from Keith Morgan, an Elder at Word of Faith and youth minister.

"One day I received an email from Keith asking me how far I would be willing to come and preach," recalled Ron.

Ron said when they started traveling the country almost two years ago he and Joanna had no set agenda. Both were graduates of Nazarene Bible College and during their 30-year ministry they had presided over 10 churches in Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois and Ohio. Four of those churches they founded and helped build from the ground up.

Ron said a number of pastors who applied for the position at Word of Faith recanted their applications when they found out how small of a community Brantley was. Ron and Joanna didn't.

"We fell in love with Brantley and the people," Ron said. "We live right on Main Street. Even if we weren't ministering, we'd still want to live here."

The pair is from East Liverpool in Ohio and grew up together, childhood sweethearts since both were in the third grade. They have four adopted children, five grandchildren and one-great grandchild.

Youth - teenagers in particular - are a big part of Ron and Joanna's ministry. The church boasts a strong youth following, drawn to Word of Faith for its welcoming and non-judgmental atmosphere.

"They know they are loved," said Ron of the teenagers who come to Word of Faith. "All we do is love them and they come."

Ron also said the church, originally all white, has grown to include blacks, Jews and people from all different walks of lives. And that, he said, is what a non-denominational church is all about.

"It's a place where you can be a Catholic, a Jew, whatever," he said. "No one is there to intimidate you. No one's any better than anyone else."

Ron said he doesn't go out of his way to promote Word of Faith. He said when he meets someone new and ministers, he's often hesitant to even mention where he pastors.

"When I love people it isn't to get them to go to my church," he said. "I don't want to take a person out of his or her church. What I will do is encourage them to attend their own church."

Ron said he, Joanna, and the congregation try to create as comfortable an atmosphere as possible during service.

"We use a lot of contemporary music during worship," he said. "We have a praise team and we believe in exalting the Lord. A church should be a place to call home and where you can experience warmth and the administering of God's love."