When Pastor James Ross resigned his pastorate to start a new ministry for the inner city children and youth, the hungry, homeless and poor in the Texarkana community, he had to step out on faith with no salary, building or members. However, after speaking to group of believers at a revival at First Baptist Church, Lewisville, Arkansas, about his passion, a check came in the mail from a couple who wanted to make the first offering to his vision for Life House Ministries. First Baptist Lewisville even voted to become a “partner church” and has sent an offering every month since then.
“God provides!” James Ross says. “We aren’t a rich ministry and we don’t have a big steeple, pews, stained glass windows, but we have love for all people and hope for all who come our way. When I became convinced that this was God’s will for us to start this type ministry, there was no struggle at all.”
James was born in New Boston, Texas, but grew up in Texarkana and graduated from Texas High School in 1980. He met and married his pastor’s daughter, Cynthia (Cindy) Wright, on July 4, 1980, and they are the proud parents of three boys: Josh Ross, Clint Ross and Justin Ross. James surrendered his life to the ministry on April 8, 1979, at Richmond Road Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas and preached his first sermon that night. He was later ordained on October 2, 1983 at Unity Baptist Church, Hope, Arkansas.
Through his 33 years in the ministry, James had led congregations at Bodcaw #1 Baptist Church in Bodcaw, Arkansas, Bethany Baptist Church in Spring Hill, Arkansas, First Baptist Church of Shady Grove, Laurel, Mississippi and Faith Baptist Church in Texarkana, Arkansas.
“The best thing about my job is getting to see people with no hope find real hope for today, tomorrow and eternity,” James says. “I love seeing people saved and watching them grow as their lives turn around.”
After years of working as a “traditional” pastor, James started feeling that God was calling him in a new direction. In fact, it was his wife’s involvement with a jail ministry that really helped lead James to the conclusion that God’s will was for him to open a multi-ethnic church in the College Hill area of Texarkana for inner city children & youth, the hungry, homeless and poor.
“My wife and her passion for those who seemingly ‘fall through the cracks’ or don’t fit in at the traditional churches is what God used to move my heart and get me ready for this ministry,” James says. “She and a friend used to go to Miller County Detention Center each Sunday night and share a Bible Study. I would go one Sunday night a month and preach for them. They fell in love with those ladies who needed love, a friend and many of them a Savior. However, that many people ‘with a past’ don’t feel comfortable in a traditional church setting.”
Both James & Cindy knew that this was their passion and God’s calling for their lives so in 2008 , they left the church they were leading, and with the support of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, Southwest Arkansas Baptist Association, Shiloh Baptist Church in Texarkana, Arkansas (sponsor church), they were able to plant a brand new ministry for the Texarkana community.
“Our personal mission is to reach ALL people with God’s love regardless of where they are, where they have been, what they are involved in or their color of skin,” James says. “Many people tried to talk us out of moving to the area and starting a new mission because it was ‘unsafe, impossible and foolish’, but we decided that we had to follow God’s call. We are so thankful we did. God has given us many friends and a church family that we otherwise would have never met.”
Since Life House opened in May 2008, they have seen many people profess faith in Jesus and many have been baptized.
“At Life House we do not care about a person’s past. We only care about their future,” James says. “While we have many people who attend our services that are not inner city youth or even hungry, homeless or poor, we seek to reach out to those who might not fit in with other churches or ministries. We do not place an emphasis on dress, committees, budgets, offerings or anything like that. We seek to love, teach, reach and preach God’s love, salvation and restoration for all people.”
Life House offers many ministries now that help with feeding, clothing, addiction recovery, afterschool ministry, youth & children’s ministry and more. Our weekly worship service is each Sunday morning at 10:10 a.m. (which comes from our key verse: John 10:10). We offer free rides to and from all meals and activities at the Life House building. We pick up anywhere from 30 to 60 people in our vans for Sunday Breakfast and our worship service. We also have Children’s Kidz Klub on Wednesday Night and Youth Ministry on Monday night and offer a hot meal during both of those times as well. “We have found that many in Texarkana do not have the money or food resources that many of us take for granted,” James says. “We began the food ministry as a little ‘coffee shop’ before services on Sunday morning, and it grew beyond belief.
Perhaps the most surprising fact is that Life House has managed feed, clothe, and have all the helps programs all from partners and donations alone. We do not fundraise. We don’t not beg. We believe we have a great big GOD and if we need it we just pray and make the need known and IF He wants us to have it – it comes. We have been amazed at the provision of God (Philippians 4:19) He has promised that He would provide!
“We are dependant on the Lord to provide the funding necessary to keep this ministry running,” James says. “We have a few partner churches, as well as a few faithful individuals who give regularly to keep us afloat. We thank God for those who love to help the children, youth, hungry and the needy and are so faithful to help us. Life House began with a determination and conviction that we would never charge for anything or do fundraisers but rather give freely like Jesus did.”
Life House received a donation of a church building in New Boston, and has helped to “birth” a new church there. Plentiful Harvest Church & Mission Center. Bro. Robert & Mrs. Beth Little serve as the Pastors there. We also were given a building in Hope, AR and Bro. Mike & Mrs. Shana Fitch serve as campus pastors there (Life House Hope). We are blessed to be able to try to reach out, plant and share the LIFE HOUSE DNA in other cities as God opens the door.
“When people visit Life House, they many times use the term ‘real’ over and over again.” James says. “Life House is the kind of place you can come forward for prayer or lay down your bong or crack pipe, meth pipe and not be judged, but loved and prayed for. We hope that the type church we are offering encourages those people who are struggling, in whatever way they are struggling, to still reach out and find God. Jesus is the ONLY ANSWER for whatever you are going through.”
Life House also has a “GOD’S CLOSET” Ministry (905 East Street, Texarkana, AR) which takes donations of household items, clothing, and ‘garage sale’ items to help those in the community who are starting over or cannot afford the necessissities for their families in these hard economic times. God’s Closet is open to serve the community every Monday and Wednesday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Everything there is FREE.
“We also go out into the community and share whatever we get,” James says. “We’ve been given a truck load of watermelons, frozen chicken, water, and we’ve made tons of homemade brownies, mother’s day carnations and many more things like this and we simply go out into the community on a trailer or neighborhood by neighborhood on foot and ‘love on’ people. It’s been amazing to see God use small things to touch hearts.”
In the years to come, James hopes to see God expand their already-full Texarkana, Arkansas location. They need more room for the feeding ministry, worship area, storage and more. We dream someday to be able to build a large metal building that could house the worship area, small gym for the area children/youth and even some proper bathrooms with showers and a room for some stack-able washer and dryers for those who need to use them.
“I pray for the chance to continue to help those who are less fortunate in our community and who desperately need love and support” James says. ” Cindy and myself are blessed to be a part of this mission and be able to see all that God is doing.” “I don’t know what the future holds. I only know that where God leads – He provides.”