He saw the light: Retiring pastor got off on the wrong foot

Published 12:58 pm Wednesday, March 8, 2023

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By KC Smith

Cooleemee Correspondent

Around 72 years ago, a tiny baby was taken by his grandmother to be raised in her Christian home in the poor town of Dante,Va.

The decision she made that day was the beginning of a journey for that baby who finished his 47 years in the ministry on Feb. 26.

Pastor Allen Mullins retired from First Baptist Church in Cooleemee. He pastored five churches and says he learned something at each which helped him grow and become a well rounded minister.     

His grandmother, July Ann, couldn’t read or write.  She cleaned houses for $1 a day. “People there were mean up in those mountains,” Mullins said.

He learned to read early by looking at Sunday comic sections in the newspaper.

Having a grandson who could read by the age of 6 became the link between his grandmother and a Bible.

There was no electricity in their home, but the radio was hooked to a car battery so they could listen to preaching.  On Saturdays, they would go to a house where a Pentecostal Mountain congregation met. Guitars, fiddles, banjos and such lead the gospel singing and it went on until 2 to 3 o’clock in the morning, he said.

By the time he became a teen, Mullins quit going to church with his grandmother and became rebellious.  Even though he had gone astray, he still felt in his heart there was something God wanted him to do, but he didn’t know what it was.

He graduated from high school and went to community college where he met his wife Judy.  Her parents tried to talk her out of marrying him. She was a Christian as was her family.

But he was not.

In July.  they got married.  That was a big decision for him, but he was about to make another decision that would change his heart forever.

One night while Mullins was getting ready to close up the service station where he worked, a stranger stopped by.  That stranger was a pastor that was leading a revival where his grandmother had been attending.  That night there was an altar prayer for him.

The pastor witnessed to him and Mullins accepted Christ to come into his life.

He lost his job at the service station and he and his wife had no where to go.

His aunt suggested they move to North Carolina.

And they did.

Moving to Hickory landed him a job at GE making $6 an hour.  You can imagine what he felt like to go from working 50 hours a week for $1.25 per hour to making almost $6 an hour.  What a quick leap to cloud nine.

They were young, had money and began steering from the Lord. They went places and did things.

His wife Judy was about to leave him at one point before they had a come-to-God meeting and got back in the church.

Grace Baptist Church in Bethlehem in Hickory is where he came involved in the church.  He taught Sunday school, he was made deacon and was on the building board.

One day in the car with Judy, he was thinking about how miserable he felt and was about to cry.

Judy said, “Why don’t you just give up, you know what God’s telling you to do.”

The next week at church, he announced his calling. That was in 1996.  The church licensed him under Watch Care and he was later ordained.   

He was called to Concord Baptist Church while he attended Fruitland Bible College in Hendersonville. He then went to New Hope Baptist in Brevard. He earned a bachelor’s degree in religion from Mars Hill College.

His journey continued to Statesville to pastor Pleasant Grove Baptist.  While there he received his Master of Divinity with languages in religion. During this time he worked with Iredell Statesville schools and Barium Springs Home for children in middle school classrooms.

Mullins was actually working there when he arrived at Cooleemee Baptist.

During his pastoral journey the Lord never left his side.

When the cupboards were bare he heard a voice saying call IFH.  Not knowing what that was, he called, a Baptist deacon answered the phone.  He gave him a weekend job, and opened boxes that couldn’t be sold landed on his kitchen table.

He lead a Mormon to the Lord and was hired by him because of his personality.

At the Barium Springs Home, students would come back wanting to continue because of the bond Mullins had created.

“I have never seen  people as respectful to a pastor as these are.  They were very responsive to anything I asked them to do.  It all started with my grandmother.”

His wife Judy pretty much had the same name as his grandmother; Judy Ann and his grandmother was Julidy Ann. They didn’t like each other but his grandmother would say,  “She’s  the one who took my baby away.”

I guess you could say the two of them influencing her baby helped make him who he is today.

“Judy stood behind me, she was strength and always there for me. “

One of his many special memories is when during vacation bible school a teacher brought a 9 year girl to my office because she wanted to talk to me. She came in holding a stuffed bunny that was very soft and cuddly.  She held it tight while she told him she wanted to receive Jesus as her savior. He led her to the Lord.  Then she stretched her arms out and handed him the bunny.  She said since she now has Jesus, she doesn’t need it anymore.

“I always wanted to be somebody.  Coming from a poor coal mining town, I wanted to make something of myself.  I knew I was a good pastor.  I always tried to do the right thing.  I’ve always tried to stay in the book.  That’s where all my decisions came from.

“This is hard.  It’s like leaving your child.  God has prospered me.  I wanted a big church and that’s when I was called to Cooleemee.”

Pastor Mullins plans to take it easy, doctor’s orders.  Gardening is in his future and he is looking forward to having people stop by to take a look at his antiques and chat.

“My life verse led me to the ministry. “

Joshua 1:6-7.  “The seventh verse said it all:  Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you: do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper where ever you go.”

Pastor Allen and Judy have one daughter, Nita, and three grandchildren Marquel, AJ and Nia.