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A young pastor with a vision
Pastor Richie Williams and his wife, Dessa. - photo by Photo provided.
Peoria, Ill., is a long ways from Hinesville, and many people have never heard of it. But Liberty County and the surrounding counties are enjoying one of her native sons.
Pastor Richie Williams came to this area 11 years ago while he was in the military. Because he and his family decided to remain here after his medical retirement, Liberty County has gained another soldier in the ministry.
“I have been in the ministry since 1991, and have served as a pastor for almost seven years,” Williams said.
Pastor Williams has served as the pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Hinesville since May 2006. Prior to serving as Bethel's pastor, he was the pastor of St. James AME in Glennville.
Bethel AME has always played a very active role in the community.
“The people at Bethel are a loving group of people. They have embraced me and my family. They are very nurturing. We are trying to build a spiritual team and bridging the gap between the seniors and youths. This is important in order for the church to grow,” Williams said.
Some of the ministries of the church include the Citizens Relying on Spiritual Service, Singles on a Mission, couples ministry, children ministry and Just Among Men.
“JAM meets the third Saturday of the month to discuss issues concerning men. We discuss issues concerning them taking their rightful roles in the home and church,” Williams said.
Members of the CROSS visit the senior citizens and take baskets at Thanksgiving to those in need. Every second and fourth Saturdays, CROSS has a food and clothing giveaway.
“Future plans include building a resource center on the grounds where we can have the food and clothing and provide temporary shelter for those in need,” Williams said.   
Bethel has classes to enrich the marriage and family. A marriage retreat is planned for early October and workshops about gangs and peer pressure are also being planned for the children.  
The church has various outings for the children. They went to Six Flags in Atlanta about two months ago.
The church is about 40 to 50 percent active and retired military members and their families. Several of the military members are in Iraq.
“The youths send care packages and email messages to the deployed members,” the pastor said. “I am inspired when I see someone come and give their life to Christ after they have heard the Word of God. My biggest challenge is to keep bridging the gap between the old and the young, and be able to minister to people of different backgrounds.”
“My grandfather, Rev. (Dr) Arthur Best Sr., who serves as an assistant pastor, helped me tremendously in my life and the ministry. Other people, such as my mother who raised me by herself, my wife, my former pastor, (the Rev). Henry Gregory, Henry Baker Sr. and Elder Henry Frasier, have helped me a lot. Elder Frasier is one of the most humble people I know,” Williams said.
He advises ministers to stay true to their call.
“Do things the way God says do it; don't have your own agenda. If God calls you, don't play with it. I try my best to stay true to the call. Mind your business, and spend time with your family.”
Williams is married to Dessa M. Williams, who is also a native of Peoria. In September, they will celebrate 15 years of marriage.
They are the parents of three children. Dessa Williams is a paraprofessional at Frank Long Elementary School.
The pastor enjoys swimming, basketball, walking, listening to music and reading.  He is also known as a singing pastor and loves to play the drums.
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