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Bishop has passion for children
Bishop James McKenzie sits with three of his supporters. - photo by Photo provided.
“When I was 12 years old, I rode my bicycle from Savannah to Riceboro and have lived there since. When other young children were thinking about school, I was trying to figure out how to get more horsepower out of engines,” Bishop James H. McKenzie said.
The bishop is a young-at-heart, 64-year-old pastor of a church that has two locations. He has a love for children and their well-being.
“I want to get to them before the dope man gets them,” he said. “I want to teach them right from wrong.”
McKenzie is the pastor of Tree of Life Apostolic Holiness Church #1 in Savannah and Tree of Life Apostolic #2 in Riceboro.
“My father established both churches. The Savannah church was established in 1955, and the Riceboro church was founded in 1960.”
In the ministry for 25 years, McKenzie has been a pastor for 20.
“The membership is 65 percent children. We have gone from 30 to about 200 members. We do a lot of things to keep the children focused and out of trouble. I have a camp for them and they love to sing in the choir.”
McKenzie plays the guitar for the senior and junior choirs.
“Both churches have some very talented children. I taught a 6-year-old to play the guitar,” McKenzie said.
He writes Christmas and Easter plays and has written a play called, “The Glory Train.”
McKenzie also recorded a CD with the children
The church has a picnic for the children every 90 days. McKenzie has built trains for them, using 55 gallon plastic drums and lawn mower engines. He also has horse drawn wagons.
“My ministry is structured towards the family. We are trying to get fathers to take charge and be the head of the family. We teach the children about drugs and sex. We want to see them make something of themselves so they can become productive citizens.
“One of my Catholic teachers, Sister Mary Irene, helped me a lot. She left a good impression on me; she took a lot of time with me.”
McKenzie has a farm on Lewis Frasier Road in Midway. He’s turned his place into a camp. The children love to spend time there enjoying the more than 200 animals; horses, peacocks, buffaloes, hogs, turkeys, ducks, geese and rabbits.
“I also teach the children about mechanics. I love the children, and they love to hang around me.”
According to McKenzie, he used to constantly hear people in the church telling the young people not to go to certain places, but the church was not doing anything to keep them from going.
“Pastors have to spend time with the children and minister to them,” he said.
The church rewards those children who make the honor roll and gives out scholarships during the general assembly.
McKenzie has been married to Mother Jannie B. McKenzie for 41 years, and have seven children and six grandchildren. He was born in Savannah and his wife is a native of Liberty County.
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