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Fifty-five years in the ministry
In the pulpit
James Margie Garlen
Margie and Pastor James E. Garlen - photo by Photo provided.
Pastor James E. Garlen, 74, started preaching at a time when gasoline was less than 50 cents a gallon and the word “baby boomer” was not a part of our vocabulary.  
This pastor has been preaching longer than many people in Liberty County have been alive. Garlen has been in ministry for 54 years and has served as a pastor for 48 years.  
For the past two-and-a-half years, he has served as the leader of the Hinesville Church of God.
The first church he pastored was the Florella Church of God in Florella, Ala. He came to Hinesville from the Monterey Park Church of God in Faulkville, and had served there 18 years.
“I have served as pastor of churches in California, New Mexico, Alabama, Georgia and Alaska,” he said.
During the Vietnam War, Garlen was an auxiliary chaplain in the Far East. He spent four years overseas and 15 years working directly with soldiers. He has also evangelized in Oklahoma and Texas.
“I enjoy preaching and studying the word of God. I taught the young adult Sunday school class for 30 years,” he said.
Garlen was appointed to Hinesville  Church of God after the death of the pastor.
“I am working to rebuild both spiritually, emotionally  and physically. We are working to remodel the sanctuary and plans are to build a new sanctuary and a family life center. The church must have activities for the entire family. The church needs good youth, young adult and senior citizen programs; and it must do things to be progressive,” he said.
The church has an active  young ladies ministry and Royal Rogers (boys ministry).
Garlen’s father, W.B. Garlen, who served in the ministry for 60 years, and Dr. T. L. Lowery were his mentors.
“My father had a special love for the people, and he was concerned about getting people together.  Dr. T. L. Lowery, a noted author, inspired me to see what a person who is totally committed to Jesus can do. I became acquainted with Dr. Lowery in 1957.”          
Garlen has faced many trials and tribulations in life. One of his greatest battles was with cancer.
“Through prayers and the healing power of the Lord,  I survived.  I told the Lord I wanted to live for Him, my wife, children and grandchildren; and he granted my request. I am as healthy as I can be,” Garlen said. He was pronounced cancer-free in August 2004.
“My wife and I have a Covenant Life Ministry that is involved in missionary work in St Petersburg, Russia,” Garlen said.
The ministry is also working with street children in the Ukraine and supports about 30 youngsters.  
The ministry (along with the church) sends money every month for food, clothing and medical supplies, and Garlen visits the Ukraine at least once a year.
He cautions young ministers to realize ministry is a very challenging life. 
“You must live a life of dedication and consecration to meet the needs of the congregation. The ministry is not to be looked upon as a place where you can come, take a small church, and leave it to go to a larger church without doing what God told you to do at the small church.” 
Garlen said long tenure at a church is what makes a pastor and a church. He advises older pastors to fulfill the commission as given to them by God.
“I have given my life to the ministry,” he said
On June 2, Garlen and his wife, Margie, celebrated 53 years of marriage.
He is a native of Decatur, Ala., and his wife is a native Texan. 
The Garlens have two daughters, Lyne Hitt and Deborah White,  four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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