116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Ray Coleman initially became hooked on church for the songs and occasional snow cones.
But when he went through some hardships and as a teenager had a rift with his mother, a pastor came to see him, and he stayed with that pastor. It was the same pastor who baptized Coleman, taught him how to read the Bible and how to pray.
The pastor would say, “Start working on your sermon.” Coleman was confused at the time, but he’d sit down with his Bible and put pen to paper, wanting to do anything the pastor advised.
Eventually, he joined the Navy after high school and started having dreams where he’d see himself preaching before a congregation. The men at his boot camp seemed to know to ask him to pray.
That pastor had always known of Coleman’s potential. And now Coleman was seeing it, too.
“What I am today is really because of him and his wife and the love that they showed me, because that was a big part of what I experienced with church with them was love,” Coleman said. “I never knew the depth of love, never knew what it really felt like until this pastor took me in.”
Coleman was raised in Paris, Texas, a city of about 25,000 in the northeastern part of the state. He started preaching in 1990 and pastored his first church in 2000, where he stayed until he was called to Cedar Rapids last fall to serve as the new pastor of 108-year-old Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
He and his wife, Rhonda Coleman, left behind everything they knew in Texas to make the journey here. They have five children and four grandchildren.
Rhonda Coleman said the two wanted to move somewhere quiet with a slower pace of living, “and this seemed to be the perfect place.”
She’s a pastor’s daughter, raised in Houston, so church has always been part of her life. She recalled her father waking her and her siblings up early on Sunday mornings, getting dressed and going to church, and then Bible study during the week.
She earned a bachelor's and master’s in counseling, which she said plays a major role in their service.
“I have a passion for helping people,” she said. “However I can help, I just find myself in a position of helping people and that makes me happy.”
The Colemans do a marriage ministry to counsel couples, educate on various physical and mental health issues as well as proper nutrition and are looking to support the community in other ways.
“We're really looking for ways that we can help and make an impact on Cedar Rapids,” the pastor said. “The city has so much to offer.”
Every Sunday, he said he makes sure every member of this church knows he loves them, every chance he gets. He loves to see the multicultural church community together and loving each other.
“This is the way it's supposed to be,” he said. “This is how it's supposed to look. No matter who, no matter how old or how young, or whatever the race is, pastor loves you.”
Though it’s only been a few months, the Colemans said the best part of the Cedar Rapids community has been the people.
“It’’s been probably one of the best experiences that I've had,” Pastor Coleman said. “The church, the people are extremely loving and extremely kind. And you can see where a lot of work is not just needed, but people are open to the work, and so that makes ministry that much better.”
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