Leap Of Faith
● By Robert Frey
Pastor Tommy Faulk
By Suzanne Ferrara
“In 1984, I had a radical encounter with Jesus Christ, and my life was changed forever,” says fervent Pastor Tommy Faulk.
The 59-year-old Faulk is the senior pastor of the First Assembly of God Church in Youngsville. “I was a typical Cajun boy who grew up in Abbeville, and for years I worked in the parts and service department of various car dealerships.”
Faulk remembers the exact moment when his life changed forever: “Sept. 10, 1984, it was a Tuesday evening.” That was when a local evangelist was speaking at First Baptist Church in Abbeville for his, as Faulk puts it, “city-wide crusade.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Faulk was not attending the service to “become saved;” instead, he went to argue with the evangelist on the heated topic of backwards masking of music, which Faulk says the evangelist spoke out against and suggested there were subversive messages when the music was played backwards. ”I went there to refute what he was speaking about because he was attacking what I listened to my whole life, including artists like John Denver and Paul McCartney.” Adding more firepower to his argument was the fact that Faulk’s family had a rich background in music: His brothers, Jimmy and Donald, were leaders of the band Eddie James and the Jewels in the 1960s, and his brother John and sister Marissa were vocalists.
As the 26-year-old Faulk stood ready to argue his case, one might say a twist of faith occurred. “He (the evangelist) didn’t speak about that; instead he spoke about the family.” In particular, the evangelist spoke about being the husband and wife God wants you to be, words that struck a deep chord with Faulk and his then-flawed lifestyle.
Faulk’s relationship with his wife, Lisa, was in terrible shape, and he says they were on the brink of separation. “We argued all the time,” remembers Faulk. “I didn’t respect my wife, and I was not concerned with ethical or moral issues.” Faulk adds that he was partying a lot and spending more time with his friends than with his wife and four-year-old son, Tommy Jr.
So when you ask Faulk what actually happened on that night, he quickly replies, “God’s spirit arrested my heart because the message was great.”
The message was so great that when he returned home that night to a wife and family all anxiously waiting to hear how he tore into the evangelist, Faulk told them something they never expected. “I said to them, ‘It wasn’t like that at all,’ and I told them ‘we have to go back there.’ The next night I brought numerous family members, including my wife, and they all gave their hearts to Christ.”
In an instant, the progression of his life with Christ took off. “I immediately got involved in the church, working with our youth at Abbeville Assembly of God under Bob and Janet McLeod.”
This was a perfect move for Faulk because Pastor McLeod had actually been speaking to him for a year prior to his life-changing encounter. Faulk played basketball with Pastor McLeod every Tuesday night at a local Baptist gym and afterward McLeod would speak to him about for an hour about life and faith.
“I would literally badger him and ask him questions mercilessly! He tolerated me and my brother like that for an entire year every week,” Faulk laughs. “So when I went to that evening service that changed my life, the seed was already planted by Pastor McLeod and my heart was totally prepared for what took place.”
The McLeods moved in 1995, and the next year the Faulks moved to Lafayette and Tommy became the associate pastor of First Assembly of God Church on South College Road. Six years later, he became senior pastor, a post he held until 2008 when he opened the First Assembly of God Church in Youngsville on 36 acres. Today, Faulk’s Youngsville congregation consists of 250 passionate members. “We still love it, and are allowing God to lead our lives.”
In the meantime, their own family has grown as well. Tommy and Lisa have a 30-year-old daughter, Lehia, and a son, Tommy Jr., who is following the footsteps of his father and is the youth pastor at Crossing Place Church in Franklin, Louisiana. Plus, they have four grandchildren ages ten months to six years of age. And his wife Lisa? Faulk instantly expresses the prayerful blessing she is in his life. “My wife prays for me. That is both her greatest and most difficult role.”
And then there’s the Youngsville community that he serves. “We came with the heart to serve our community in a city we have really come to love.” First Assembly of God reaches out to the hungry with their large food pantry, which serves 300 families a month in Youngsville, Broussard, Milton and south Lafayette. The church also has a mobile food pantry that parks in downtown Youngsville once a month, and Faulk says, “There’s no prerequisite and we partner with Second Harvest Food Bank and their associate partners including, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Panera Bread.”
Add to that a prison ministry program and Faulk’s role as Chaplin for the City of Youngsville; through the latter, Faulk maintains a close relationship with area schools, government leadership and the Chamber of Commerce. First Assembly of God also plays host to the annual live nativity titled “Living Bethlehem” at Sugar Mill Pond, an event that requires an outpouring of volunteers and Faulk has a daily scriptural radio broadcast on KAJN called ‘The Pastor’s Study’.
Pastor Faulk admits he’s not comfortable talking about himself. “It’s about what God is doing. I’m an ordinary person who, hopefully, God can do extraordinary things through. And I can tell you he’s absolutely alive and well.” As a church minister, Pastor Faulk plays a crucial role, working with people one-on-one in his ministry community through their personal trials, tribulations and victories.
“Jesus told Peter two things: love the sheep and feed the sheep.” Pastor Faulk implemented this Bible message on a large scale during the unprecedented August flood that left many in Acadiana homeless. “I woke up to flooding around 4 a.m. and I started getting phone calls at 6:30 a.m. from people in our congregation about their homes being flooded, which included my own son and daughter-in-law and the church flooded.” Pastor Faulk fielded non-stop calls from his cell phone as he tried to get people out of their homes. “It was pandemonium because it all happened all at once and so fast.”
Once he was able to reach Youngsville City Hall, Faulk began working with the Mayor Ken Ritter and his administration. “From city council to the police and fire departments to the National Guard, everyone was there. Just an incredible expression of people giving of themselves, putting others first and putting all personal agendas aside. It was quite a sight.” Faulk also organized distribution of the convoys of supplies that arrived from places like California, Missouri and Florida; each step, he says, left him humbled. “It’s mindboggling to have walk through the great experiences I have had with the Lord.”
And when you ask Pastor Tommy Faulk where he wants to walk in the future? “I want to minister more overseas because there is a great need. Plus, my wife and I would like to help young ministers walk through their process in the Lord here in Louisiana because the challenges are getting greater every day.”
But even in the face of ever-growing challenges, Faulk does offer this message of hope. “Our world does need the message of Jesus which is: You can walk in freedom and in God’s power and grace in this world and the world needs to know that Christ offers redemption.”