Tibbs family celebrates 14 years at church

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The congregation of the First Church of God in Punxsutawney recently celebrated the completion of 14 years of service for Greg Tibbs as the senior pastor of the church located on Skyview Drive.

Tibbs, his wife Jolanda and three sons — John, Chase and Hunter — have also served the congregation in a variety of ways over the past 14 years.

The Tibbs family was serving at the First Church of God in Cynthiana, Ky., for 13 years when they received the call to pick up their young family and move to Punxsutawney.

Tibbs explained that he and Jolanda have worked as a ministry team, even when they first met at Gulf Coast Bible College, which was operated by the Church of God, and was located near Houston, Texas.

Jolanda, who grew up within a couple of hours of Cynthiana, said that they actually candidated for the position of youth pastor in Cynthiana on their honeymoon.

“We ended up in that area because Greg attended Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Ky.,” Jolanda said.

Greg said he that he didn’t think about going into the ministry until he attended Gulf Coast.

“I went there just thinking to learn more about the Bible and hoping that God would use me as a more effective Sunday School teacher,” Greg said. “When we came here in 1996, our three sons were ages six, four and two. Today, they are 20, 18 and 16. They grew up in Punxsy having had an active role in serving the congregation.”

Greg explained that his family came to Punxsy through someone else.

“Someone in Kentucky gave the search committee at the Punxsy church my name, and that was how we were first contacted,” he said. “I had prepared by obtaining a BA degree and a Masters of Divinity degree, then in my first six months in Cynthiana, following all of this training and schooling, I was asking myself if could I even do this.

“I asked God to help me because I had all of my eggs in one basket,” Greg added.

Jolanda explained that when her and Greg came for an interview at the church, it was one day after the flood of July 19, 1996.

“We spent the night in Clarion, and they told us at the hotel that they weren’t sure if we could get into Punxsy because of the flood,” Greg said. “People were carrying much of their belongings out and placing them on their front porch. It was like a disaster zone.”

He went on to explain how seeing the Living Christmas Tree display for the first time humbled him.

“I couldn’t believe they wanted me to be their pastor,” he said.

Jolanda pointed out that several of her sons have had members of the congregation help her children grow.

“Several people are responsible for helping my boys become the men they are becoming,” she said. “In this congregation, there have been a lot of different people who have wrapped their arms around them, and helped them develop their gifts, abilities and spiritual life.”

Greg added that they have been lucky to grow up in the community they grew up in.

“I’ve said from the pulpit that this church not only treasures its students, but it also trusts them,” Greg said. “Not only our boys, but other youth in roles of leadership.

“Having been a youth pastor at Cynthiana, and then becoming senior pastor, I had a full-time associate, but his primary duties were that of youth ministry,” Greg added. “When we came here, the church decided to put a strong emphasis on student ministries by hiring a full-time youth pastor.

Greg said he’s very happy with what the church has been able to provide.

“As a church, we get to do some neat things that other churches never even talk about,” Greg said, citing the Church In The Park event in which different congregations came together at Barclay Square for a service.

“For me that was like wow!” he said. “We’re actually working together here.”

The Tibbs family is looking forward to many more years of ministry in Punxsutawney.