When Jerry Humphries came to Montgomery to attend Alabama Christian College (ACC), now Faulkner University, he was adamant he would not become a preacher like his brother. The Lord had different plans and with the help of college friends and a prayerful wife, Jerry would set out on a mission of ministry that spanned 63 years of his life.
Although Jerry passed away on May 16, 2022, his wife Margaret, an Alabama Christian graduate, shares their story of ministry together.
“Jerry and I had a wonderful 63 and ½ years journey working in numerous ways to build up God’s Kingdom. I am so thankful to our Savior and God for bringing us together and for all the ways we were greatly blessed,” Margaret said. “Yes, we had valleys but we learned to climb the mountains and grow stronger from the experience with much help from God. Jerry won his victory, May 16, 2022. We appreciate so much the legacy, strength and confidence he left us with and look forward to seeing him again.”
Margaret was only 11 years old when her mother died. She moved in with her older brother and two sisters to Montgomery where they all attended Alabama Christian and she finished high school there.
It was during this time in summer of 1957 that Jerry began attending Alabama Christian College (ACC).
Jerry, born in Cullman County, Alabama, in 1938, left home after high school and went with a friend to Flint, Michigan to work for General Motors. It wasn’t long before he was laid off and his mother and his brother Ray encouraged Jerry to attend ACC. Jerry moved to Montgomery to enroll in the fall semester, but made it clear he would not become a preacher and would instead major in business.
“Jerry was so grateful to all the people who influenced him to enroll in ACC. It changed the direction of his life. He especially appreciated his brother, Ray who came to Montgomery with his family. Ray and his wife Joan became house parents for the boys’ dorm so Jerry felt he had a part of home there with him,” Margaret said. “His new friends, who were studying to be preachers at ACC were also a big influence on him. It wasn’t long till he was joining some of his friends, who were preaching for small churches on Sundays. He decided he would like to try preaching, changed his major and started preaching at the age of 20.”
Jerry and Margaret met on a chorus trip to Opelika, Alabama. Jerry was 20 years old and Margaret, who was still in high school, was 16. Even at that young age, they knew they wanted to share a life together. It was always Margaret’s dream to marry a preacher.
“Jerry and I met quite accidently on a chorus trip to Opelika,” Margaret said. “We sat together on the bus that night going back to Montgomery, with no idea we were beginning a life long journey together. We soon became friends and sweethearts.”
Jerry and Margaret married on December 18, 1958. Jerry graduated from ACC and Margaret graduated from Alabama Christian High School in the spring of 1959.
“Many times in life, bad things that happen to us bring us the greatest blessings,” Margaret said. “I feel that God used, my mother’s death and Jerry’s loss of a job, to bring us together to help grow the Kingdom. If all these people had not loved us enough, to inject themselves into our lives, Jerry and I probably would not have ever met.”
They left Montgomery in the summer of 1959 and went to work fulltime with Hamilton Cross Roads church of Christ in Brundidge, Alabama. This was a new beginning for the church as well as for the Humphries. They had never had a fulltime preacher and Jerry had never been a fulltime preacher. They began visiting with the people and soon began Bible studies. God blessed the work and people began to demonstrate their faith and be baptized. Also, many members rededicated their lives to Christ.
“I was always Jerry’s helper when he needed me. I participated in ministries of churches where we worshiped and I taught classes for children, teenage girls and women and spoke for Women’s Days, and helped enlist other women to raise funds for the ministry,” Margaret said.
Jerry and Margaret worked with six other churches fulltime including, Norfolk Highlands church in Norfolk, Virginia and Shurlington church in Macon, Georgia and four churches in Alabama.
While working with the Shurlington church, the Humphries first son, Alan was born in 1964. A year later, they moved to Cullman, Alabama and began work with the East Cullman church.
“From the time Jerry started preaching fulltime he had been preaching in a few gospel meetings and the number continued to increase and he was getting many more invitations each year,” Margaret said. “Jerry was always looking for better ways to save souls and grow the kingdom. He presented his plan to preach in meetings fulltime and resigned as fulltime preacher. The church elders asked him where he was going to get the money. Jerry said, ‘God will provide.’ Jerry was never very concerned about money. He never set a price for an eldership, school administration or board to pay him. He told them to pay him what they thought they should. God is good and He does provide.”
Jerry began in fulltime meeting work in the spring of 1967 at age 29. Later that year, their second son, Steve was born and in 1968 their third son, Mark was born.
About that time, Jerry was approached about helping start a school in Florence, Alabama to train preachers and other Christian workers. After prayer and consideration, he accepted and their family moved to Florence in December of 1969.
The school was called International Bible College (IBC) and opened in 1970. Jerry served as vice president, taught evangelism, speech, Bible, and world religions and preached part time for several churches in the area.
“By his mid-thirties, Jerry was known as one of the most used and outstanding speakers in our fellowship,” Margaret said. “God blessed him with the gift of preaching and he loved to study, preach the word, conduct private Bible studies and help people be saved.”
Two years into working at the Bible college, Jerry preached at Hobbs St. church in Athens, Alabama. They asked Jerry to preach there fulltime, and again after prayer and much thought, he agreed to preach and help them rebuild their diminishing congregation.
“God blessed their work and the attendance increased to about 600 on Sunday morning,” Margaret said. “Jerry was still looking for other ways to do God’s work and save more souls and while we were still working with the Hobbs St. church, he became interested in missions.”
In 1974, Jerry led his first foreign mission trip to Arima, Trinidad. About thirty workers joined them to help teach Bible studies and Jerry spoke each night in an open-air facility. He and Margaret were there two weeks before another group took over. Altogether, nearly 200 people were baptized.
Soon after the Arima mission, Jerry resigned from the Hobbs St. church and began training groups to work in missions leading many trips in this country and several foreign countries. He also continued preaching in meetings. During this time, he wrote “Why the Bible Was Written,” a booklet designed to teach one person or small groups the gospel in about 1-2 hours. It has since been translated into Spanish, Chinese, and Russian and was made available for free download.
“We have had feedback, from many including some of Jerry’s students from IBC who have used it for years, telling of their successes and thanking him for writing and making it available,” Margaret said. “We have no way of knowing how many thousands have learned the gospel from someone caring and sharing that little booklet.”
In the spring of 1976 Jerry was asked to come back to IBC and they moved back to Florence in early June of that year. He taught as well as coordinated, led and preached in many of the IBC missions.
Their mission work that summer took them to Cumberland Maryland; Franklin, Pennsylvania; Mount Vernon, Indiana and Flushing, Michigan before heading south to Thomason, Georgia and Kissimmee, Florida to finish out the summer.
“We had no idea what all God had planned for that journey but He caused some great everlasting things to happen,” Margaret said. “It was a great experience for about 30-35 campaigners and the many lives God touched. Sixty-eight obeyed the gospel and 152 Christians confessed wrongs or rededicated their lives. As He promised, God is always working in Christian’s lives and we give him all the glory.”
In 1983 Jerry made a major ministry change. He saw a great need in the local church for training elders, deacons, Bible class teachers, ministry leaders and to help all members find their God-given abilities, build confidence and use their gifts. The plan was to have seminars in which Jerry and other men would teach combined classes and special classes for men. Margaret and other women would teach special classes for women and their three sons helped put together lessons and prepare mailings.
They named the seminars, “Leadership and Church Growth International” and it spanned 47 states and 50 foreign countries, with in-person seminars. Another 20 countries received free materials. Their work ended there in 2017 after 35 years because of Jerry’s failing health.
From the start of their ministry to 1982, more than 11,000 people had responded to the invitation with 2,200 of those resulting in baptisms.
“Jerry was not boastful about any of his accomplishments but always gave God the credit. I share those numbers to encourage younger preachers to dream big and act on those dreams,” Margaret said. “I am grateful to Jerry for many things but especially for starting ministries without proper funding and at times contributing more than I felt we could afford. It was sometimes scary for me, but that is one way He helped me grow my faith. God always took care of us. That is what faith is –trusting God to see you through when you can’t see the way.”