The Rev. Donny Kyker once had no sympathy for the downtrodden, but that changed as he garnered the insight that led to his pastorate at Faith Temple Fellowship and directorship of the Jesus House Odessa shelter.
“When I was young, I’d see homeless people and say to myself, ‘Get a job, you lazy bum!’” he said. “I had no compassion at all, but according to Matthew 25:40, Jesus will say, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
Having been a member of Faith Temple for 38 years and senior pastor since 2011, Kyker once took his dedication to the point of lying on the ground behind a Dumpster to encourage a man who had collapsed to come into the 1335 E. Sixth St. church for coffee and a meal.
“I can be doing one thing and then with a quick knock on the door, I’m doing something different,” he said. “Ministry is not 9 to 5, it’s 24-7.”
Kyker graduated from Odessa High School in 1980 and worked at a bowling alley and in retail grocery before spending 20 years as a UPS deliveryman. He followed his wife Laura’s late grandmother, the Rev. Connell Nail, as pastor of Faith Temple and for the past 16 years he has run Jesus House behind the church.
The shelter has beds for six men who leave at 6 a.m. each weekday and return at 6 p.m. There is no limit to how long they may stay. The Kykers have three children and seven grandchildren.
“We’re in the middle of a prostitution and drug area, which is exactly where the church needs to be,” he said. “I once asked a gang leader why they didn’t tag (spray paint to claim territory) the church, and he said, “Why would we tag somebody who is helping us? We will not ever do anything to hurt the church. As a matter of fact, we will take care of it.’”
The minister and his seven-member board accept donations to help finance the shelter’s $110,000 annual budget, and they have about half of the $250,000 they need to build a shelter for 30 women and children across the street. Kyker said they’ll eventually ask the city to close the 1300 block of East Sixth so the complex can operate as a campus.
Their soup kitchen, open in the church for breakfast at 6 a.m. Monday through Friday and lunch at 11 a.m. Monday through Thursday, will move across the street and serve three meals a day seven days a week. There is a clothes giveaway from 9:30-10:30 a.m. each Tuesday and Wednesday.
Faith Temple does not usually take donations, and Kyker makes his living from the Dependable Services lawn care, parking lot cleaning and car wash company, which has two employees, and from the Big Kolache food truck from which he and his wife serve breakfasts in the parking lots of Zip Business Supply at 943 N. Grandview Ave. on Wednesdays and the First Baptist Church at 709 N. Lee Ave. on Fridays.
His church averages 40 people at its 10 a.m. Sunday services.
“Once the community finds out how much you love them, they will love on you,” said Kyker, 55. “We are all one bad decision from being homeless or in jail. If you do it for personal gain, it’s not ministry. I refuse to turn the church into a business.”
When Kyker organized the church and shelter, he appointed the Rev. Jimmy Dennis, executive pastor of the Agape Dream Center, his overseer. “Donny is an awesome guy who has a heart for the street people,” Dennis said.
“It’s from being around them and letting the Holy Spirit give him a soft heart. Ezekiel 36:26 says, ‘I will make your stony heart soft.’ Donny does night strikes where he goes out on cold nights and gives them sleeping bags and blankets, and he has been on top of it when a few were in the hospital or died. He really desires to love them and touch them. He doesn’t want them hurting.”