The Rev. John Wamsley says many Americans lack a sense of purpose even after achieving the American Dream of having a nice family, a comfortable home and good health.

That’s because they don’t have faith in God and are uninterested in serving anything other than their own interests, says the new pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church at 4901 Maple Ave.

“I think a lot of people reflect and say, ‘There has got to be more to life,’” the Rev. Wamsley said. “But Christians do have a purpose because they focus not just on themselves but on God and on serving others.”

The minister is a native of Baton Rouge, La., who graduated from high school in Walnut Creek, Calif., studied at the University of California at Berkeley and took a degree in sociology at Louisiana State University before working at a juvenile prison in Louisiana and in timekeeping, shipping, receiving and payroll at a gasoline refinery. He worked for the Louisiana Department of Health in Thibodeaux and then enrolled in the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

The Reverend John Wamsley poses for a photo Thursday, April 8, 2021, morning at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Ordained in 1982, Wamsley served churches in Louisiana, Texas and Florida till accepting the Odessa pastorate. He and his wife Linda have two children.

“I preach the good news that salvation is in Jesus’s name,” he said. “I believe that as a Christian you experience God’s power and his love and purpose. I want to help make Westminster Presbyterian a stronger church with a sense of service and outreach. One of our Presbyterian mottos is to glorify God and enjoy him forever because sometimes Christians don’t enjoy God as much as they should.”

Asked how spiritual maturity is achieved, Wamsley said, “Maturity can happen rapidly or it can take a lifetime.

“Sometimes it happens quickly and new believers are transformed because they’re hungry. It depends on how much effort you put into it.”

Wamsley’s favorite Scriptures are First Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you;” Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us;” and Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”

Westminster Presbyterian has a food pantry from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the last Saturday of each month, having fed 300 families at its peak.

The Reverend John Wamsley poses for a photo Thursday, April 8, 2021, at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Bobbie Duncan, who chaired the five-member committee that recommended Wamsley’s appointment, said the church and city “will profit from his presence.

“John likes to get involved with the community,” Duncan said. “He was doing radio devotionals in Marianna, Fla., and he did an Easter sunrise service from my backyard that we filmed on his phone and put on Facebook.

“When we interviewed him, it was like meeting an old friend. He is that personable and direct. It was John’s warmth and his desire to have a new challenge. He delivers the Gospel in everyday language and is very direct.”