Rev. Bruce Wimberley is a man with fierce, brown eyes. Despite his intense gaze, he exhibits a calm demeanor. His leather sandals reveal his casual nature and appreciation for comfort, while his age-chiseled face testifies to a life of service and sacrifice.
When I first refer to Wimberley as "Reverend," he quietly corrects me. "My name is Bruce," the 71-year-old says with a laugh. Wimberley, who is the pastor at Vineyard Church in Flowood, insists on dealing with people as equals, and refuses to distance himself from others.
The Amarillo, Texas, native decided at age 13 after attending a church camp, that he wanted to devote his life to ministry. He moved to Jackson in 1997 to work with a discipleship group and, in 1993, be became the pastor of Vineyard Church. While serving as pastor, Wimberley worked with church member Bill Dunham to establish a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation center for men, called My Father's House of Freedom. The center, located in Jackson, combines a 12-step program with Christian teachings to provide a structured program for men to face and overcome their addictions. In October, My Father's House celebrated its 15th anniversary.
"It changed my whole perspective on what was an addict when I began to deal with addicts," he says. "Really, addiction is the symptom, it's not the problem. There's always a deep-seated hurt somewhere, and really you have to deal with that heart problem, or all you have is a dried-out drunk."
At the center, Wimberley listens to the confessions of the men who are undergoing rehabilitation. "Generally, I'm their pastor. There's something about repenting and getting your sins out in the open that remove their power over your life," he says, pausing briefly to reflect.
"It seems like we treasure bad things," he says, as he touches his heart with both hands. "You know, we're not going to let anybody know about these, we treasure them."
Wimberley says that helping men who have sought refuge in My Father's House to rebuild their lives is a long and difficult process. Because most of these men are at the lowest stage of their life and often have nothing left, the center helps them find employment. Wimberley acknowledges that finding work has been difficult lately because of the down economy.
"We're having some difficulty now finding jobs," he says. "Probably our greatest need now is for people who will hire the guys."
Wimberley's baritone voice carries a touch of sadness for what he has witnessed, but his eyes shine with hope. "Jackson is important to me because that's where God sent me. I think the reason that we were (all) sent here is to model the kingdom of God, and what it looks like," he says.
Is this guy really 71 years old? I guess there really must be something to living right...