A true globetrotter: Blount evangelist logs countless miles; Christian community to honor his ministry
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The list of countries he’s visited leaves you exhausted.
The number of lives he’s touched is nothing short of amazing.
At 65, Ronald Reagan, pastor of Green Meadow Church of God, evangelist, missionary and bishop for the Church of God, has logged well over 1 million travel miles over a 40-year span. To places like Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, India, Honduras, Ecuador, Germany, Ukraine, many areas of Africa, the Philippines, Ireland, Canada, Holland, Egypt and Israel.
This Blount County resident who grew up in Townsend said even he has a hard time taking it all in. When you hear about his growing up days, it makes it all the more miraculous.
Reagan will get the opportunity to share some of his stories and receive recognition for a job well done during a celebration to be held Friday at Maryville College. Friends, family, colleagues and those touched by his ministry are invited to attend the event at the college’s alumni gym. There is no charge to attend.
The wrong path
“I came from a pretty rough background,” Reagan said earlier this week, just home from evangelism crusades in Ecuador and Canada. “The thing that really turned me around happened when I was stabbed and almost died in the back of an ambulance when I was 25 years old.”
The images are still vivid in Reagan’s mind. He said he initially thought the ambulance he was traveling in was on fire. “Then I seemed to float through the thick, choking smoke,” Reagan described. “As I came out of the smoke I became aware of terrible screaming voices growing louder and louder. Then I saw where the voices were coming from.”
They were from a large, deep crater in the earth and Reagan said he had the sensation of falling in. He said he began to see people — some of them recognizable.
“They were shouting my name and telling me not to come there, there was no escape,” Reagan said. “I looked into the faces of people I knew that had died violent deaths and I did not understand how this could be. I still remember the awful feeling of hopelessness and depression to this day.”
Even when he awoke in the hospital, Reagan said he could still hear the voices and smell the smoke. They stayed with him, he said, until he turned his life over to Christ.
Back then, the Blount County Jail was more familiar with him than the pastors of any churches. But Reagan said he was saved those many years ago following that revelation from God, and he hasn’t slowed on his mission of reaching others for Christ.
Getting it right
Reagan attended Townsend Elementary, then Alnwick Elementary before attending Everett High School for one year and then being sent to reform school. After his conversion, he went back and got his GED. Later, at the age of 45, Reagan earned a bachelor’s degree and went even further, obtaining his master’s in theology.
“After all those years of being a sidewinder, I decided to make up for it and work for the Lord,” Reagan said.
The first church he pastored was Lone Oak Baptist in Maryville. After leaving there, he became the pastor at Mountain View Church of God here in Blount County. He was there for three years. Then it was on to Memphis, where he led a congregation for a year. The Reagans then came back to Maryville and he became the pastor of South Haven Church of God, where he stayed for three years. The next stop was Nashville, for three years.
Then he was in LaFollette, for three years, where he helped plant a new church. But Reagan said the tug of evangelism soon took hold.
“My first love has always been evangelism and missions,” he explained. So after leaving LaFollette he took to the skyways, doing global mission work full time.
Then Townsend Church of God called him there. He stayed for seven years and then put on his traveling shoes for more missions far from home.
But a family crisis soon forced this family to re-route. Reagan’s wife Elaine was diagnosed with breast cancer and they came home to fight it.
Once back here, Reagan was called as pastor of Green Meadow Church of God. That was nine years ago, and he’s still there. Elaine beat her worst enemy and is now cancer free.
Each year, Reagan does three international trips and eight revivals. “Green Meadow has been so gracious to let me continue to do that,” he said. “It’s a part of who I am, what I know.”
At 65, Reagan has slowed down some, but keeps a rigorous schedule by anyone’s standards. He laughs whenever he’s reminded of the nickname he got years ago while crusading for Christ in Africa. The native people kept referring to him by a word he didn’t understand.
“I found out it means ‘the running white man,” Reagan said, laughing. “I walk a whole lot and sometimes I do run while I’m preaching.”
This husband of 48 years, father of three, grandfather to five and great-grandfather to one has never forgotten his once hopeless past and the transformation that took place in his life. He is reminded every time he steps off the airplane and onto the mission field.
Looking back, forward
“I have never stepped off an airplane that I am not reminded of where I came from,” he said.
There will likely be lots of friends and people he’s influenced at the celebration for the Reagans on Nov. 2 at Maryville College. He said during his time at Townsend Church of God, he was able to work alongside many who have since gone on to serve congregations of their own. People like Ronnie Hepperly, Pacer Hepperly, Dale Buchanan and Brad Bryant — the leaders of Restoration Outreach International (RIO) established here in Blount County.
After 40 years on the global mission field, Reagan estimates he’s probably brought close to 100,000 people to the Lord. At one crusade in Ecuador, 500 people made decisions of faith, he said. “We have had as many as 5,500 people saved in a two-week time span.”
His ministry is called Reagan Evangelistic Association and the website lets you know about the work that goes on. He has written two books and is finishing up a third. He keeps his passport at the ready.
There’s still work to do, this evangelist said.