Pastor Mike Ray was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1957. That was the year Billy Reed founded the Central Baptist Church, an independent soul winning church. Members of the church invited the Ray family to attend. And they all did…except the dad, who four years later became a Christian. Mike accepted Christ as his Savior on February 23, 1970, the first week Bob Smith (the new pastor) preached.
Three years later at Pot O’ Gold Teen Camp in Comfort, Texas, Mike surrendered to preach the Gospel and began doing so at age sixteen in Sunday School, rest homes, and other churches. Mike eventually captained his own bus route after attending Bible College for a year in Arlington, Texas. He earned two degrees in Hammond, Indiana at the Hyles-Anderson College where he met his future wife, Verna Weymouth (from Maine).
Upon graduation, he accepted the position of youth pastor at his home church under the leadership of Pastor B. G. Buchanan. Mike started public school ministries, Fellowship of Christian Athlete chapters, the Deep South Youth Conference, published several books, and even created a board game while he was youth pastor. His first two children – Charity and Faith – were born while in Louisiana.
In 1986, when Mike was 29, the Rays headed to California to assume the pastorate of Hopewell Baptist Church in Napa, California. Verna and the girls traveled to California by airplane while Mike traveled on an old church bus with all the family’s belongings (remember the Beverly Hillbillies?). The miracle is that the bus made it to California after 42 hours!
Visiting 34 hours a week the first year, the new pastor was determined to knock every door personally. It took four years to complete this goal. Visitors began attending from Napa and also from the surrounding areas of Vallejo, Cordelia, Concord, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Vacaville, Fairfield, and Rodeo. It was during these early days when God blessed the Rays with three sons – Jonathan, Paul, and Stephen. To God’s glory, the Hopewell Baptist church has experienced remarkable growth, both numerical and spiritual.
Pastor Ray is also a frequent speaker at teen camps, teen conferences, Bible conferences, and Christian colleges. He also teaches one day a week at Golden State Baptist College in Santa Clara, California.
Pastor Ray is a regular customer at Starbucks where he drinks a tall black coffee of the day with half-and-half and three Sweet N Lows. When time allows, he has been known to go back to Louisiana to enjoy seafood, go on alligator hunts, and on occasion to Cabo to fish. He loves to fish! He roots for the New Orleans Saints and is still flying high over their miraculous Super Bowl victory. His favorite song is, “When the Saints Go Marching In!” Pastor Ray is an avid reader, averaging a book a week.
Verna, his wife, loves to spend time with her grandchildren since “Papa” and “Mimi” are now empty nesters. Being from Maine, Verna loves to eat “lob-stah” when she is able to go back for a visit. She is also a frequent speaker at mother-daughter banquets and at marriage seminars with her husband. She and Mike could not be prouder of their children. Both daughters are youth pastor’s wives, and all three sons are graduates of Bible colleges where they trained for ministry. Mike and Verna have been married for 37 years! If it’s God’s will, they both plan on staying in Napa…until the Lord returns.