Calvary Baptist Church’s new pastor, Kyle Berry, sits in the sanctuary of the church, located in Covington.
Childhood was a tumultuous time for Kyle Berry, who grew up in a home where drinks and drugs were in charge. Married multiple times, his mother was a long-time alcoholic and drug addict, who was doing everything from "cocaine to whatever," he said.
When Berry was 18, his mother met someone new.
"She met a new guy named Jesus," Berry said. "That changed her life. I was the last one to believe it, but when I saw it, I believed it, too. (Jesus) had done what no son, no daughter, no sibling, no husband could do."
Today, Kyle Berry is the new pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Covington and his mother is one of his church workers and "an amazing woman for the Lord," he said. She is director of the Pregnancy Resource Center of Walton County.
Berry said he loved his mother before she came to know the Lord, but "didn't like her."
Recalling his mother's complete transformation, Berry said, "That's God's work. It changes lives. It changed my life."
Berry, 40, who became pastor of Calvary Baptist this summer, gives a little laugh whenever he's asked if he grew up in a Christian home.
"I had rough times growing up," he said. "There was only one believer in our family -- my mother's sister. She and a group of her friends from church had been praying for my mom. In the midst of that time, the Lord just drew my mom out of the life she was in and woke her up. That was a big change.
"Since then the Lord has done a lot of work in our family. Now everybody is a believer but two."
Seeing the change God made in his mother's life, Berry accepted salvation in his own life and joined the First Baptist Church of Loganville, where his mother had started attending. Berry grew up in Loganville and graduated from Loganville High School in 1989.
"When I came to know Christ, I got saved and was born again," he said. "From there, I began to learn to walk with the Lord. It took a while and it's a progression. I began to start serving. I started teaching Sunday School."
As he grew in the Lord, Berry was called to the mission field. He and his family were stationed in Africa, where they preached and ministered in villages in the southern part of the continent for a year.
"It was eye-opening," he said. "I believe everybody needs to get outside of America -- not on a cruise ship -- but on a mission trip so you can really see how others in the world live.
"People there lived on less than $2 per day. We were in the city ... and one thing we noticed quickly was when we'd take out our trash, before we could get back to the front door, people were picking through it.
"... Africa changes your perspective. You realize most of the world does not live like we do. This country is amazingly blessed."
While in Africa, Berry made many life-long friends and ministered to numerous Xhosa villagers.
"The Lord allowed me to go back (for a visit) in 2007, and two of the people I had discipled were in seminary to be pastors," he said.
Berry and his family returned from the mission field to FBC Loganville in 2003, and he began his studies at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's Atlanta campus, completing his degree in 2006.
In 2004, Berry was asked to serve as FBC Loganville's prayer pastor. He was later asked to also serve as missions pastor and led both ministries until Calvary Baptist Church in Covington called him to become its new pastor in June.
He and his wife, Jennifer and their three children, Brad, 20; Braeden, 17 and Victoria, 14, moved to Covington in July.
"Right now, one of my big prayers is, 'Lord, how do you want this church to impact this community?'" Berry said, adding that he is looking forward to churches in the community working together.
"We're all linked together in Covington," he said. "I'd like to see in our community that we come together as the body of Christ -- multiple locations in Covington -- but working together as one church. My heart would be unity in the church across denominational lines working together."
The pastor said Calvary will be partnering with others to offer a basketball league in its gymnasium. The church also has a fellowship hall and sanctuary on its property at 4228 Mill St. in Covington, which sits across U.S. Highway 278 from Newton Medical Center.
Berry said the church was "thriving" in the 1980s and held worship services in the gym where hundreds attended. The pastor hopes to help the congregation, which now numbers around 60 people, again grow and said of holding services in the gym, "We hope to be back in there one day."
At present, Calvary Baptist Church has Sunday worship services in its sanctuary at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. with Sunday School at 9:45. In addition to Berry, other church leaders include Josh Barnett as youth pastor and Robert Rhoades as music minister.
An Hispanic ministry with 70 to 90 in the congregation led by Pastor Polo Guerrero meets in the church fellowship hall on Sundays at 11 a.m.
Berry invites people in the community to come visit Calvary Baptist, especially if they are "unchurched, or haven't been to church in awhile or are looking for a place for God to move."
"We're expecting God to move," the pastor said, adding that the purpose of the church is to "know Christ and make him known."
Berry said he wants others to find, as he and his family did, a new life through Christ Jesus.
"Before I was saved, I had thought I was a pretty good person," Berry said. "I did well in school. I was honest, but at the same time, I was drinking and doing some drugs.
"(Jesus) just revealed to me my need for him and my need for forgiveness and so from there, it was just realizing I couldn't be good enough. I didn't have to clean up to come to Him, He would do the cleaning up ... He showed me a new life, a new path and one I didn't have to be ashamed of, but one I could be proud of."Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville. If you have a story idea, email Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.