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It All Pays Off in the End: An Interview with Mike Hughey

Mike Hughey sat down with Pastor Dallas to share about his experience of going back to school and what he’s learned from the experience. Pastor Dallas’ questions appear in bold.

 

You recently graduated from Siena Heights University. What was your degree in?
I got a bachelor’s in business administration, which is not directed at marketing or directed at strategic planning or something like that. Business administration just has everything in it. And it’s basically what I do every day.

My goal is to get up one more step, at least off the floor. A little higher view of what’s going on. And that’s what I’m comfortable with. So that’s my goal here.

 

When did you start considering going back to school?
Nolan, my oldest son, was in junior high or maybe a freshman in high school. I always wanted to get my degree. I’d been thinking about going back for a long time. It’s one of those things in the back of your mind. You just kind of say, “Yeah, maybe someday.”

I always tell my kids they have to get a degree. I felt like me saying that and doing it is two different things. I felt it was important that I got one before they did. I told my wife about and she’s like, yea let’s do it.

 

Was there a book that you were assigned for a class that was memorable?
I had never read To Kill a Mockingbird and I had to read it for class and watch the movie. I liked it. That was nice.

To Kill a Mockingbird was based in 1931, but I think it came out in 1960 and the movie came out a couple years later. There was a lot going on in the country in the 1960s. I did the research. There were like 108 riots during that one period in 1968 across all these different cities.

And it’s just that whole period starts with that kind of stuff and people probably wouldn’t have recognized it as well without that kind of movie. Even to this day, I mean that book is from 1960 and it still gets you thinking about how things have changed. And how they’re still kind of the same.

 

Who are some of the people that were supportive that helped make that journey possible?
My wife was number one. She took on a lot of extra responsibilities as far as making sure the kids got everything. I mean, I still did a lot too, but she, when I said I had homework to do, it didn’t matter. She did whatever it took. So without her it wouldn’t have taken place.

All my in-laws, the family, my sister were all supportive, as far as just kind words and that sort of thing. Even my kids helped me out.

My sons were helping me with papers sometimes. Nolan knows math like a mad man. He helped me with papers. That kind of thing is fun to do. You never get that time back. You know, doing that kind of thing with him.

But the number one person was my wife, it boils down to that. She just, I don’t know how she does it all.

 

You’ve had a lot of goals lately with school, with helping at the Café, running cameras for worship, coaching sports, and starting running. Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself or your faith in this time?
If you give time to something you can do almost anything. If you just give yourself a chance. It’s all really up here mentally. I mean, telling yourself no, no, no, all the time – that just doesn’t work. You just get tired of can you do it or not. Just go do it.

“If you give time to something you can do almost anything. If you just give yourself a chance. It’s all really up here mentally.”

My last paper was about how do you find the good in your life. How do you find the fulfilling life? And that’s helping people. If everybody just took time out of their day just to make somebody else’s day better, we’d have a lot less problems. It’s that simple to me.

And I learned that a lot from my wife but if you can just help people by serving them once a week. That’s simple. At work, making sure somebody’s got what they need. Helping kids through coaching or helping their folks with something. You just take the time, not to get something out of it other than just joy. And that’s the biggest thing. If you can do that once or twice a day, then everything else will fall into place.

It all pays off in the end, but I guess what I want is to help people out. The only reason to help them out is to see the joy that it gives them. That’s it for me right there; I don’t need anything else. That’s what I learned a lot through the pandemic and through this process and coaching and serving here. You help one guy out and he may remember that for the rest of his life. He might help the next person out, the next person out, the next person out, it can’t stop.

“It all pays off in the end, but I guess what I want is to help people out. The only reason to help them out is to see the joy that it gives them. That’s it for me right there; I don’t need anything else. That’s what I learned”

 

On a day where you wake up and you didn’t feel like writing that paper, or didn’t feel like going out on a run or getting up to come help or something, what helps you to just keep moving?
This sounds kind of selfish, but I just think to myself, who else is going to come help if I don’t go? I mean, there’s a lot of other people out there helping, but I ask myself if I don’t go do this, who’s going to? And I know other people will. That’s just that’s how my mind works.

With the service, sometimes I might kick and scream, and my wife will say we’re going to do this. But I know when I get there, I’m going to enjoy myself. I know I’m going to feel so much better because the feeling that it gives me. I don’t know if that’s faith or spirit.

I don’t know what that is. I just know that I like it and I don’t like I don’t like putting a label on things necessarily because once I start doing that, people have their own opinions about it. I just know how it makes me feel. I know how coming to church makes me feel, and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t keep going back. Whatever you call that in your own beliefs go ahead and call it that. But that’s how I feel. I really feel strongly about it.

You got to have something. I guess faith is what it is. You got to have faith in something.

When you say you’re religious to people, the first thing that clicks in their mind is some TV evangelist. I want people just to know that I come to church because the feeling that it gives me and the avenues that it gives me to help different people. If I didn’t come here I couldn’t even attempt to help half the people that I think I do.

I think people hear that I’m going to church and they get nervous, they shut down. It’s fine, but I think that feeling that gives me, I can’t explain it. It just makes me happy. I don’t know why it just does. I’m glad it does. It’s not a bad thing.

I think making people happy, if we all could just focus more on that, the world would be a much better place.

 

It seemed like two things were really important towards getting your degree, you had a goal and you had an urgency to do it. You wanted to finish it before your kids. It sounded like it was important to not just tell your kids this matters, but to show them that too. Have they said anything to you about this process?
Definitely. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That’s one of the other things. That’s why I had my laptop out nonstop for two years on my lap in the house or on vacation, always doing homework. Yeah. If I’m telling them it’s hard work, but it’s important. It’s kind of put up or shut up. It’s time for me to do it. I got to do it.

My middle son has said quite a bit. He was picking on me via text. He wanted to know why I didn’t get cum laude. And I missed it by that one last class. I said, “Well, I struggled with that last class. I just, I just didn’t get it.”

I probably could have gotten it, but I just didn’t get that last class. So let that be a lesson to you. Even though you think you got something it could be taken away right at the very end. So it wasn’t my goal to get that, I never even thought I’d ever even be eligible for it, but I blew it there with that last class.

My oldest son gave me a little speech the day I graduated about school and how he never thought he’d have to compete with me at grades. Because I was like a C student in high school. I never gave effort. And I’ve been pretty vocal about that to my boys, so I really push them. So it was funny to hear him say that. He said he’d never seen a person write a term paper so fast either. I wrote like a nine page term paper on To Kill a Mockingbird on a Saturday afternoon. I had to get it done. So he said it was fast. I had him proofread it and I got a pretty good grade on that. That was fun.

 

After celebrating graduation, do you have any upcoming goals or thought about what’s next?
I was thinking about a master’s degree, but I’m not 100% sure yet. I wouldn’t start that until next January anyways because I want to get basketball done. This is my last year coaching; my son’s in eighth grade so that’s it.

Sam and I are training for a 50 mile run in October. So I can focus on running again more than I had been that last semester. I kind of went around six miles, five nights a week, so I wasn’t so focused on running.

 

There’s a lot of people who have a lot of dreams and hopes and they think, “Oh, I wish I would be able to do this or that.” And then it just doesn’t happen. Do you have any words for the dreamers out there about what they can do?
It’s worth it. I mean, it’s worth getting it done. I put off school for a long time, since 1997. Something I always wanted to do again. I always told my mom I would do it.

It was hard, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as I had it built up in my head. Which I think was funny. I could have got this knocked out years ago if I just would have not been so stubborn, not been so scared is probably a better word.

“It was hard, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as I had it built up in my head. Which I think was funny. I could have got this knocked out years ago if I just would have not been so stubborn, not been so scared is probably a better word.”

Just go and do it. Even if you struggle. Just don’t stop. Stopping is the killer, obviously.

Even running. Even if you don’t feel like it. It’s raining. You don’t feel very fast. Just go for a run.

It’s the same way with school. I don’t feel like writing that paper or doing that homework or having that online discussion for the hundredth time.

Get down there and just start. Some of my best days writing papers and typing were the ones that I just really didn’t have it in me. But it was just somebody said something that sparked me to think of something in a new way that really helped me out. I know it sounds corny, but just go do it. It really it really is just that easy. You got to go do it.

For me, you’ve got to stop making excuses. Just do it.

It helps to have positive people in your life. If people around you are telling you, “no, no, no, you probably shouldn’t do it.” Maybe you should look for more positive in your life, because you can do it.

Positivity is the key. My wife encouraged me the whole time. And she didn’t wear kid gloves all the time. When I was like “oh this stinks.” She’s like, “get back in there and do it.” Without positive people in my life it would have been a lot tougher.

If my wife had questioned my desire to go back to school at all, I probably would’ve said no to it.

And not because she wouldn’t think I could do it but I just I knew without her support I couldn’t get it done. Her being that supportive; it made it so much easier.

And now I’ve got a bachelor’s degree.

 


This article appears in the June – July 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

“5 Months and Counting at Café Connection” by Logan Dodge

Café Connection has now been in operation for over 5 months! It has been a wild and exciting ride and we are excited to see where the spring and summer months take us. Over the winter we maintained our service to many people and now that the weather is turning warmer, we anticipate that we could see even more guests join us. Often, we get so caught up in the numbers and the statistics of how many meals we served and how many guests come on a specific night, but we also need to look beyond those metrics and look at all the individual lives that the Café has had an impact on.

At this point in our operation, we see a lot of the same families and individuals come on a weekly basis. To me this shows more of the Café’s success then any metric ever could, the fact that we have become a destination in our guests’ week. When guests walk in the door, they are usually greeted using their first name because we have gotten to know them so well. We have many stories of our guests requesting to have a specific server because they have enjoyed them so much in the past. We also have related stories of people asking where certain volunteers are if they are not working that week. We have guests wanting to interact with us and have a deeper connection, besides the simple “hello and goodbye,” which lets us know that the Café is bringing First Baptist Church closer to the community of Jackson.

“We have guests wanting to interact with us and have a deeper connection, besides the simple ‘hello and goodbye,’ which lets us know that the Café is bringing First Baptist Church closer to the community of Jackson.”

The guests are not the only people that this mission is for, the Café is having a major impact on our volunteers as well. It has been so amazing to watch who has come out to volunteer with us, we have a solid group of volunteers that are with us almost every week. They are the ones that got in on the ground floor of Café Connection and have made it run so smoothly. It has been a joy to see those folks continue to be excited about this mission and continue to improve the areas that they volunteer in.

We have also been able to meet and interact with volunteers that were not part of the church prior to the Café opening. New volunteers have brought friends and family with them to volunteer. Now, we are seeing an even bigger step, the friends and family of new volunteers have brought their own friends and family to serve with us. The Café has brought so many amazing people through our doors and into our lives. I personally have enjoyed meeting new volunteers and getting to know them on a personal level.

Something that many people would not know if they have never been to the Café is that this is a place were both guests and volunteers want to come back each week. This is not your average “church meal,” in fact most nights you may not even feel like you are at a church. We have found that because the Café operates like a restaurant and people are treated like they would be if they went to any restaurant, it makes everyone more comfortable. Our goal is not to force the church on our guests; we are here as a steppingstone for people to see what our church community is about. If at some point a guest or new volunteer feels ready to join us for service on Sunday, they will not walk in as strangers but as guests familiar with our church family.

As a church we can sometimes forget how intimidating it is for some to walk into a church like ours. Most of us have been going to this church our entire lives so we do not give it a second thought. For some people, especially those who might have had some bad church experiences in the past, just walking in the door of a church is a challenging thing to do. The Café was built to bridge that gap by bringing guests in with the simple offer of food and community. We want to show our guests that we serve everyone with dignity no matter who they are or what they look like.

If you have not been to Café Connection before or if you have not been in a while, I would strongly encourage you to come any Wednesday and see how we are serving our community. Or if you want to be part of the serving, contact myself or the church office and find out how you can be put on the volunteer schedule. This Café has become such a special place, not only for our guests but for our church family and friends as well. We could not be more proud of the relationships we have created, and we intend to continue that mission.

 

 


This article appears in the April-May 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

“A Dream in the Making” by Logan Dodge

About five years ago I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a video about a church in California that opened their doors to serve the homeless population in their community for Thanksgiving. Now initially that story doesn’t really stick out from the crowd, at first glance it was another good story about a church helping those in need, a tale as old as time. As I continued to watch the news story it got into why this church was different.

Normally at a soup kitchen or community food service facility it is set up either in a cafeteria style service or some other way that has the guests move through a line and collect the prepared food from volunteers. This is not in any way a bad process and is very efficient to serve as many people as possible. This California church in the video took a different approach to their serving style and took the food to the guests rather then have the guests come to them. They had many tables set up in a large common area in the church with white tablecloths and center pieces. It had the look and feel of a restaurant and what really set it over the top was they had servers for the tables to take orders for the Thanksgiving Dinner. The servers were dressed like ones in a high-end eatery: white dress shirts, black pants, and black aprons. Dinners were served on elegant dishware and everyone was welcomed to eat in this dignified establishment. It was this video that put the idea in my head that one day First Baptist could serve our community in this type of restaurant style experience.
Now a task like this does not just happen, it takes time, commitment, people, equipment, and support on many facets. For this reason, among many others, it has taken over five years to get the momentum for this endeavor.

To prepare for the first board meeting of 2021, we were asked to come up with some ideas on what mission the church could take on. We were told to think as wild and crazy as we could; there were no limits. The goal was to come up with ideas, not a fully operational plan; all we wanted were some big thoughts that might be out of the box to encourage our church to find their signature mission.

With that direction, I decided that it was time I let someone else know of the dream I had of starting a restaurant in our church to serve our community. Since I had been thinking about this mission for over five years, I had some big ideas about what I wanted it to look like. I kept to the directions given and didn’t give much thought about how we were going to make it all happen. I presented my vision to the other board members to see what they had to say. Once I got done going on and on about what a great idea I thought I had, I waited anxiously for comments. To my great surprise many liked the idea and even started coming up with other opportunities that this mission could eventually lead to in the future. There were some questions about how we go about getting something like this started but I told them that I didn’t have any answers at that time! By the end of this meeting we collectively decided as a board that this was a mission we wanted to pursue. There were many unanswered questions, a ton of unknowns, and for me personally, I didn’t even know where to start.

Fast forward to September and we have almost completed our kitchen updates and are almost ready to open the doors to Café Connection. We have figured out many of the unanswered questions that we had in the beginning. With that lengthy intro, let’s get to what Café Connection is all about!

What is Café Connection?

Jesus said when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and welcome in the stranger, it’s as if we’re serving Jesus. We find blessing in blessing others. Located in the heart of downtown Jackson we have many opportunities to bless our neighbors with food and dignified hospitality.

Café Connection is a place to serve a restaurant style dinner experience with warm food, excellent service, and creative opportunities for meaningful conversation. We hope to cultivate people who share meals as a way of nutritional, social, and spiritual growth. Through the simple act of food service, we are looking to provide connection. Connecting our church to our community, connecting our community to each other, and bringing God closer to our neighbors. Our guests are hungry for great food, first class service without a first-class price tag, and a safe, welcoming environment to heal divides with meaningful conversation.

In today’s fast pace world, with so many distractions and things competing for our attention, eating a meal around a table is something that is not common. We want to provide an opportunity for our community to disconnect from worldly distractions and re-connect with other people and God around a dinner table. Unlike other food ministries like soup kitchens, our focus is on the dinner table experience. Instead of having guests file in a line, we want to serve our guests like they were in a restaurant because they deserve dignified, quality meals. Being seated by a host, ordering at the table from a menu, and receiving unwavering service from a waiter allows guests more opportunity to connect with others at their table throughout the night.

“We want to provide an opportunity for our community to disconnect from worldly distractions and re-connect with other people and God around a dinner table.”

Using social media and physical material we will reach out to our target groups to gain interest and attendance. We will also partner with local organizations such as the Interfaith Shelter to help locate those who may benefit from this service. In our first year we have a goal to have the Café open one day a week for dinner. During these dinners we want to provide a meal that is served restaurant style, have opportunities to connect with our guests, and introduce our community to First Baptist Church.

This mission will not only have a positive impact on our community but will also have a positive impact on our church. This mission opens our front door wider to our friends and neighbors. The mission not only becomes a place to invite others to enjoy a meal, but also to join us in service. Sometimes it is hard to ask someone to attend church with you, but to ask someone to help serve others is a much more comfortable interaction. Café Connection is an opportunity to show others what it means to be a part of First Baptist Church.

I am so excited for Café Connection to finally open and allow First Baptist Church to show our community that we are here to serve them and welcome them into our home.


To learn more about Café Connection, visit CafeConnection.org.

This article appears in the October-November 2021 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

Announcing Café Connection

Events

Café Connection – Friends and Family Night

Join us for the soft launch of Café Connection with our Friends and Family Night! Café Connection is a restaurant style dinner experience with warm food, excellent service, and creative opportunities for meaningful conversation. Even better, it comes without a restaurant price tag. Our meals are free as the ministry is supported by donations and not dinner receipts. The café is open from 4:30 – 8pm. You can help us out and let us know you’re coming by booking a table at CafeConnection.org. Walk ins are still accepted!

Café Connection

Café Connection is a restaurant style dinner experience with warm food, excellent service, and creative opportunities for meaningful conversation. Even better, it comes without a restaurant price tag. Our meals are free as the ministry is supported by donations and not dinner receipts. The café is open from 4:30 – 8pm. Learn more about Café Connection at CafeConnection.org.

Café Connection Grand Opening

Join us for the grand opening of Café Connection! Café Connection is a restaurant style dinner experience with warm food, excellent service, and creative opportunities for meaningful conversation. Even better, it comes without a restaurant price tag. Our meals are free as the ministry is supported by donations and not dinner receipts. Learn more about Café Connection at CafeConnection.org.