Rev. John Mabry Pastor, Mt. Tabor Baptist Church

How long have you been the pastor? It’ll be 19 years, the second Sunday in March.

Is this your hometown? Yes. I graduated from Jordan High School in 1973. Then I went to American Baptist, off-campus, then Turner Theological Seminary in Columbus; and I also have an associates in Business Management from Columbus Tech and an associates in Early Childhood from Columbus State.

Were you always in the ministry? No. I started out as a statistical process controller, first at Columbus Foundry then W.C. Bradley and then Pratt & Whitney. It was in Quality Control. This is my first church. I’d been preaching eight years at New Providence Baptist, which is my home church.

When were you called to preach? It was a very humbling experience. I was scared and I didn’t feel adequate. It was a calling to be of greater help to people. In my earlier years, I was a mean-spirited person. I played in Columbus rec leagues and I fought. I was a mean person, and then God made a change in my life. The desire is now to build up people. ... My other job is I work for the Columbus Housing Authority as a manager. I’ve been with them 17 years.

So that’s full time?Yes. The church is also full time, but I’m able to do things around my other job. They allow me to do that.

Who’s in your family?

My wife is Linda. We have three sons: LeNard, Terrence and Jerrell. All are grown. My baby is 23. One is here, one’s in Ft. Valley and one is in South Carolina. We also have three grandkids — all boys.

What are some of the changes you’ve seen in Columbus all these years? Our city has grown a lot and the ethnicity has changed. The city has worked hard to make it better. It’s very clean. The consolidated government has made a big impact. I’ve read a lot about Mayor (J.R. ) Allen and I saw the impact that the new government had on Beallwood. It was very positive. That was where I grew up.

Talk about how your mother’s recent illness has affected you. It’s taught me that there’s an end to life, and that death is a part of life... Death is an opening to something better, into the perfect grace of God. Her name is Mildred Harris. I am one of seven siblings. My grandmother had 16 children; 12 or 13 of them are still alive.

How did you end up turning your life around, from being mean-spirited? I started studying the Bible and applied things I was learning. The ability to process the information gave me the ability to rise above it. The wisdom of God gave me the courage.