Jonathan Rakestraw is the bivocational pastor of GCI’s Tallahassee, Florida congregation. “I grew up near Tallahassee where my family has lived for over 150 years. I grew up hunting and fishing with family and friends on a Civil War battlefield along the St. Marks River.”
Jonathan left Florida for a few years to attend college and work in Pasadena, California, but he and his wife Carolyn moved back in 1987 after Jonathan accepted a position with the state of Florida. “I am in my 25th year of employment with the state and currently serve as lead over the Contract and Project Management Office for the Division of Telecommunications. My primary responsibility is to oversee 40+ telecommunication service contracts.”
Jonathan was 10 years old when his family was visited for the first time by a WCG pastor. “Being from a small community with a large extended family, having traveling visitors was unheard of—much less ministers from another state!” Jonathan credits his grandmother for his family’s interest in the church. “My dad started listening to The World Tomorrow radio program in the ’60s but was skeptical about the offer of free literature from a church in California. By chance he mentioned to my grandmother Dosia that he had been listening to the program but that he thought the free offers too good to be true. To my dad’s amazement, my grandmother said that Mr. Armstrong was good to his word because she had requested and received free literature herself in the ’40s. Because of my grandmother’s endorsement, my dad and the rest of my family started the journey of becoming part of WCG/GCI.”
Jonathan and Carolyn (Tatham) met in 1980 as Ambassador College students, and married after graduating. They have been married for 28 years and have three children: Matthew (24), Charlotte (21) and Andrew (13). “All three are GCI members who enjoy participating and serving at our youth camps.” Of Carolyn, Jonathan says, “She is my best and most helpful evaluator in ministry. She does the weekly church bulletin, leads youth church, manages our congregational Facebook page and keeps in touch with our church family and friends around the world.”
Jonathan served as an elder in both the Tallahassee, Florida and Moultrie, Georgia congregations and also served briefly as interim pastor during a change in leadership. “I was installed as pastor of our Tallahassee congregation in November 2004 when the current pastor retired.”
Jonathan’s favorite part of pastoring is “serving my brothers and sisters in Christ and being part of what Jesus is doing in GCI.” What he enjoys most about being part of GCI is “the close relationships and the shared experiences together with such a diverse group locally and internationally.” He credits his District Pastor, Larry Hinkle, as his mentor. “He has helped me grow in my relationship with God by mentoring me in spiritual formation and providing the Odyssey in Christ retreats.” Jonathan mentions his three most memorable moments as pastor: “baptizing each of my three children.”
When asked about his passion, Jonathan said, “Freshwater fly-fishing is my hobby and passion. It’s my way of enjoying God’s wonderful creation and recharging my soul. Thankfully, I have fishing buddies in Florida and also in New Hampshire when we visit my mother-in-law there.”
When does he feel closest to God? “During quiet time at sunrise on the weekend while my family is asleep. I enjoy the time with God to listen and reflect so I can be more balanced and centered for the day.”
4 thoughts on “Jonathan Rakestraw”
My good friend and Ambassador classmates, Jon and Carolyn! Great to read your story. I admire you both for your dedication, humility and faithfulness! God’s blessings on you and your family. It is always great seeing you during conferences.
Hi Jonathan and Carolyn,
Great to see another classmate in the limelight here! Good to learn more about your lives and ministry. Didn’t realize you were an avid fly fishing fan. Hope Carolyn is doing ok.
Love to you both!
I have been Blessed to know Jonathan and his family for over 40 years. I have watched him grow and mature in his relationship with God and am happy to call him pastor and friend.
Thank you Jonathan for all you do for our Church, as well as me and my family.
Elizabeth (Betty) Wharton
Good to see you both up here, all the best. Craig & Debbie
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