Leonard Banks, senior pastor of Abundant Grace Church, our GCI congregation in Rochester, New York, started attending the Rochester congregation in 1991. “I was watching The World Tomorrow with HWA and heard him say a few things that got my attention. One was his statement (while pounding on the desk and quoting Revelation 21:2) that, ‘The New Jerusalem is coming down from heaven.'”
Leonard grew up in Rochester with three brothers. “We all were into sports—we played football and wrestled through high school. After I graduated I returned to coach the JV wrestling team. I had aspirations of becoming a pro football player, but two separated shoulders and a concussion (during which I lost my memory—scary) changed my plans. I did get a kick out of going to a football camp in Boston where I met Joe Namath and some other pro football players.”
As a bivocational pastor, Leonard works for the City of Rochester in the refuse department. “I’ve been employed there for 30 years. I’m a professional heavy equipment operator (boom truck)—the truck with the big claw bucket. I have become quite good at picking up things. Just the other day a man watching me said I handle the boom like a surgeon.”
Leonard and his wife Patama have been married for 32 years. “She was born in Thailand and is a great cook. She really helps keep me grounded and focused on the Lord. She is the person that talks about God and Jesus more than anyone I know. Patama is a constant reminder to me that God is in charge.” Leonard and Patama have one daughter, Arianne Banks, and twin stepsons, Derrick and Davin Tillman. They also have five grandchildren, Darius, Geo, Tajh, Drew and the newest, India, who was born April 11, 2014.
After joining GCI, Leonard got to know Ken Williams who was pastor of the Rochester church at that time. “Ken ordained me in August 1999 and took me under his wing to help groom me.” Leonard replaced Ken as pastor 15 years ago.
When asked what he enjoys most about being a pastor, Leonard talked about watching people grow. “I would have to say being able to help people spiritually then see them grow in the grace of God and seeing the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives.”
About GCI, Leonard said, “I marvel at the direction the Spirit is leading our leaders who then funnel that understanding to our local churches around the world. When we come together and share our experiences with each other we see the same Spirit working and achieving the same goal—to make disciples.”
When asked about his most memorable moment as a pastor, Leonard shared a story about someone being healed right before his eyes. “This one was a learning experience for all people involved. This young girl suffers from sickle cell anemia and was in the hospital about six months out of the year. At the age of 13 she was having a bad time on that day with a temperature of 103 and pulse of 170. I anointed her and asked for two things, her temperature and pulse to return to normal; within two seconds everything returned to normal. She didn’t return to the hospital for another 12 years for her chronic illness.”
Leonard noted that his passion is helping people stay focused on our Lord and Savior. “It seems that people easily lose sight of Jesus in the midst of life’s difficulties. I bet you that in every sermon I give, I somehow come back to reminding the congregation to stay focused on Jesus.”
When asked when he feels closest to God, Leonard said, “During the morning devotionals my wife and I have together before I go to work. It helps us focus and prepare ourselves for the day.”