By Ike Harris | Contributing Writer
When the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners sold Wapato Jail (14355 N Lake Bybee Ct.) for $5 million in 2018, they had no idea that it would be used for, among other things, a Christian ministry. But that’s exactly where I have been holding our in-person meetings twice monthly for the better part of a year.
Even as a child, I felt the call to be a minister. Growing up, my mother took me to a Baptist church in Pearl, Mississippi. We walked through the tall grass and sometimes there would be snakes but we would persevere until we got to church. I loved the preachers. When I was about 12, they took us out to a muddy pond to baptize us. The experience made me feel special, like I was under a divine umbrella.
Although choosing to become a minister was intentional, choosing to do it in Portland was not. After high school, I won a football scholarship to Alcorn State University, but ended up leaving college to move to California to live with my aunt. Then, my mother asked me to join the U.S. Navy, where I spent 3 1/2 years learning to be a signalman, helping ship captains communicate. I traveled to many ports and at the end of my tenure, my ship came to Portland to be serviced. Not knowing what to do next with my life, I reenlisted in the service for 6 months while I stayed in Portland to figure it out.
I had not attended religious services since high school but right in the midst of that deep valley of decision, I noticed one day that someone had left a New Testament on my ship, so I picked it up and began reading it. The Spirit of the Lord came upon me and I was born again right there. I had found my calling and what to do with my life; I knew I had been given the gift of preaching.
Before I found the bible that day, I had been spending time at Peter’s Habit, a nightclub formerly owned by independent candidate for governor Frank Peters. There, I had met a young woman named Pam. After picking up that bible, I went downtown and bought myself a new suit, I went right back to the club to see Pam and, in 1976, we got married. We moved to Concordia in 1979. Pam and I now have three children, five grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and; we just found out, one more grandchild on the way. I spent 22 years as a post office carrier in Concordia and I currently drive the Faubion school bus.
Pam’s mother was a preacher at the then-named All Nations Church (2902 NE Rodney St.) now called Mt. Gillard Missionary Baptist Church, where we first belonged as congregants. In the book of Acts, when Jesus goes back to Heaven, he tells his disciples to go to an “upper room” and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit. That’s why, in 1997, when I started my own ministry, I named it Upper Room. At each of our meetings, we have an opening prayer, sing a song or two, and then we read and I preach and teach scripture. Just like when you serve up a good meal, preaching well takes a little while. I like to get into the “meat” of the word.
Pam and I have grown to love Portland and would like to invite Concordia residents to join us as we learn from the gospel. The bible has helped me immensely and I truly believe it has something in it for everyone. We hold an Upper Room Ministry meeting every Sunday on Zoom at 10 am and in-person meetings twice a month on Sunday afternoons at the former Wapato Jail. If you would like to attend either, call or text me directly at (503) 901-0623. Call anytime for prayer. Thank you.
Ike is a retired letter carrier who believes that the greatest treasure on Earth is not silver or gold but people.