Sep. 22—CLINTON — After 20 years spent working for the Victory Center, Pastor Lyle Wilkins is making a permanent move to Branson, Missouri, where he and wife, Deb, will continue to do ministry work.
"The Lord called us to go down there," Wilkins says.
The couple have visited Branson regularly over a number of years, but during their most recent trip in November of last year during Veteran's Week, four or five people all within the same day asked him when he'd be moving down there to do ministry work. Bravely, the couple decided to do it.
Wilkins says his time at the Victory Center on Ninth Avenue South has greatly prepared him for this next venture spiritually, giving him the knowledge of how to successfully raise funds and how to talk to and treat people. He feels encouraged by his experiences there and the faith they've given him to take a risk.
Still, it will be difficult to leave when he finishes his last day at the Victory Center.
"I didn't realize how tough it was," he says, "until I started taking my pictures down off my wall at work."
That's when the reality of the situation really began to sink in and he started to feel the void that the absence of the Victory Center in his life would leave.
"Seemed like the more pictures I took down, the bigger the void was getting," he said.
At the same time, however, Wilkins does feel joyful about the move.
In October 2002, Wilkins received a call from Pastor Ray Gimenez, the CEO/founder of Victory Center Ministries, who was looking for new board members and to whom Wilkins had been highly recommended.
"That's great," Wilkins had told Gimenez, "but I don't want anything to do with the Victory Center."
Wilkins simply wasn't interested at the time. Gimenez asked him to think about it while Wilkins agreed for the sake of bringing a faster end to the conversation. Wilkins prayed for a ministry where he could help the poor and the needy and go on mission trips though, so he decided to call Gimenez back.
Not long after, 19 years ago, Victory Center Ministries was accepting federal money through HUD, but disagreements pertaining to how the money was to be used caused the Center to do away completely with accepting any federal, state, or city funding.
I took my wallet out," Wilkins recalls, "Took what money I had out of my wallet, laid it on the table. I said, OK, guys, this is seed money. We're going to depend on God to take care of all our bills from here on out."
Nearly everyone else at the table added to Wilkins' money on the table but nearly two decades later, the center remains open.
Wilkins has been on a total of 26 mission trips over the years, 22 of which were with Gimenez and spanned seven different countries. In 2014, Wilkins became donor/developer and Gimenez's "right-hand man." He's helped to organize the Victory Center's annual golf outing, the Thanksgiving banquet, and would visit local businesses and churches as well raise money to keep the center open.
"I had no idea I made such an impact," Wilkins says.
It's unknown at this time how the organizational structure of the Victory Center may adjust in Wilkins' absence or who might take his place.
Wilkins plans to leave Iowa on Monday and will later be joined by Deb. One of their first priorities after arriving in Branson will be finding an apartment in which to live.
Wilkins will return briefly for a farewell party on Oct. 8 that's to be held at Journey Church on 13th Avenue North from 2 to 5 p.m.