In July, 128 pastors and their wives traveled to Israel with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The trip was planned to encourage SBTC pastors, strengthen their preaching by helping them experience the places where Jesus focused His ministry, and provide a venue for them to worship and fellowship together.
Among this group of pastors was a father and son: Kyle Clayton, senior pastor of The Church at Quail Creek in Amarillo, and his father, Rex—a retired pastor.
“When I found out about the SBTC’s trip to Israel, I jumped on it,” Kyle said. “Giving me the opportunity to bring my wife (April) to Israel made the trip more exciting, and the fact that later on mom and dad were able to also come, as well, made it even better.”
Rex said he had planned to go to Israel with a church, but that trip filled up so quick he was not able to sign up. When the SBTC announced its trip, he said he quickly signed up to go.
“I am blessed to have walked where Jesus walked with my only son, Kyle,” Rex said. “Being in Israel makes the Bible so much more real, and being able to talk to Kyle about it was a wonderful experience.”
Rex has been married to his wife, Karen, for 49 years and they also have a daughter, Kandra, who is five years older that Kyle. He served during the war as a chaplain assistant, then earned an accountant degree from The University of Texas and began serving his local church. “I started to teach Sunday school at my church with no members,” he said with a smile, “and then we went out and decided to go and get them.
“God blessed our efforts, and by teaching this class, God confirmed to us that we should be in full-time ministry. We answered the call and went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where I got a Master of Divinity.” He was an associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Burleson and also pastored in Alvarado while going to seminary.
After his graduation, Rex pastored First Baptist Church of Sundown near Odessa, where Kyle met his bride, April.
At the age of 69, Rex retired from Calvary Baptist Church in Tishomingo, Okla., after serving there for 17 years. “I have been blessed by Rex pastoring all of these years, and I told him, when you retire, I want to go and hear Kyle preach at Quail Creek. We went many times to visit him, and we fell in love and felt loved by the church immediately. Rex is a great pastor and preacher, and I also think that Kyle is, too,” Karen said.
Kyle calls himself a “Jesus follower, husband, dad, and preacher man.” He has been married to April for 20 years and they have two children: Mackenzie, 16, and Nolan, 15. He has a master’s degree from Slidell Baptist Seminary in Louisiana. He has been serving Quail Creek for 13 years.
April, Kyle’s wife, said she was also blessed to be in Israel. She was able to experience some of the way women are required to travel around the cities and the oppression in which women without Jesus as Lord have to endure in certain sectors of society. In some areas, she noticed women were not able to show their elbows, show their knees, or speak.
She was also able to appreciate all the ancient pieces of art, sculptures, and designs around her. April is an art teacher at San Jacinto Christian Academy, a Christian school that was started by Quail Creek in 1982.
“It’s a blessing to work at a school our church founded,” she said. “I not only work full-time, but I serve our church in the women’s ministry and as a small group leader in our student ministry.”
As a group of travelers, all the pastors, wives, and SBTC leaders shared a time of worship at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem and participated in the Lord’s Supper.
“My favorite thing to do for our church is make the Lord’s Supper bread,” April said. “I pray over it as I make it, as well as each member who takes it. I don’t take making it lightly. It’s an honor to do it for our church in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice. I started this tradition when my mother-in-law, Karen, passed the tradition down to me. During COVID, we were able to share the recipe with our congregation so we could all participate in the Lord’s Supper together in our own homes for Easter.”
The whole family celebrated the occasion of traveling to Israel together by having a symbolic baptism in the Jordan River performed by Bruno Molina, SBTC language and interfaith evangelism associate.