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story.lead_photo.caption Pastor James Jackson of House of Prayer Family Church delivers a sermon on Sunday. After the service, the congregation celebrated the 25th anniversary of when Jackson and his wife, Dorene, founded the church. Photo by Gerry Tritz / News Tribune.

Even if you're not familiar with House of Prayer Family Church, you're likely familiar with some of the many organizations they've impacted.

The members of the small multicultural congregation on West Main Street have made a big impact on the community over the years, working with organizations such as Healing House and New Beginnings, Pregnancy Help Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Lions Club and prison ministries.

On Sunday, the church celebrated its 25th anniversary and the church's founders: James and Dorene Jackson.

The Jacksons, who have been married for 39 years, started the church in 1995 and still serve as church leaders. James is the church pastor, and Dorene is the administrator and children's pastor.

The church is non-denominational and affiliated with the Association of Faith Churches and Ministries.

"They teach the word. They love God and they love people. We're proud to be a part of this ministry," member Cherryl Jones said. "They've been a blessing to the church."

Laurie Mills said she was invited to the church by a friend in 2000.

"I came the first time and I knew I never wanted to leave," she said. "It was the way he made the scriptures very personable. I could understand it and I could see how my life could be different."

After the morning church service, congregation members enjoyed chili and fellowship.

James Jackson said he and Dorene were in another church in Waynesville, Missouri, and felt God's call to start a church in Jefferson City. He said it was a leap of faith.

He said there's been ups and downs over the years, but in the end, "it's the people who matter more than anything else. People who we have lived with, walked with. It's those relationships that are more important than anything else."

In addition to the church, Jackson founded Bridge Builders, a prison ministry. He visits prisons around Mid-Missouri, spreading the word of God. At the Jefferson City Correctional Center alone, there are 75-100 inmates who are part of the program.

"We're helping them to realize that they have value, no matter what they have done," Jackson said. "We've seen (positive) changes in their lives, and it's just been marvelous to see some of these changes happen."

James Jackson also was the first African American to serve as chaplain for the Missouri House of Representatives, which he did from 2002-10. It was a position Dorene said opened many doors for them.

However, it was that initial step out of their comfort zone, she said, that has allowed the couple and the church to grow in Christ.

"Has it been easy? Nah. But when we look back, it's been completely worth it. And we're praising the Lord the whole way," Dorene Jackson said.

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