Sylvia Marie Simons sat down during her morning devotions, contemplating whether she should become the lead pastor of Flemington Assembly of God in her West Virginia hometown.
She opened her Bible to Mark 5, where Jesus tells a demon-possessed man to go home and “report what great things the Lord has done for you and how He had mercy on you.”
“When I read that, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do,” Simons says. “The people in my community that I grew up in had been my people for years and years. There had been a long season where I had been away from them.”
Simons, 55, had been absent from Flemington for a long time, but during that span she says God taught her to serve the church she would one day pastor. A granddaughter of a Baptist preacher, Simons grew up helping her mom — the church custodian — clean the country facility weekly.
Simons never forgot about her early church years, and when she married shortly after high school, she vowed to raise her future children in church. Simons later took her two daughters, Elise, now 32, and Ashley, 29, to church alone.
After her family moved to a bigger city, she had no church home until a local youth pastor knocked on her door with a tract and an invitation to a small Baptist church. Simons began attending the church, but soon afterward her husband left her, leaving her to raise two children alone, with no source of income. The youth pastor who invited her to church helped her become the church secretary and treasurer.
Simons married a Christian man, Frank Simons, during the 10 years she worked at the church before the couple transitioned to Trinity Assembly of God in Fairmont, West Virginia. She began volunteering as a youth Sunday School teacher and served on the youth staff.
After the pastor at Trinity, Ray L. Crabtree, found out she had secretarial experience, he hired her as executive secretary at the church. Simons began taking classes for ministerial credentialing, and Crabtree became her mentor.
When Crabtree retired in 2017, he asked Simons to stay for a year to assist the new lead pastor, Wayde W. Wilson. Wilson says he immediately recognized her ministry calling.
“Sylvia was an invaluable part of the staff,” Wilson says. “She’s a go-getter and excellent on a number of levels. She started talking to me about this itch she wanted to scratch to do more in the way of full-time ministry.”
Wilson says God used her time serving in the church to prepare Simon to become a lead pastor. After serving a year with Wilson, Simon returned to Flemington to pastor in May 2018. In an effort to help others, she is transparent about her challenging life experiences such as divorce and single parenting.
“I’m able to say through it all the Lord has helped me,” Simon says. “I have firsthand accounts of what God has done for me.”