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Everyone Is Worth the Price

Despite experiencing prejudice himself, Nebraska pastor feels led to minister to all.
The fearful man wouldn’t open his door when Leroy Wyre’s dad and uncles knocked.

Wyre’s African American family members wanted permission to hunt on the man’s farm near Clarkson, Nebraska. But the white man’s only perception of African Americans came from negative TV images.

So he didn’t answer the door.

Today, Wyre recalls how the strength of God’s love melted misconceptions and built relationships between that man and his family.

And Wyre sees how long ago God prepared him for ministry through his multiethnic experiences.

For 15 years, Wyre has been pastor of First Assembly of God in Scottsbluff, a city of 14,700 in western Nebraska that is 83 percent white and only 3 percent black. He and his wife, Michelle, have two children, Caleb and Moriah.

Wyre’s father, Freler, grew up in a racially violent part of the South and told accounts of not being allowed to ride buses that carried white children to school. In fact, white children who saw black kids walking to school yelled racial slurs from the bus windows.

Realizing job choices didn’t range beyond being a janitor or picking cotton, Freler left his Louisiana home and moved to Texas at 17. He joined the U.S. Air Force and met his future wife, Ricarda, while stationed in the Philippines. Freler began teaching Leroy important values at a young age.

“He began to instill in me that I could achieve anything I wanted if I put in the work and was a responsible person,” Wyre recalls.

Freler retired after 21 years in the military and settled in Clarkson, an area in which he had hunted for years. He turned an abandoned schoolhouse into a home. No other black people lived within a 100-mile radius of the community of 650 residents when the Wyres arrived in 1976.

The approachable and humorous Leroy quickly gained friends, however. After his best teenage friend died in an accident, the boy’s grandfather began visiting the Wyre home. The man confided his fear in not answering the door for Wyre’s relatives years earlier.

“Before long, he came over to our house, eating dinner regularly and enjoying my parents’ company,” Wyre says. “He grew from being fearful of black people to being part of our family.”

Wyre was a high school senior when his dad had quadruple bypass surgery and committed his life to Christ.

“We’d ride in the pickup and he’d be listening to Christian music and telling me about Jesus,” Wyre remembers. “I couldn’t stand it.”

Wyre found a job at Electric Fixture & Supply in Norfolk, Nebraska, where he resisted invitations to church.

Meanwhile, Wyre learned a young woman with whom he’d had a relationship had become pregnant and aborted his child.

“I thought that God hated me and could never love me,” Wyre says. “So I just lived my life full bore because I knew when I died I was going to hell.”

But church invitations kept coming. Wyre eventually relented and began attending an adult Christian singles group. One evening, he opened a Bible his dad had given to him eight years earlier. Wyre read Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” He says he felt the Lord telling him he could be forgiven for anything he had done in the past.

“Right then and there, I got on my knees in my bedroom and asked Christ to forgive me and save me,” Wyre says. “When I got done with that prayer, I knew something on the inside had changed.”

At God’s leading, Wyre went to First Assembly of God, now Victory Road Assembly of God, in Norfolk. Pastor Mark D. Rose soon got Wyre involved in teaching a teen Sunday School class. Although by this time Wyre worked for the Nebraska Department of Roads — where he was part of communications and conflict resolution committees — some fellow churchgoers wondered aloud if he had a ministerial calling.

Wyre met Michelle at a skating party. They married in 1993. Wyre knew he sensed God’s leading to become a pastor, but he ignored it. Finally one Sunday night, he
confessed he’d been running and sought forgiveness from his wife, pastor, and congregants. Then he preached a Holy Spirit-led message.

“People started coming to the front of the church and repenting and weeping,” Wyre says.

After Leroy obtained his ministerial credentials, the Wyres in 2005 moved to Scottsbluff, where he became senior pastor.

Church board member Mary Ann Shockley commends Wyre’s ministry and community outreach.

“He’s a good shepherd,” Shockley says. “He’s always there when we need him. He makes everyone feel welcome, included, and loved.”

Wyre recognizes the price Christ paid to save souls. When he encounters others he thinks of Minnie Pearl, the late country comedian known for wearing hats with dangling price tags.

“I look at every person and see a price tag hanging from their forehead that says ‘the blood of Jesus.’” Wyre says. “They are worth the blood of Jesus and it’s my assignment to reach them.”

Wyre certainly has faced some prejudice over the years, but he believes most Scottsbluff residents began to accept different races before his family moved there. Wyre is inspired by the apostle Paul who wrote much of the New Testament. Before his conversion however, Paul persecuted Christians. Wyre is hopeful for witnessing opportunities to convert people who don’t think or look like him.

“Maybe a really prejudiced person could be used by God to spread the gospel in a mighty way,” Wyre says.

Tammy Real McKeighan

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune in Nebraska, where she has worked since 1981. She is a member of Full Life Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in Fremont. She has two sons, Michael and Zachary.