Editor’s note: This profile is a first in a series of featuring new religious leaders in Portales.
By Christina Calloway
Rev. Keith Wilks returns to Portales after 20 years as he enters his 26th year in ministry, but he said attending Eastern New Mexico University in 1994 is only a coincidence; coming to serve First United Methodist Church of Portales and the community, that’s fate.
“It wasn’t something I had planned or looked for,” said Wilks a native of Los Angeles.
Wilks recently left Hobbs where he served as the chaplain and bereavement coordinator for Gentiva Hospice. He said he was connected to the opening through a friend in Jal after former pastor Michael Brunk had been reassigned to another church.
“The weeks here have certainly been an act of God,” said Wilks, who came to the church in the beginning of this month.
Wilks said he grew up in the South Central area of Los Angeles at a time he considered challenging. He said his parents did their best to keep he and his brothers on track but gangs were on the rise and though he never joined one, Wilks said the culture influenced his life.
Being a preacher was far from what he thought he’d end up doing. The 55-year-old pastor said he originally wanted to be a lawyer because he wanted to argue cases.
He found his calling in 1987 in Phoenix where he went to church with his grandmother, a person he admired dearly. It was there he started leaning toward a relationship with God.
“Things in my past and present converged and I knew my future,” he said.
After he was ordained, he took his first position in Yuma, Arizona, to a congregation of eight members. He was paid $30 a week.
He earned his doctor of ministry from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta and attended school at ENMU in the mid 1990s.
He remembered the United Methodist Women of FUMC reaching out to the community through the Wesley Foundation on campus. He said the women delivered meals and it inspired him to pray for the women and the church.
Now Wilks is behind the pulpit of that church with a goal of serving the community.
“I want to help us expand our concept of God, our concept of self and our concept of others,” he said.
Wilks said he continues to preach after 26 years because it provides a real sense of purpose and a sense of mind.
He perceives ministry as a dialogical process and finds he’s both teacher and student in the position.
“That’s what keeps me grounded, it’s the people,” Wilks said.