By Keith Barnes
KENLY — Kenly Missionary Baptist Church has a new pastor as Devon Varnam, 38, has come from a church in the Bladen County town of Tar Heel to take over the post after pastor George Arant recently stepped down from the position he had held for 11 years.
Varnam’s family consists of wife Ginnie, who teaches at Glendale-Kenly Elementary School; son Sammy J., 5; and daughter, Elizabeth Ann, 4.
Varnam is originally from Varnamtown, a town of about 600 residents, located near Holden Beach on the southeastern North Carolina coast.
He comes from a family with ancestors who made their living in the shrimping business.
Varnam lived at Varnamtown for 21 years and graduated from West Brunswick High School in 1998.
He worked for his father in the insulation business, and after two years of climbing in some unusual and uncomfortable places, said he knew God was calling him to do something else.
Varnam enrolled in Brunswick Community College and took some business and computer courses but said that did not really fit him.
“One day I was in my mom’s office and she said to me, “You know what God is calling you to do, don’t you?”
Varnam enrolled at Campbell University and graduated with a degree in church music.
While at Campbell, he also served in some church jobs at Dublin First Baptist Church and Edgewood Baptist Church and got experience as youth pastor and minister of music.
He entered Southeastern Baptist Seminary, where he earned his master’s degree in arts and Christian studies.
“During that time, God started working on my heart to preach,” said Varnam.
He eventually returned to Dublin where he served at First Baptist Church/Lake Christ as associate pastor for a church with 600-700 members.
Varnam said he was extremely busy there.
The same year, he was diagnosed with a heart problem and advised by his doctors to slow down.
Varnam decided to go to a smaller church located in Tar Heel, where he pastored for 3 1/2 years.
While there, he said Sunday school attendance grew from 50 to 100, and church membership increased from 80 to 116 in a town with a population of only 117 people.
Varnam was recently contacted by representatives of Kenly Missionary Baptist to become pastor and said he immediately fell in love with the church and the people of Kenly.
His first sermon at Kenly Missionary Baptist was Sunday, Sept. 9.
“The people of Kenly are the friendliest people I have ever met, “ said Varnam. “There is something to be said for the motto of ‘Friendly Kenly.’ I feel right at home here.”
“Devon Varnam is a good person and is very community-minded,” said George Arant “He is going to be a real asset for our church.”