Ministry has led Jones Mahaffey to a variety of places, from Mississippi to Australia to Tennessee.
Now, retired after 41 years in pastoral ministry, Mahaffey calls Cleveland home.
He has led churches in Tennessee, North Dakota, Georgia and Mississippi, and as far away as Australia.
His desire to work in ministry began at a young age.
“When I was a teenager I wanted to be a military chaplain. That didn’t materialize,” he said.
In 1968, a ministry opportunity became available as he led a servicemen’s fellowship group while being stationed with the U.S. Air Force in Germany.
“It’s what they call a small group, nowadays, for servicemen and their dependents,” Mahaffey said.
After leaving the military, he enrolled in a program for former GIs to become credentialed ministers. Mahaffey and his wife, Jean, were then presented with an opportunity to serve as a pastor in North Dakota.
The congregation in Mercer, N.D., was made up of descendents of immigrant families from Germany and Russia.
“They had a heavy Russian or German accent and we were coming up there directly from the Southern United States,” Jones said.
The Mahaffeys also pastored in other cities in the state before moving to Georgia to pastor.
He said North Dakota was the state he enjoyed pastoring in the most.
“We knew without question that that was where God had directed us to go,” Jones said. “We will always be fond of North Dakota ... the people were so dependable. It didn’t matter if the snow was 3 or 4 feet deep, they had to be deathly sick to not be in a Sunday worship service.”
Later, he and his wife applied to be missionaries with the Church of God.
The couple were assigned to Australia and served in the country for two years.
“In that the Lord did a miracle. We were issued an unrestricted visa,” he said.
In 1988, when the Mahaffeys were going to Australia, most people had to have an employment designation saying they would work at least 30 days a year in their profession.
He said because of his education level he was exempt from this restriction.
An unexpected turn came to him in October 2011 while leading Birchwood Church of God in Birchwood.
He was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer of the small intestine.
His initial diagnosis came in an unconventional way. Mahaffey had been nauseous with vomiting for a few days when a complete stranger told him to go to the hospital.
“That afternoon I was sitting in the little parsonage living room and the gentleman knocked on the door,” Mahaffey said. “My wife answered the door, and he said, ‘Me and my wife like to look at different church buildings when we travel.’ I didn’t know who he was. ... His wife looked around in the sanctuary. He looked at the very old headstones in the cemetery. Then he came back and rapidly began asking my wife questions.”
The questions centered on finding out if the pastor was at home.
Jean Mahaffey led the couple in to meet her husband, who had been lying on the couch. Immediately the stranger measured Jones Mahaffey’s heart rate and said,” You’ve got 82 beats a minute.”
The stranger then prayed for Mahaffey and told him to get to a hospital.
At SkyRidge Medical Center, the doctor found something in his small intestine.
“He thought at first I just had a blockage, then they found out I had a carcinoid tumor in the small intestine,” Mahaffey said.
He also had his gallbladder and appendix removed.
He said the man was a pastor who had gone to Cleveland for a meeting at the seminary.
“The question for you is what are the odds that somebody all the way from Charlottesville, Va., is going to be in Birchwood, Tenn., on a Saturday afternoon in October?” Mahaffey said. “That was the Lord leading them.”
Since the surgery, Mahaffey has not needed chemotherapy or radiation. He has been medically released to do anything he wants and does not have to go to follow up appointments.
Mahaffey pastored at Birchwood Church of God for 18 1/2 years.
He retired last year.
Just because Mahaffey has retired from the Church of God does not mean he has stopped ministering to others. He now serves as the chaplain for Helping Hands of Cleveland. The business provides a variety of services in the community.
In his role as chaplain, he often visits people in Garden Plaza, LifeCare Centers of Cleveland and individuals homes.
The Mahaffeys have a grown son and daughter. Their son lives in East Ridge and their daughter lives in Florida.
In his spare time, Jones Mahaffey enjoys word searches and visiting the library.