For Emory Gadd, the explanation for his return to this area is simple. "South Belt is in my blood, it's where my heart is," he said.
Gadd served as the youth minister at Sagemont Baptist Church from 1971 to 1981 and has returned in the same capacity after a seven-year hiatus during which he traveled as a speaker.
It was the ties formed during those early years that brought him back. "This is the only church I've ever served at," he said. "I began here with Pastor John D. Morgan 18 years ago and I would like to retire with him."
Gadd was asked to return and he attributes his decisions to several reasons. "I believe it is will of God, the church and my family," he said.
"I wanted to finish what I started," he continued. "I have a vision for this curch and this neighborhood."
He had also had enough of the traveling life. "There just weren't any relationships on the road," he said. "I didn't get to spend time with people.
"The real story for me is to see the students grow up, get married, and have kids. I become freidns with them socially and it's nice to have those relationships.
The you of the area are his prime interest. "There are a lot of kids hurting and struggling," he said, "and this is why my real priority is the student ministry."
The church, he said, is contributing the "money, the space, and the staff" for his needs. The church purchased the old Safeway and Eckerds buildings in the strip center on the corner of Hughes and Sam Houston Parkway.
The Eckerds portion has already been renovated and the rest should be done in about four months, Gadd said.
He has chosen a staff of assistants to aid him in his work. They are Freeman Tomlin, Steve Chastain, and Milt Eichler.
The church's interest in youth seems to please him greatly. "It's one thing to say you care, another to do something about it, "he said. "We're putting our money where out mouths are."
The challenge of helping the youth today seems to be the driving force behind Gadd. He also truly believes the church has "had an impact on a lot of kids."
This impact is what keeps him going. "When I begin to see students making wise decisions, that gives me self satisfaction and makes me feel that I am doing a good job," he said. "My ego wants me to do the best at whatever I am doing.
I've only been back four weeks," he said, "but I feel a real change in attitude. Students here are really excited."
He cites a steady increase in attendance of the church's youth attendance as evidence of this. Attendance, he is feels, is the bottom line. "it shows that we are meeting the students' needs, " he said.
His main point, he elaborated, was this: "We want to help students who need help but also students who appear not to need help. There are a lot of good kids out here."
(1979, from the Leader files)