Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Minister on Fleming Island Doesn't Try to Hide His Past

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Minister on Fleming Island Doesn't Try to Hide His Past

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Maraghy, County Line staff writer

In high school, the Rev. Tim Folds wasn't exactly preacher material.

He was so shy he'd take a failing grade before he would give an oral report, he said. And in his junior year, he married his pregnant girlfriend.

But ultimately he realized God wanted him to preach and lead a church.

"I knew I'd have to do a lot of growing, but I knew God could do it," Folds said.

Folds, who became senior pastor three years ago at Fleming Island Baptist Church, now freely shares his past.

"That's one of the first things he told us," said his ministry assistant, Sarah Basinger. "He's open and honest. No secrets."

That honesty, and his open-door policy and Southern drawl, make him likable and approachable, church members said.

"There's no better man than Tim Folds," said church member Roby McNeely. "He's a good old country boy, a first-class individual."

Basinger agreed.

"He'll drop everything if someone needs him," she said. "To me, that's admirable."

Other members said they admired Folds because he drives the church bus to pick up children and deliver church ladies to a function. He also teaches Sunday school, sweats along with the congregation on church clean-up days and plays on the church's basketball and softball teams.

"He's hands on. He fills in the gaps. He's a man's man. He's just a good guy," said Billy Wright, the church's outreach leader. "He's kind of laid-back, but he's always in motion. He's the man to lead this church as this area grows."

Folds, 44, is a Florida native and Gator fan, born in High Springs, northwest of Gainesville. At 15, his family moved to Bronson, southwest of Gainesville. After high school, he worked at a propane gas company, but felt he was missing something in his life. Marital problems sent him on a search that led him back to God and church, he said.

"God saved me and healed my marriage," said Folds, who is now a grandfather.

A voice inside, he said, told him that God wanted him to do more than sell propane.

"I felt like I wasn't doing everything God wanted me to do," he said. …

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