|HIGH POINT — Ray McDonald began his career as an Air Force aide in 1973 when he went to work for Gen. Walter T. Galligan, a one-star general. Pathway Photo by Allen Palmeri|
High Point pastor outflanks generals, politicians
With gourmet food, the Bread of Life
By Allen Palmeri
August 3, 2004
HIGH POINT – Ray McDonald is not your typical Missouri Baptist pastor. Just ask Larry Duncan, one of his deacons at High Point Baptist Church.
Duncan and his fellow deacons were guests of honor at the McDonald home one evening when the pastor served a gourmet meal. McDonald, 58, built a reputation for doing this in the Air Force as a general’s aide, cooking for such dignitaries as Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
“I come out of the hills,” Duncan said. “There were 10 of us kids, and we just kind of lived off the fat of the land, so this gourmet cooking is different to me. There’s some good stuff about it, don’t get me wrong. He’s a very, very good cook. He can take some of the stuff that wasn’t too edible and make it good.”
McDonald is happy to serve his deacons this way. He used to prepare personal gourmet meals in the homes of four-star generals. Now he said he loves to cook for God’s servants.
“I set the table professionally, just the way it would be set for the generals or the high officials,” McDonald said. “Everything is first-class and formal. I have flowers on the tables, candlelight. I tell them, ‘Informal dress, but a formal dinner.’ So they come in their overalls almost.”
McDonald, a Boston native, can tell stories about vice presidents, secretaries of state, senators, generals, movie stars, golfers and astronauts. He was an aide to seven generals; four of them wore four stars. And now he is the pastor of a growing church of 130 in a rural community of around 500 centered in Moniteau County.
“He’s got a pretty high record,” Duncan said. “He outranked a lot of people in his position. In fact, I think in a lot of the places he might have had the advantage.”
McDonald was ordained into the ministry in October 1980 at Dallas Baptist Association, Mesquite, Texas. He served a total of 22 years in the military, 16 with the Air Force and six with the Navy. He retired from the Air Force in 1993 when he accepted a call to preach. Lt. Gen. Michael McGinty “hated to see me go,” McDonald said.
McDonald wanted to retire, but McGinty responded that he knew of a way under Air Force regulations to keep him for up to 18 additional months. Reluctantly, McGinty agreed to release McDonald if he got a church assignment by a certain date.
Calvary Baptist Church, Nevada, Mo., wanted McDonald and sent a letter to the general a day before the deadline to accept. McDonald, who handled the general’s mail, made sure that his boss saw the letter in time. Measuring his next move, McGinty called his aide into his office.
“Ray, I’m not letting you go.”
“Sir, you said if … .”
“I’m not letting you go. It’s too close.”
“No, it was here yesterday.”
McDonald wondered if McGinty was going to let him become a full-time pastor. It took two more days for the general to surrender.
“Ray,” he told his preacher/aide, “there’s no way that I’m going to get in the way of the Lord’s work. You go and do the Lord’s work. I’ll get a new man.”
His favorite boss was four-star Gen. John Roberts, whom he served for six years. Roberts once told McDonald, “I come before God,” only to turn around in a moment of humility and ask for forgiveness. A man of such high rank would seldom act that way toward his aide, McDonald said. McDonald has fond memories of Roberts because he helped lead him to Christ before he died.
Gens. Benny Davis, John Low and John Voght were the other four-star commanders McDonald served. Ever the tactful diplomat, he now carries that lofty sense of refinement into the pulpit at High Point.
“It takes dedication, commitment and patience,” he said. “I took care of (the general’s) uniforms, I took care of him, I carried his stuff for him, but I also ran his protocol functions—the personal ones. They had other protocol people who did the big functions. If we were going to entertain someone like (then Vice President) Dan Quayle, that’s when I got involved.”
McDonald handled protocol for Quayle when he visited Alaskan Air Command in 1991. Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, now a national defense analyst for the Fox News Channel, was McDonald’s boss at the time. That same year he served a gourmet meal to Cheney, who was then Secretary of Defense.
His cooking has enabled him to meet three secretaries of state—Kissinger, George Schultz and Powell—but the three greatest privileges of his life have nothing to do with celebrities. He is thankful to be born an American, thankful to be born from above and thankful to have met his wife, Madge, who has been by his side for 28 years.
He dreams of the day when the High Point Baptist Church facility will be twice as large with a new gymnasium, a new steeple and a new sign out front. In 2006, he expects to see attendance of 230-260.
“I just think he’s a man of the Lord,” Duncan said. “He’s lovable in all departments. He’s got a big heart. If you’ve got a problem, you can go to him and really talk to him, and he’s always got an answer for something.
“I think he’s a fine man.”