When Patrick McGinty thinks of a role model and spiritual hero, John Powell comes to mind.
“I remember thanking the Lord for the opportunity to have a front-row seat into the life of a man who was an incredible husband, father, friend and pastor … the type I wanted to be,” McGinty said of Powell.
They met in 2016 but became close in 2018 when McGinty moved to the Houston area to serve on staff at Emmanuel.
“John and I were the only two staff members so we spent all day every day together. [The Powells] were my closest friends in Houston, and they welcomed me into the family. I was in their home all the time,” McGinty recalled.
He knew Emmanuel Baptist was only for a season, as he desired to work in the marketplace while serving in a local church. He moved to San Antonio and became a store director with H-E-B Grocery Company, while helping lead student ministry at his church.
His closest friends, mentors and pastors — including Powell — encouraged him to pursue full-time ministry.
“My goal was to spend 30 years at H-E-B, retire as a senior executive and pastor a church full-time in retirement,” McGinty recalled.
COVID hit, and McGinty, like most in the grocery business, worked 70–80 hours a week.
Following the worst of the pandemic, he was spending time with the Lord and began to feel “released” from the corporate career path. To reach his goals at H-E-B he would have to work a schedule incompatible with the type of husband and father he wanted to be. Little did he know what lay ahead, but he decided to take a step back at work in favor of ministry.
Greater love hath no man
On July 18, 2020, Powell was traveling with friend Jeremy Blest on U.S. Highway 75. Near Denton they saw a distressed motorist whose vehicle was on fire. Stopping immediately, the two rushed to assist. After pulling the motorists to safety, Powell spotted an oncoming 18-wheeler bearing down on Jeremy. Without hesitation, he pushed Jeremy out of the way, sacrificing himself.
John left behind his wife, Katherine, their four children aged 4–11 and his church.
Upon learning of the tragedy, Katherine said she turned to God.
“I asked the Lord to come near, telling Him that I needed Him. That is exactly what He did,” she recalled.
The outpouring of love, support and prayer from the global church, local church and loved ones was overwhelming.
“I still think about it every day, praising the Lord for how He cared for us in that time,” she said.
One example of the Lord’s provision was the gift of a week at Pine Cove family camp in East Texas a few weeks after Powell’s death. The Lord used the time, specifically a talk on biblical hospitality, to give Katherine a clear vision of what was next. She sensed that the Lord might be calling her to College Station, home of Texas A&M University, to minister to students.
“I knew [they] would bring life into our home and that it could be sweet for my kids to see students that age walking with Jesus,” Katherine said. “I wanted to be able to pour into them and share about walking with the Lord, especially through difficult times.”
Over the next months the Lord gave each of the children a desire to move to College Station as well.
“The Lord was very kind in that transition. It was a sweet season in many ways,” Katherine said. “The kids and I learned that we could live with the deep grief of missing John and the life we had in New Caney while at the same time experiencing joy in where the Lord brought us in College Station.”
One year later
Meanwhile, McGinty was content both in his decision to leave the corporate world and in his singleness. He would tell younger guys he discipled, “The decision of who you marry is the most important decision you will ever make outside of a decision for Christ. I would rather be single than married to the wrong person.”
Katherine also felt content in her singleness and the circumstances in which the Lord had placed her and the children. She thought a relationship sounded like a lot of work and exhausting.
Unbeknownst to either, they thought of each other occasionally. When they did, each prayed for the other. They were also the subjects of others’ prayers.
One day Nathan Lino, then Northeast Houston Baptist pastor, phoned McGinty, who never forgot his words: “I’m not telling you this is a word from God, but I’ve been praying about it for six months and I can’t help but wonder if God is going to call you to marry Katherine Powell.”
McGinty was speechless and admitted to himself that he had developed feelings for her.
“I felt guilty for having the feelings, not because it was wrong but because John was one of my closest friends and a relatively short amount of time had elapsed since his death.”
He had not shared his feelings with anyone, but that call from Lino, a longtime friend of the Powells, carried weight.
McGinty phoned his good friend Phillip Bethancourt, pastor of Central Church in College Station and another good friend of the Powells, who said he had been praying about the matter himself for several months. He encouraged McGinty to pursue Katherine if he was interested.
“My prayer during this time was, ‘Lord, my “yes” is on the table if this is what you’re calling me to,’” McGinty acknowledged. “I’ll need a lot of grace, wisdom and help, but I’m in.”
McGinty just happened to be in College Station a few days later and saw Katherine at a back-to-school party. After the Bethancourts informed him there was mutual interest on her part, McGinty phoned her for a date.
“Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, was our first date, and it was about the most non-traditional first date you could imagine,” McGinty recalled. “It was basically a three-hour Saturday morning conversation that was very direct.”
Katherine was struck by McGinty’s respectfulness and sensitivity.
“I saw the convictional leadership that I was used to. He did not approach our relationship casually. There was tremendous clarity from the beginning for both of us, and that clarity was pointing towards marriage.”
McGinty began visiting College Station as often as possible to spend time with Katherine and the children, soon moving there. On a Florida vacation with extended family in October 2021 he proposed, and they were married that November.
Before he popped the question, McGinty took the children aside and spoke to them privately, explaining how much he loved their mom and asking their permission and support to propose to her.
“One of the things I was able to share with them is that I’m not only excited to spend the rest of my life with their mom, but I’m also excited to spend the rest of my life with each of them.”
Since their marriage, McGinty accepted the call to serve as college minister at Central and the family has settled into a new season of life and ministry.
To those who said of McGinty upon hearing of the wedding, “He’s going to have a lot to learn,” Katherine said she replied, “I think he has a lot to offer us.”
The children agreed. Gunner, the oldest, perhaps summed it up best in a conversation with his mom a few months into the marriage: “I’m not ready to call him Dad because I don’t want people to forget my dad, but he has earned the title. He deserves it.”
“The kids have seen Patrick’s mentality, and how he entered into this role,” Katherine added. “They already trusted him and loved him because they knew what John thought of him. And now they see Patrick day in and day out loving and serving us.”
And things were sweet as they celebrated their second Valentine’s Day as a couple and a family.