Despite ill health, Morris said ‘Yes’ to God’s call

CLAYCOMO – Although he faced health problems throughout his life, Harry Lee Morris, 93, could never resign from God’s call.

“If God wants you to do something, you just don’t tell him, ‘I can’t do that,’” Morris said, May 23.

That may explain why Morris has been a successful bivocational pastor for a number of Ray County churches and church plants for more than half a century.

Morris, a Tennessee native, surrendered to the ministry and came to Missouri more than 60 years ago to study years at William Jewell College. With the help of a professor, Morris preached at various churches almost every Sunday.

After graduation, Morris took his first pastorate, serving for two and a half years in the 1950s at Union Baptist Church in Orrick. During his ministry, the congregation of “two men and six women and a handful of kids” grew to 160 members.

At the urging of his association, he then planted a Baptist church in Lawson where there previously was none. He stayed there 12 years.

“I retired there because of health issues,” Morris said “Then another church, Hickory Grove (near Richmond) called me. I was there six years. Then I resigned there.”

He then sensed God’s call to plant Beacon Baptist Church,which met in a vacant building he bought. The church, once located between Lawson and Polo, has ceased to exist. In his six years there, six men surrendered to the ministry.

Morris later served as interim pastor for two Christian Union churches for 15 months total, but was called because of his success in Baptist churches.

During his years of ministry, Morris also served as pulpit supply for more than 50 churches – not counting the churches where he preached as a college student.

While he pastored, he also worked for 31 years at the Ford Motor Company in Claycomo. 

“I worked full-time, and I pastored full time,” Morris said. “The full time work took a toll on my body. I resigned to take time off, but I never got the time off.”

Although he dealt with various health issues for many years, Morris still felt that God was still calling him to preach and pastor churches.

“I’d feel I’d gone just as far as I could, and immediately another church called,” Morris said. “I just felt it was what God wanted me to do. He was instrumental in it. It was not my choice.”

Morris finally retired from active pastoral ministry only six years ago, when macular degeneration left him unable to read.

Jerry Palmer, director of missions for the Heartland Baptist Association, praised Morris for his faithful ministry.

“Harry was instrumental for the area (Ray County) in the 1950s,” Palmer said. “He was the epitome of bivocational pastors – working 80 hours a week, by the time you take care of your secular job and take care of the church.

“Harry exemplifies bivocational. He’s committed to the Lord and his churches. Harry has had a role in impacting most of the people in northwest Missouri in the Kansas City area. It took 45 minutes to an hour each way to get to work. These (bivocational pastors) are the unsung heroes of the Missouri Baptist Convention.”