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Leading the Way: Roundabout path leads Oakland native to greatest Joy as pastor

Archie LeVias Jr., 56, is pastor of Modesto's Seed of Joy Worship Center, part of the Church of God in Christ. It wasn't what he thought he'd be doing with his life.

"I thought I'd be everything but a preacher," he said. "First I thought I'd be a major-league baseball player. I played with three individuals who went on to play major-league baseball. But when I broke my leg in the ninth or 10th grade, my love turned to football, which didn't make any sense. And then karate. I fought in the California state karate tournament years ago, when I was in college."

Eventually, of course, LeVias did become a preacher. He served as a Modesto police chaplain and is now on the inactive list, "but if they need me for special cases that deal with racial issues, they know I'm still here." He also "did prison ministry for 17 years."

Here's more information:

Family: Born in Oakland and grew up in Richmond to age 15, when he moved to San Jose. Lived there for 27 years and moved to Modesto in October 1990. His parents are still living; he's the second of five children, with an older brother and three sisters. Wife, Wanda, 56. Three daughters: Charisse, 31; Dedra, 29; Erica, 25. One granddaughter, 9.

Education: San Jose City College, two years. Evangel School of Ministry, San Jose, two years. Became a licensed minister in 1977 and was ordained in 1983 in the Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal denomination. recently, LeVias also was ordained under the Covenant ministry, part of the Association of Independent Ministries out of Houston.

Career: Started in the mailroom of General Electric, then worked for General Motors and United Parcel Service before becoming a service adviser for a car dealership. Began full-time ministry in 1996, when he became founder and pastor of Seed of Joy.

Future: "I think after my senior pastoring days, I want to spend time mentoring other pastors and people in ministry, specializing in discipleship and church development and growth."

Greatest challenge: "Everyday balancing of the lives of other people as well as my own personal life. I call today's church world a paradigm shift. You have to do old things in a new way to get greater results."

Greatest passion: "Seeing people's lives transformed into the image of Christ. We've seen people addicted to drugs or incarcerated whose lives were transformed. Their self-worth and self-value is much greater. I don't think a person really grows effectively unless they see their self-worth as a person."

Personality: "I'm known as being very charismatic, very humble. I'm often termed an encourager. I'm a lover of life and people."

Spare time: "I used to like to play basketball. I just like to get away outside of the valley area with my wife and enjoy nature and the simplistic things of life.

"Leading the Way" runs twice a month and profiles faith leaders — ordained and lay — in our community. To suggest someone, send the name and contact information to Sue Nowicki,P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256 or e-mail