By Frank Michael McCormack
Downstairs at Cafe Reconcile, patrons feast on traditional New Orleans dishes like fried oyster po-boys, bread pudding and eggplant Jennifer. Two floors up, students gather for a life skills training class – their first stop en route to culinary training and job placement. And just down the hall, a student, on his way to work as a server for the day, knocks on Onassis Jones’ door. He’s seeking counsel for a personal issue before he gets started in the restaurant.
From drop-in talks, to individual assessments and group counseling sessions, Jones stays busy as the mental health specialist at Reconcile New Orleans, a youth development organization based in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood that recruits young adults ages 16 to 22.
At 38, Jones – who also is pastor of Christ Temple of New Orleans and a 2003 graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary – already has a long history of church and community ministry in the Greater New Orleans area.
Pastor, musician, teacher, church planter, counselor, case manager – all are roles Jones has had in the city. And that still-unfolding history of ministry for Jones begins just a short distance from New Orleans Seminary.
“I was raised by a single mom in the Ninth Ward,” Jones said. “I stayed probably only two or three minutes from NOBTS.”
Jones graduated from the regionally famous McDonough 35 High School. He later earned a bachelor of science in psychology degree and a minor in theology from Xavier University of Louisiana. After graduating, Jones joined the Louisiana Department of Social Services as a case manager in the Office of Family Support.
Throughout that time, Jones was active in ministry through his local church. Soon, his passion for ministry and for counseling grew together into a singular sense of calling.
“I was called into ministry in July of 99. My pastor was attending the seminary, so I had some exposure at that time to seminary life,” he said. “I enrolled at NOBTS for grad school, because I knew they had an excellent psychology department.”
Jones said he was drawn to the master of divinity degree in psychology and counseling at New Orleans Seminary because of the spiritual dynamic it brings to counseling.
“Even at that time, I still believed in holistic counseling that intertwines spirituality, psychology, theology – all that into one,” he said. “That was my goal. Not to just deal with it clinically, from the world’s perspective, but to get the biblical interpretation as it relates to counseling.”
Jones said his internship at Covenant House, an organization that reaches homeless, runaway and at-risk youth in New Orleans, had a huge impact on his vision for ministry.
“It broke down stereotypes, barriers I had of people,” he said. “It just shattered it to pieces. All I saw was hurting people.”
Jones also said missions professor Philip Pinckard, evangelism professor Bill Day and pastoral ministry professor Jerry Barlow each had a huge impact on his scope of ministry.
“It’s not about culture, it’s not about ethnicity,” Jones said. “It’s about the soul, and the soul is crying out. [People] need to be saved. There’s a hurting world out there.”