Blanchard, 36, meets with his fledgling group at 4 p.m. on Sundays at the American Legion building, 211 East Main Street, Aberdeen.
He and his wife Charity, a Reading Recovery teacher at Vass-Lakeview Elementary School, live in Eastwood and have three children: Andrew, 13; Caleb, 6; and Grace, 5.
Blanchard, who was born in Pinehurst, talks about his road to ministry.
"I remember Mom going hungry so I could eat," he says. "She worked swing shifts at a hosiery mill in Rockingham."
He and his mother, Kathy, lived in Hamlet. He has "never connected" with his biological father. Blanchard was five when his mother married Waylon Black, who worked for a forestry company.
"I grew up in the Doubs Chapel section of Eastwood," Blanchard says. "My (new) dad's family took me in. I'd never had a dad, so that was a new experience. They ran a country store in Eastwood called 'Black's Grocery.' A lot of my life centered around that store. I basically grew up on a farm with a pretty carefree childhood."
His brother, Adam, and his sister, Tracey, later entered his life. His family seldom attended church.
"My Sundays consisted of sleeping late and eating chicken and watching football," he says.
He attended Pinehurst Elementary, Pinehurst Middle and Pinecrest High. He played trumpet in sixth grade but switched to French horn in eighth grade.
"I played football in middle school but then stopped playing sports," he says. "Marching band was kind of the thing I did all through high school."
His Aunt Ann sometimes carried him to church youth group.
"I guess I had the gift of gab," he says. "I'd led the awards ceremony in fourth grade. So, they had a youth Sunday at the church, and they let me preach. I was 13. I wasn't living the life, but I guess I was the only one brave enough to get up there."
Blanchard says he went from winning the eighth-grade citizenship award to being a pretty bad kid.
Drinking and Getting By
"I wasn't super rebellious," he says. "My parents drank, so I could fly under the radar in a lot of ways.
"I got alcohol from my house and older friends. My parents didn't know about it. I started smoking pot in ninth grade. Mostly peer pressure. My stepdad was good to me and accepted me as his own, but looking back, part of it was the thing of not knowing my dad. Later, after I married, I'd get drunk and pretty irrational, and I'd talk about going and finding my dad."
Blanchard began working part-time at Subway in Pinecrest Plaza in 10th grade.
"I had a great time during high school but wasted a lot with drinking and partying, and I didn't just smoke marijuana -- I did everything," he says. "I was the guy who'd try whatever. I was 'out there.' I fell in with those kinds of friends. My band friends were my salvation, in a way. Jeffrey Smith and his parents, who were in education, were influential. Jeffrey was my best friend in high school. We didn't do anything together apart from school, but he was always the voice of reason."
Blanchard's grades suffered.
"My grades got worse throughout high school," he says. "I wanted to be a teacher and a coach, but that didn't happen."
Arguments with his parents usually concerned school.
"I did enough work to get by -- never did any homework in high school, unless it was five minutes before class," he says. "I probably should have flunked Algebra II, but my teacher, Mrs. Pam Crumpler, stuck with me. She tutored and encouraged me."
Near the end of their Pinecrest junior year, he and Charity Cagle of Southern Pines began dating.
"She grew up in a Baptist church," he says. "She was somewhat of a nonconformist, too. She'd wear her hair crazy and wear different clothes. We dated all through our senior year."
UNC-G and A&T University (Greensboro) accepted Blanchard, but he attended Sandhills Community College (SCC) for a year while still working at the Pinecrest Plaza Subway.
"I was like their first employee," he says. "I was a hard worker."
He says Fred and Paul Womack, who managed Subway in Pinecrest Plaza, were kind and made him manager of a Subway in Clemmons.
"I lasted a year," he says. "Some money was missing, and I couldn't figure out where it went."
He took a job at Minuteman PowerBoss in Aberdeen, makers of industrial equipment.
"I started as a grinder on third shift," he says. "I worked my way up, learned how to weld, took classes at Sandhills (SCC) and did a little bit of everything."
He, then 20, and Charity, 19 and a student at SCC, married on March 10, 1990, and lived in Eastwood.
"I was still drinking heavily," he says. "Still doing drugs, but my wife didn't know. Our first year of marriage was hell. I'd drink to the point my friends would bring me home and leave me on our front porch. Sometimes I'd go into rages and run out through the woods. Alcohol controlled me."
His wife accepted Christ at a Mylon LeFevre concert.
"Charity was attending Marcus United Methodist Church in Windblow, where my aunt, Janet Buffalo, was pastoring as a student minister," Blanchard says. "One Sunday Charity came from church, and I was already drinking. She lay on the bed and cried and said, 'God, if you don't do something, I can't take it anymore.' She basically said, 'Get him saved or get him out of my life.' I finally went to church to please her."
After a few services, Blanchard, then 21, "crashed into" the altar on Pentecost Sunday.
"It was pretty emotional," he says. "When I got up from that altar, the weight of sin was gone. I remember when I laid down that night, I slept in peace. I couldn't remember when I'd done that. I lay down forgiven. My life changed from that point."
He says he was soon "filled with the Holy Spirit" at Pinehill Word of Power Church in Hoke County.
"I felt called into the ministry within a year," he says.
At age 22, he became a Methodist lay speaker and spoke in several counties. He and Charity helped organize a ministry at Marcus UMC.
"We'd pack kids onto a bus," he said. "We reached out to a diverse group."
Later, after his Aunt Janet graduated from Duke and began ministering in Biscoe, the Blanchards began attending Sandhills Assembly in Southern Pines in October 1988.
He graduated from Sandhills, quit PowerBoss and delivered newspapers while attending Methodist College in Fayetteville to study religion for about 18 months.
Charity gave birth to their first child, and Blanchard quit college and returned to Powerboss for four years or so before he became youth pastor at Sandhills Assembly of God in Southern Pines in October 2001.
"It was a step of faith," he says. "I became a fulltime youth pastor and took a significant pay cut."
In January, Blanchard talked with Pastor Bryan Rainbow of Sandhills Assembly about forming a new church. Rainbow and the Assemblies of God Fellowship supported Blanchard's plan. Sandhills Assembly plans to provide limited finances for one year.
"At Mosaic Ministries, we want to be just like the art form -- different pieces and textures coming together to make a whole," Blanchard says. "We want to minister to high school and college students and young families. Our intention is to be racially diverse. The culture at Mosaic is 'come as you are.'
"We want to be known as 'the church that's left the building.' We want to be IN the community. At Mosaic, you're going to be greeted warmly, loved and accepted. It doesn't matter what color you are or what station in life you come from. You can be rich or poor; it doesn't matter. We want to be God's mosaic."
Steve Crain may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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