By Rebecca S. Jones
Photo credit: Priscilla Graham Photography
HOUSTON – Proverbs 13:22a declares, “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children…” Some fathers choose to leave an inheritance of material wealth, some choose to leave none at all. Although not perfect, Pastor T. Leon Preston, II has strived to live a life pleasing and honorable to God, while operating as a proud single father of wonderful sons and a beautiful daughter. As a father, the inheritance he has worked to leave his children is far precious than houses, land and riches. For the best inheritance he has to leave to his children is showing them by example, how to secure their “soul salvation”. To that regard, his effective example of maintaining leadership, combined with his dedication to fatherhood, is evident through the life of his 25-year-old son, Jonathan.
The Preston’s: Like Father, Like Son
Shadowing the footsteps of his father, Rev. Jonathan Preston received a call to preach at the age of 15. Licensed to preach under the leadership of his father, he has become the Youth Pastor of Yale Street Missionary Baptist Church. Since serving in this capacity, Jonathan has been instrumental in renewing vitality amongst the youth of the congregation. With a strong focus on keeping the youth engaged, he religiously encourages them to participate, rather than just observe. During an interview he said, “The elders have had time to play and dress things up and paint a picture as perfect. But this generation, we use our eyes to approach and confront situations and we are just going through the reality of it all. So, I think that’s where I pick up in ministry after following my dad. I want to be the vessel that merges every generation together, for one purpose – that is, to drive people to have a true and authentic relationship with God, so they may know him for themselves.”
Furthermore, Jonathan believes and supports his father’s vision of keeping the church as a, “hub of many avenues of resources for the members and residents in the community”. Collectively, this Dynamic Duo strives to meet the needs of those in the congregation and the community. Aside from serving together spiritually, the Preston’s serve together professionally. Jonathan is a Deputy for the Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 1, the same precinct his father serves as Chaplain.
Jonathan is a graduate of Texas Southern University, a licensed journeyman plumber with the State of Texas and a successful entrepreneur.
Yale Street: A Beacon Light in the Community
Pastor T. Leon Preston, II is the Senior Pastor of Yale Street Missionary Baptist Church, known as, “The Street” located in Independence Heights. For decades, Yale Street has remained as a significant beacon in the community. Operating off of the belief that, “a church should be vital in the community”; Yale Street has been faithful in engaging and meeting the needs of its’ members and those in the community.
In past, Yale Street has been responsible for feeding nearly 300 families on a weekly basis through partnerships with local organizations throughout the city. On several occasions, the church has opened its doors to offer Home buying seminars for first time homebuyers. Being active and proactive in its’ community, the church once led one of the largest voter registration drives in the city. Also, during Hurricane Harvey, the church donated over 100 mattresses to affected victims. To this day, the Preston’s and Yale Street are still out in the community, assisting members and residents who have yet to recover from the natural disaster.
About Pastor T. Leon Preston, II
Pastor T. Leon Preston, II has been the “sought after” type since as far back as birth. He was born in Houston’s Fifth Ward to a teenage mother and was stolen as an infant. He had been missing for over a month, when he was found on Dowling Street in Third Ward, just prior to being sold. During a recent interview, he jokingly implied he was from Eight Ward – combining his early experiences in both Fifth and Third Wards.
Shortly after his return from being kidnapped, his mother relented to the request of her Aunt who desired to raise young Preston as her own. As such, he was reared in a single-parent household and loving Christian environment by his great Aunt, who to this day he considers “Mama”. While his Mama was a member of Williams Temple Church of God in Christ, she would often allow him to attend service with his friend, with the exception that he attends Sunday School at their church. So, he would go to Sunday School at Williams Temple and from there, to church with his friend who attended a Baptist Church in Cuney Homes headed by Pastor Johnson. It was during this season of his life, that he received an undeniable call to preach the gospel of Christ at 12-years-old. He preached his first sermon on Winbern and Ennis Streets in Third Ward.
Though he was a “kid preacher”, he went through life as any other child – learning, growing and making mistakes along the way. Growing up on Jackson and Oakdale Streets, he attended Edgar Allen Poe Elementary School, Lanier Middle School and Lamar High School. Eventually, he married and began a family. He went on to establish a church in the 80s and later served as Assistant Pastor to the late Rev. James C. Franklin, before relocating to Washington D.C. After spending some time there, he was spiritually led back to Houston where he was assigned Overseer of a Pentecostal Church in Hockley.
Over a period of time, life happened… Having gone through divorce amongst other trials, Preston found himself in a sabbatical state. He said, “I was at a point of my life where I felt I didn’t have to Pastor to go to heaven. So, minding my own business, I started having Bible Study in my apartment on West 18th Street.”
In the process, Preston received an invitation to preach at Yale Street. He vaguely remembered the church from his days of singing with groups such as: Children of Christ, the Voices of Victory Community Choir, Fifth Ward Community Choir and others. After accepting the invitation and fulfilling his assignment, he was later beckoned by the late Rev. Dr. J.T. Holcombe, Sr. to come and preach for Yale Street’s Sunrise service. Delighted at the opportunity he accepted and preached once again. Considering the hospitality extended to him, he decided he would visit the church again, but, on a Sunday when Pastor Holcombe was preaching. In doing so, he vividly recalls being spiritually arrested by God.
The Yale Street Encounter
“I never will forget, I was sitting in the pulpit and a song went forth, ‘God’s Got a Blessing With Your Name on it.’ God told me, ‘Stay right here, and help him’. And I remember I am sitting next to Rev. Willie Capers and I said out loud, ‘I don’t want to be here.’ Because I had reached the conclusion that I could go to heaven without pastoring a church. Little did I know; God had reached another conclusion. So, after service Pastor Holcombe was trying to go down the pulpit. At this time, his vision had gotten dim and he was dealing with some other health issues. Even though there had been a pulpit full of preachers none of them attempted to help him, because they were fellowshipping with the congregation. What I saw was a campaign amongst them, so I went and grabbed Pastor Holcombe under his elbow, got his Bible and helped him down. And that’s where it all started.”
– Pastor T. Leon Preston, II
Following the Leader
As time progressed Preston grew closer to Pastor Holcombe, often picking him up and taking him to church and other functions. As their spiritual relationship evolved, he began making visits to hospitals and other appointments under the direction of his Pastor. As he continued faithfully serving, he received a call from Pastor Holcombe. He informed him that he, the deacons and trustees had a mutual meeting and decided to appoint him Assistant Pastor. A humbled-spirited Preston accepted with the exception he would be labeled, “Assistant to the Pastor” opposed to “Assistant Pastor”.
Remaining loyal in his commitment to God and obedient to his Pastor; Preston continued in this role. He says, “I never walked in front of Pastor Holcombe, unless it was to prepare the way – I followed his steps.” In 2008, Yale Street was devastated by the “powerful tropical cyclone”, Hurricane Ike. That Sunday, Preston and Deacons Wilson and Frances showed up at church. After assessing the damage, they consulted with Pastor Holcombe, who advised them to do whatever Preston said do.
With his charge in tote, Preston hit the ground running. The deacons contacted the insurance company and they began working together to reconstruct the church. Meanwhile, Preston took the initiative to rent a tent and the church rallied together and worshipped under the tent as repairs were made. Under the leadership of Pastor Holcombe, Preston, the deacons and membership diligently labored working on the church day in and day out, until it was in a state where they could re-enter for worship.
Passing the Torch
“After we re-entered the church Pastor Holcombe called me and asked me if I would take him in. And I said sure, I thought he meant take him into church as I always did. So, I thought nothing of it. Then he told me, ‘I think I’m going to stand today.’ Well, when preachers said that, that meant they were going to preach… He delivered a powerful and prolific message about roads.
I remember him saying, ‘In life you are going to travel various roads. As you travel, you are going to make a lot of decisions and whatever decision you make you got to live with it. But sometimes as you travel there is a straight way and there comes a fork in the road and you have to decide which way to go. But, as you determine which way to go you must remain aware, that even the road you choose will have an end.’
As he wrapped up the sermon he said, ‘I want to tell the church this… Every Moses needs a Joshua and I got my Joshua at the final hour.’ He then asked me to stand and put his arm around me and said, ‘This is my Joshua and effective 12:30 today, I am no longer the Pastor of Yale Street.’ After he sat down, he opened the doors of the church and turned to me and asked me to take him in and I was stunned. That day, Pastor Holcombe became the first official member I accepted in under my leadership at Yale Street.”
– Pastor T. Leon Preston, II
The rest is Yale Street history… Since that time, Pastor Preston has “endured trials as a good soldier”. He doesn’t believe one can be an effective leader, if a successor has not been prepared. Therefore, he continues to work with his son to accomplish his mission.
Yale Street is located at 4315 Yale Street, 77018. For more information about the church or worship times contact (713) 697-9857.