ALBANY, Ga. -- Michael Odom, who retired as a master sergeant in the Marine Corps Friday, joined the military 20 years ago. Now he is ready to move on to the next phase of his life.
Odom, 39, was born and raised in the Albany area. While stationed at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, he founded and became the pastor of Agape Christian Worship Center, now located at 3200 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Its roots, however, are at the Holiday Inn near the Albany Mall.
"We founded it in 2003. We've gone from five members to 100 members," Odom said.
The church moved to its present location eight months after its founding. In the process of helping the ministry grow, he had help from various members of the community.
"We have had Marines and civilians help us establish (the church)," the pastor said.
Since his military career started in 1990, Odom has been working in information technology. While on the base, Odom served as the information technology data center manager.
"We support systems that support Marines around the world," he said.
Odom is married to Isha Odom and has five children, one of whom is a sergeant in the Corps. He also has a cousin serving as a staff sergeant.
Being both a pastor and a Marine has given Odom a different sense of perspective when it comes to coping with what life throws at people.
"You deal with life's issues and crises," he said. "You deal with crisis on the job, and (being a pastor) has helped me bring balance and stability to others."
Odom assumed his duties in Albany in 2003, and left in 2006 to serve at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina. He returned to Albany in 2007 and has remained here since.
When asked what it was like to be retiring, he said: "It's a milestone for me."
Odom said his immediate plans for the future will be to spend the next 10 to15 years working to mature his ministry and possibly doing some contractor work. In the meantime, he will be completing his doctorate in transformational leadership from Bakke Graduate University.
After that, he will go into the third phase of his life, or as he likes to call it, the "RV years."
"At 54, I want to have the freedom to enjoy life," he said. "Everyone should have a life plan. If you don't have one, write it down. If you do, work through it."
Odom is also in the early phases of bringing to life the ACDC Community Development Center, which will one day sit on 32 acres of land and will include an education center, an apartment complex, a day care center, among other features.
"We are talking to engineers and an architect," he said of the project's status.
The goal is to have the facility up and running in five years, and it is the pastor's hope that the center will benefit the economy as well as encourage people to serve.
"I want them (community leaders) to have a heart to make a difference," he said. "I believe if we are going to make a difference in Albany, we will have to start with the leaders. My mission is to be part of the change."
As far as his career as a Marine goes, Odom said there is virtually nothing that he would change.
"At every duty station I've had good jobs and have had fun," he recalled.
Perhaps the best thing about Odom's two decades in the service is he and his wife having the opportunity to take care of other Marines, he said.
"I've had the chance to mentor young men and women leaving home for the first time," he said.
Odom went to Africa earlier in the year, which has motivated him to possibly expand his mission to the international level.
"I'm looking to travel to other countries," he said. "My goal is to expose others to mission work."
On the day of his retirement, his wife said she is also ready to move on to the next chapter.
"It's an emotional situation because this has been part of our life for so long; it crept up on us so fast," Isha Odom said. "I'm so excited to be able to take on new challenges.