Pastor Frank Alexander, the longtime pastor at Oasis of Hope Baptist Church in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood, died Nov. 12 after battling an illness. He was 76.
Alexander became interim pastor of College Avenue Baptist Church in 1975 before becoming the permanent pastor and leading the church to a new location in Martindale-Brightwood, where the name was changed to Oasis of Hope Baptist Church.
Affectionately known as the “mayor of Brightwood,” Alexander led his church in creating two community development corporations, purchasing a 185-unit apartment complex, building a 70-unit apartment complex for seniors and providing social services including youth employment training, after-school care and family case management.
Visitations were held Nov. 22 and 23 at the church, and the funeral was Nov. 23.
“We come to this God of comfort and our God of mercy,” Floyd Hawkins, associate minister at Oasis, said in a prayer at the funeral, “because we are celebrating through our grieving over the home-going of our beloved pastor, Frank Alexander.”
Pastor Jeffrey A. Johnson, of Eastern Star Church, gave the eulogy and called Alexander one of his mentors. Johnson worked for Alexander as a youth pastor at College Avenue Baptist Church in 1984.
Johnson compared Alexander to John the Baptist, whom the Pharisees in the Bible doubted because he didn’t come from the religious establishment. John the Baptist was humble in his response to the Pharisees, Johnson said, just as Alexander was.
“You want to know how could Pastor Alexander accomplish so much? How could he touch so many lives? How could he encourage so many pastors and preachers?” Johnson said in his eulogy. “... Because of his humility. Frank Alexander understood his voice.”
In an interview with the Recorder, Johnson said he regularly called Alexander for advice after moving to a new church and learned others did too.
“What he did in the church was awesome,” Johnson said, “but that social expression of what he did in Martindale-Brightwood — he became a voice for the voiceless.”
A lifelong education advocate, Alexander made it possible for Oasis of Hope to become an affiliate of Dollars for Scholars through Scholarship America. During its five-year span, Oasis has gifted $30,000 in scholarships to support post-secondary education. As a testament to Alexander’s work in the community, the “Frank Alexander Leadership Scholarship” was named in his honor.
“He valued education because he had to work so hard for his own,” Shirley Alexander, his wife of 49 years, said. “He always told kids at our church, ‘Get all the education you can get, but don’t forget God.’”
Tysha Hardy-Sellers, executive director of Edna Martin Christian Center (EMCC), said in a statement Alexander was a “visionary leader and activist.”
“His work was on the ground ensuring individuals were heard and our community respected,” she said, “but most importantly he wanted each person to know they have gifts and talents and can and should use them to benefit all.”
Alexander was a former leader of EMCC.
Alexander’s reach extended outside of Indianapolis with Oasis Mission for Orphans, Disabled and Unaccompanied Children (MODUC), a nonprofit started by Alexander in 1999 to support orphaned children after the Liberian Civil War. Partnered with Thomas and Mary Beh, who turned their home into an orphanage after the conflict, Alexander’s mission gave children access to education and medical care.
A love of people and an understanding of the power of people in numbers fostered Alexander’s legacy in Indianapolis and abroad. Alexander saw the church grow from 200 people to more than 600 congregants before retiring in 2015 after 40 years as pastor of Oasis of Hope.
“He was a kind man, he was a gentleman,” Shirley Alexander said. “ I think if I had to share an attribute, he saw more value in people and community than anyone else did.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper. Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.