Cajun cook and retired pastor Mike Linney can cite a variety of influences through his life.
“We had a lady in our church in Texas, Leona Thibodeaux, and she was a Cajun lady from Lafayette, Louisiana, she was my Sunday School teacher and had a lot of influence over me,” Linney said. “She was praying for Lafayette, that God would send a revival there. I had no idea I would go there years later and be like a spark plug for that revival.”
Linney grew up in the Houston area town of LaPorte, the son of a pastor.
He attended Southwest Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas. He recalled meeting his wife there 50 years ago.
Another influence intervened.
“I guess it was the Lord, I intended to be a school teacher, and she did, too,” Linney said. “We met at college and I got our feet wet in ministry and just went from there. I went into itinerant ministry first, we traveled the nation as music and preaching ministers. We settled down in Muskogee in 1976.”
The Linneys first attended Muskogee First Assembly of God, which was in downtown Muskogee near First Baptist Church at the time. He left in 1978 to take a senior pastor job in Lafayette.
He recalled serving the Lafayette church during a time of growth.
“It’s a very rich community,” he said. “My daughter was born there in the middle of a hurricane.”
Cajun food was a big influence in LaPorte and Lafayette. Linney’s sons now operate Linney Breaux’s Cajun Eatery in Tahlequah.
That brought Linney back to Muskogee in 2016.
Several years ago, he got involved with the Ark of Faith ministry. He serves on the board, helps get food for homeless people and teaches music.
“I’ve been a worship leader for a long time,” he said. “Ministry is my background.”
A taste for
Mike Linney developed his own knack for Cajun cooking while growing up in southeast Texas and ministering in Louisiana,
“Pastoring in Lafayette, they love to cook and eat down there,” he said. “I was used to it because I was raised in LaPorte. We had the Thibodeaux and the Boudreaux. We had them in our church, too.”
He recalled learning to cook such recipes as jambalaya, crawfish pie and file’ gumbo.
Seasoning — including cayenne pepper, red pepper and garlic — is the key to a good Cajun meal, he said.
“And then the trinity, some people call it the Holy Trinity,” Linney said. “Celery, bell pepper and onions is called the trinity. Most everything we cook starts with that. It starts with oil and butter, then a roux, and then the trinity. That’s the base of their food, and you can add what you want to.”
Linney said roux is “basically half oil and half flour.”
“Jambalaya, the way the Cajuns do it, starts with rice and sausage and oil,” he said. “They fry the rice to make it crispy. Then whatever protein they put in there. Then they boil the seasoning until the rice gets tender enough to eat.”
He said his favorite gumbo includes shrimp and okra.
However, Linney said the one food from Lafayette he misses most is the Community Coffee, a roaster based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
hunger for God
Linney recalls helping fulfill Leona Thibodeaux’ dream of sparking a revival in central Louisiana. He said he arrived in Lafayette in 1978.
“We began to grow,” Linney said. “We went from having a church with 20 members to having a church with 2,000.”
He said a charismatic revival spread through other denominations, including the Catholic church during that time. Lafayette was a heavily Catholic community, Linney recalled.
“Everyone was wanting more of God. It was just a revival wave of the 1980s, and we were kind of riding that wave,” he said. “Turning back to the source of who we are and what we have, and that’s the source of everything. It’s just a hunger for more of God.”
The wave spread during the late 1970s and 1980s, he said.
“It was more than just our church,” he said. “It was a national and international kind of time of new worship, new ministry, new music, a new awakening. The 1980s were like that.”
Linney said the churches he planted around Lafayette grew quickly.
“That didn’t start, really, until the latter part of our ministry there,” he said. “What happened there through most of the ministry was just explosive growth.”
Linney retired from active ministry in 2015, but found a new way of ministering to people after returning to Muskogee.
He said he spent a lot of his time helping homeless people.
“Ran into Garry and Sally Weiesnbach about two and a half years ago, they kind of helped me out,” Linney said.
Sally Weiesnbach operates the Ark of Faith, a Muskogee ministry to people who are homeless or on low income.
“I’ve always helped homeless people, and I have a heart for people who are hurting,” Linney said.
He referred to the Bible passage where Jesus says, “If you love me, feed my sheep.”
“I think real Christianity is based on caring for people who are less fortunate than we are,” he said. “Most Christianity is performance-based, entertainment-based. I got to see through all that.”
Linney now serves as treasurer on the Ark of Faith board. He also helps by picking up prepared sandwiches from Starbucks three times a week. The coffee shop is one of several places that donate food to help homeless people.
He also has hosted music classes and sung at Friday night coffee gatherings before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“The homeless would come in, we’d feed them a meal and we’d sing to them and entertain them,” he said. “Every Friday night during a certain season.”
Q and A
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“We moved back here in 2016 because my boys moved back here to start a restaurant. We all moved back.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“I like the size of the town. It’s not as big as Fort Worth, where we lived last. Some of the box stores, we’re used to having. The restaurants. It’s not too big. We just enjoy living here. Every place is good or bad. It’s how happy you are. We’re happy serving the Lord and being around our kids.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“I don’t know. There are some mighty fine people here.”
WHAT PERSON IN MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
“I can’t think of anyone at the top of the list. I’ve had some mighty good friends here. We have friends from the old days and friends from the new days.”
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“Just moving back. Everything had changed quite a bit. We had been gone almost 40 years. Shawnee Bypass had developed into a nice little strip. First Assembly had relocated. We attended there quite a bit and love the people there. We have some good places to eat.”
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
“Be with my kids. We have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“A decent place to live. It seems to have a faith-based population with people caring about each other and the community. There is a good sense of community and pride in the community.”
MEET Mike Linney.
HOMETOWN: LaPorte, Texas.
EDUCATION: LaPorte High School; degree in theology and psychology from Southwest Assemblies of God University, Waxahachie, Texas.
PROFESSION: Retired pastor.
FAMILY: Wife, Deleana; three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
CHURCH: “We attend Boulevard Christian most of the time.”
HOBBIES: Music and golf.