Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I had only been in this state convention for three years (after coming over from Kentucky) and certainly was not seeking the office. In fact I was embarrassed to be nominated against the sitting 1st Vice President. Officers normally "move through the chairs" (ex. 2nd VP, 1st VP) before being elected President. I had not served in any of those positions and, as a result, did not feel especially qualified. One of my own Church members, Terry Perdue, placed my name in nomination even though I asked him not to do so. When the vote tally was reported I was shocked to have won by a fairly substantial margin. Ron McCoy, the other nominee ,was most gracious even though I am sure he was as surprised by the results as I was.
I have been blessed to serve in that position for the past two years. What major things have I accomplished in office? Really not much at all. In fact there is really not much a state convention president can do. Upon taking office two years ago, I wrote to each of the ten Associational Directors of Missions to offer my assistance in whatever way needed. Most of them were responsive but there really wasn't much I could do for them. My simple goal was to help increase fellowship among the churches in the various associations, and to serve as a liaison (if needed) to the state office staff.
I tried to rally the troops in the four counties this past summer that faced local option elections regarding casino gambling. Jefferson county voters defeated the measure, and Kanawha County came close, but the measure passed there along with Ohio and Marshall Counties. Of course, our local church pastors in those areas were all over it, I just tried to add my support to their efforts - for what that was worth. I did seek to promote cooperative program mission giving with all the churches and pastors with whom I came in contact, and I did share the needs of a Filipino church planter with whom I partner. As a result of that, 7 of our WV Southern Baptist Churches gave generously to purchase Bibles and materials (including a motorcycle) for two Filipino Pastors and their congregations. In fact, one church generously donated the money to build the new building of the Mayapusi Baptist congregation in the remote mountains of Negros Island in the Philippines. It was my joy to be in attendance at the Dedication Service of that building in January.
The primary responsibility of the office is to preside at the annual meeting and the four regular meetings of the state Executive Board (and any special called sessions). When the Executive Board meets and breaks out into it's various committees, the state convention president serves as chairman of the Administrative Committee. That is pretty much it. I don't have a lot of major accomplishments to point out, but I have learned much in the past two years.
I have learned that we have a dedicated state office staff, who love the Lord, and love the work of Southern Baptists in the Mountain State. I have learned that we have some of the finest pastors and local church leaders in the state of West Virginia as you will find anywhere. Our Baptist people in West Virginia are committed to being fishers of men until the nets are full.
Serving as State Convention President has had a couple of nice perks including an invitation to visit the SBC Executive Committee meeting in Nashville in February, and to have opportunity to meet and fellowship with the Presidents of the other state conventions. (Yes, we even elect a President of the President's fellowship!) The State Convention Presidents are also treated by LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly the Sunday School Board) to a nice breakfast in February; and by the International Mission Board to a breakfast at the SBC annual meeting. I'll miss that! They also let us have "VIP" housing privilege by allowing us to get a room at the SBC Convention Hotel. Otherwise, it's nearly impossible to get a room in that hotel since they are all blocked out by the convention for all the officials and employees of the various convention entities.
Other than that, I'll be happy to hand over the gavel to whomever succeeds me. I have considered it to be an honor to serve, and a privilege to serve with a fine group of fellow officers for the past two years. After presiding over this year's meeting, it's back to just enjoying going to the convention, enjoying the preaching, listening to reports, visiting the exhibits, and just hanging out with some great brothers and sisters in Christ.
It has been my distinct pleasure to get to know Josh and John (from John Jacobs' Next Generation Power Force). I knew what they did for a living and that is why we brought them here. I didn't know, however, what they would be like as people. What a great couple of young men they are! What the public saw were two powerful, self disciplined young men who could perform amazing feats of strength. Both were 29 years of age. One was an incredible hulk of a man - 320 pounds of power. The other stood 6'4", 240 lbs, and was the most impressive physical specimen that I have ever seen. One a white, former school teacher with spiked hair who was a dynamo of energy and a passionate preacher. The other, a black man with dreadlocks and three Super Bowl rings who had inflicted physical punishment on NFL quarterbacks and running backs for five years with the New England Patriots.
Different races... different backgrounds... different personalities... different styles... one common motivation... one common goal. Their motivation - loving Jesus with all their hearts. Their goal - leading young people (and adults) to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Their method was "different". The music was loud, the physical feats they performed were outrageous. Their physical appearance was stunning. And it all worked together to grab the audience's undivided attention while they did what they came here to do - share the Good News of Jesus Christ. In response to the invitations given, more than 80 men and women, boys and girls publicly responded to the call.
Souls were saved - new subjects were added into the Kingdom of God. Christians were challenged to take a greater stand for Christ. And the Devil was mad. How do I know that? It was obvious from the hate note that was found in one of the offering plates. The folks who found the note were surprised. A couple of people were angered, but I reminded them, "No, that's a good thing." That simply means that God was doing a wonderful work in our midst and the Enemy was furious yet unable to do anything about it.
When the Gospel is preached it draws a line in the sand. Jesus said, "You are either with me or against me...". The message of salvation through Jesus Christ is a polarizing one. People are called upon to make life and eternity altering commitments and the king of this world will do everything within his power to derail the message. The beauty of it all, however, is that he cannot overcome the message of Grace from our Father in Heaven.
Most of us think of the "team" as Josh and John, but the "team" members number far more than two. They include the Finance Committee of our church who, even in the face of a tight financial situation, voted by faith, to commit the monies required to host this event. (They agree that it was worth it!) The Team includes those who spent countless hours and hundreds of dollars gathering the required materials for the program. The team includes those who used their own $3.00 per gallon gasoline to make not one, but two trips to Charleston late Saturday night to pick up the two Power Force members. The team was made up of the guys who worked the sound booth, served as ushers, and the men and women who were willing to donate their time to counsel those who responded to the invitations. The Team members were young and older. They included the folks who cooked and served wonderful meals for Josh and John, and the guys who took valuable time off from their jobs to take Josh and John to four school assemblies. The event couldn't have come off without the ones who labored physically by carrying plywood, bricks, concrete blocks and two by fours. They worked for hours to set up the stage area and to protect the surrounding instruments from any possible damage. They labored even longer hours cleaning up the debris and putting things in the sanctuary back into place. Team members set up radio interviews, sent notices to media outlets, put up posters in the community, and passed out fliers on their own time. Hundreds of man hours were expended.
A tremendous amount of time and effort went into the event. Josh and John have moved on to other cities to share the Gospel. We are all tired - but it is a "good tired".
The Power Force came to us at no set charge. They work by faith and depend on the love offerings of the congregation to fund their ministry. Their target goal to cover the expenses needed to send them, pay their salaries and to keep the large Akron, Ohio based ministry going was $4,000. I wasn't sure that the crowds we expected would be able to cover that amount, but once again God provided for the need through His people. The final offering tally was $4,090.
As a result of the combined efforts - God blessed, and more than 80 people have a new or revitalized relationship with Jesus Christ.
This weekend's mission has been accomplished but the work is far from over. The mission continues. More than 80 people need followup. Some have ties to other churches. We will share the decisions of those folks with the churches they identified on their response cards. Others will need to be discipled by us. Some will need to be baptized. There is still much work to be done from this harvest time and yet the fields are still ripe for more harvest.
Workers are needed...
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Westmoreland Baptist Church will be hosting a special evangelistic event on Sunday, October 28th and on Monday, October 29th at the church located at 3401 Hughes Street in the Westmoreland area of Huntington, WV. It's not the traditional "Fall Revival" but it is designed to bring the Gospel message to all who will hear. The message won't be delivered by the "typical" evangelist, but by a team of world class athletes who love Jesus with all their hearts.
John Jacobs' Next Generation Power Force will be with us to share the Gospel in an exciting manner never before seen by many of our folks.
I invite you to visit their website at http://www.johnjacobsnextgenerationpowerforce.com/
John Eskridge and Josh Whisenant will be our guests. You can click on their Biographies and photos from the Team Member portion of the website.
One of the team members will be speaking in our morning worship service at 10:45 AM and the Team will be performing their amazing feats of strength and sharing the Gospel in two evening services (Sunday and Monday) at 7:00 PM. With the transportation help of Bob Moses and Kenny Adkins, the team members will be speaking in school assemblies on Monday at Buffalo Middle School, Ceredo Kenova Middle School, Vinson Middle School, and Wayne High School. One of the team members will also be a guest on two local radio programs on Monday. The first interview will be at 8:09 AM on the Tom Roten Morning Show (800 on the AM dial) and the other program is at 12:35 PM on Jean Dean's radio program (at 930 on the AM dial).
A number of our members have helped with the planning of this event. I want to extend special thanks to Charley and Dino Dygert, Becky Moses, and Mel Hicks. Charley has spent a tremendous amount of time and effort to gather all the materials needed for these services and school assemblies. He and Dino and Randy Spurgeon did much work to prepare the stage area for the events. Becky (who serves with her husband, Bob, as our Fellowship Coordinators) has done a wonderful job of lining up volunteers from among our church to feed these guys while they are with us. Mel Hicks has done his usual outstanding job of promoting the event. Thanks to all who have and will help.
Please plan to attend one (or both) of these powerful events. Bring the whole family and invite your friends. Admission is free but there will be a love offering taken for these evangelists. These programs will be an ideal opportuntity to invite unsaved and unchurched friends who might not feel comfortable in a traditional church service setting. My prayer is that souls will be added to the Kingdom of God and that those of us who are already followers of the Lord, Jesus Christ, will be challenged to live our faith more openly and effectively.
I hope to see you there!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
"Who are you and what have you done with my father?"
The voice was that of my older son, Jay, from New Orleans.
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
"I just read your blog and I want to know what you have done with my father. He couldn't have written that!" he said emphatically. "Have you turned into some kind of bleeding heart liberal in your old age? I can't believe you wrote that."
The blog post in question was the one that immediately precedes this one. It regarded the new Upward Sports Ministry that our church is starting. Now first let me say that Jay is a big supporter of the concept of Upward Sports ministry. He was not being critical of the program, and agrees that there are a lot of things in organized youth sports that need fixing. What he couldn't understand from me was one paragraph in particular. Here is the quote:
Again, let me say that Jay is a real believer in ministries like Upward. He just couldn't believe that I had written that paragraph. Apparently it wasn't from the dad he remembered. I guess it is understandable. That's because I used to be real big on the competitive part of youth sports. Winning wasn't "everything" (although important) but it seemed logical that getting the top effort out of each child was most important. I am still a believer in that with one caveat - when kids reach a certain age or maturity level (physical and emotional) it is appropriate, but not for the age group of children that Upward targets.
"Wouldn't it be great if there were a sports program for children
that was not all about competition? Wouldn't it be pleasant if every child who registered for the program wouldn't face "try outs" and would not feel the rejection that comes when they just aren't good enough to "make the cut". What if there was a program that would allow every player to be introduced at the beginning of the game, and that being a "starter" meant nothing, but being a team member meant everything? What if the games began with prayer and each child learned a Bible verse and heard a Bible lesson at each practice and game. What if the coaches and game officials were all committed Christians who were more concerned with building character in children than building "dynasties" for their own glory? What if learning the game, putting forth your best effort, and working as a team were more important than keeping score? Wouldn't that be a great youth sports program?"
While there may be some kids in 5th or 6th graders who are able to deal with the strong competitive concept, most K-6 kids would just rather have fun. In fact there are some who are even younger who may be more competitive by nature. However, the fact remains that they are in fact, just kids! The main reason given for children who drop out of youth sports leagues, or decide not to play in subsequent years is usually, "It's just not fun."
Now "fun" may not be the reason why kids play sports in high school or college, but it is a very important factor to little guys. Two weeks ago, before a flag football game of 4, 5, and 6 year olds I witnessed an adult coach putting his kids through pre game drills. These weren't "warm ups" stretching leg muscles and loosening up before the game. This was "boot camp" type exercises. Push ups, jumping jacks, etc. This coach walked between the two rows of kindergarten and first graders yelling like Vince Lombardi. "Don't you want to win?" he barked at one. "Come on. Suck it up!" he scolded another. "This is a big game - you've got to be ready."
How much fun do you think these kids were having?
Now I can see that type of action from a high school coach and maybe even a middle school coach - but at this level? I don't think so. This same coach had said, "Ive got to get these guys ready for the next level." For Pete's sake coach, these kids are mostly four and five year olds! Teach them the game. Help them get the concept of team. Put in a few simple plays. Show them sportsmanship and model integrity, but give them a chance to be kids.
Maybe it comes from being a grandfather for about 8 years now. Perhaps it's a result of facing an incurable disease (which certainly will put things into perspective). Maybe it's just the "older and wiser" syndrome, but there is still plenty of time for all that "winning is everything" stuff down the road. When I watch that high school or college game (or even that middle school event), I do want to see the kids put out the effort. Leave it all out there on the field! That's the ticket. There will come a time when they won't all be able to make the cut.
But not at this age.
Give the little guys a chance to see if they like a sport. Let them have opportunity to learn the game. Let them mature at their own rate. That's part of what makes Upward so successful. The other facet of the importance of Upward is that it is a MINISTRY, not a "youth sports league." We are not in competition with other youth sports programs.
Our job in Upward is to teach the game, let them learn to be part of a team, give them needed affirmation, but most importantly, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with children and their parents.
That's a little tough to do when you have that 5 year old running the stadium steps for committing a turnover!
Monday, October 22, 2007
As the crowd of parents and grandparents yelled loudly from the grandstands, the Royals' base runner had rounded third base and stomped hard on home plate with what appeared to be the first run of the game. Running into the outfield, the 2nd base umpire verified that the ball was indeed stuck under the fence and made his decision according to the ground rules of the local Little League.
"Ground rule double!" yelled the man in blue.
The batter was awarded second base and the other base runner was instructed to go back to third base, erasing the run that had been added to the scoreboard. Pretty routine stuff. All covered by the rule book. No problem, right?
The Royals dugout, filled with 10, 11, and 12 year olds erupted. The kids were unhappy with the call, but it wasn't the kids who lost it. It was the 35 year old coach who went ballistic. Screaming like an attacking Comanche warrior, the coach ran out of the dugout with one of the kid's bats in his right hand. He made a bee line for the umpire who had made the call. To say that he was out of control would be an understatement. He was livid.
Having been unsuccessful in getting the umpire to reverse the call, the coach assailed him with a verbal barrage impugning the umpire's eyesight, his integrity, and even his ancestry. Both dugouts emptied and most of the players stood around watching while the coaches and the umpire were in "conference". Although no one actually came on the the field, fans did come out of the stands and lined the fence screaming at the umpire - or at the coach (depending upon which team they were supporting). The home plate umpire finally stepped in and ejected the Royals coach and had to threaten to call the police to have him removed from the field. Fortunately it never came to that, as the coaches wife was successful in getting him to calm down enough to drop the bat and leave the field.
It was one of those ugly moments that pops up from time to time in youth sports programs. Those of us who have spent a lot of time around ball fields and basketball courts at youth sports programs have witnessed way too many of those type of incidents. From Football to Basketball, to Soccer to Baseball, every one of these programs were founded for "the benefit of kids". By in large, the league officers and coaches are folks who are genuinely interested in children and want to make a positive impact in the lives of the kids. Unfortunately sometimes the baser nature of man kicks in and in the heat of competition and battle of egos, things get way off the mark. What was a program for the kids, becomes a battleground for adults and the main thing ceases to be the main thing.
Wouldn't it be great if there were a sports program for children that was not all about competition? Wouldn't it be pleasant if every child who registered for the program wouldn't face "try outs" and would not feel the rejection that comes when they just aren't good enough to "make the cut". What if there was a program that would allow every player to be introduced at the beginning of the game, and that being a "starter" meant nothing but being a team member meant everything? What if the games began with prayer and each child learned a Bible verse and heard a Bible lesson at each practice and game. What if the coaches and game officials were all committed Christians who were more concerned with building character in children than building "dynasties" for their own glory? What if learning the game, putting forth your best effort, and working as a team were more important than keeping score? Wouldn't that be a great youth sports program?
Well there is one like that. It is not really a "program" at all, but rather a "sports ministry". It's called Upward and it is one of the greatest ministries to children and young families that has ever been conceived. Upward began over two decades ago in Spartanburg, SC and has spread over the country. They offer basketball, cheer leading, soccer and flag football to local churches who would like to minister to children and their families in a sports setting. Every child plays, every child learns, and every child is a winner.
Westmoreland Baptist Church has begun an Upward Sports ministry which is kicking off soon with Upward Basketball and Cheerleading. The future plan includes Upward Soccer in the spring as well. We are kicking off the ministry with a special "Upward Sunday" on November 4th. As children are evaluated and assigned to their teams, we have ten "prayer teams" made up of 108 Christians who will begin 100 days of prayer for the success of this ministry. We believe that - rightly done - Upward Sports will be a way to positively impact our community for Christ. Will you join us in prayer for the success of this ministry? If you live here in the Ohio/Kentucky/West Virginia area, perhaps you would like to help in some way. Possibly as a volunteer or maybe even as someone who would like to financially support the program, so every child who wants to play will be able to play. If so, you may contact me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like more information on Upward Sports, check out their website at www.upward.org.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
According to the national "averages" I should not have lived to see this 57th birthday. That's because on the news that I received on the last week of November, 2004. There was bad news and worse news. The bad news was that I was diagnosed with cancer. It was colon cancer - which was bad news. The worse news was that it was in stage four - having already escaped the colon and had metastasized to the lymph nodes and the liver. The prognosis was "incurable but hopefully manageable" through chemotherapy.
Those of you who know me personally or who have read my blog before know that the doctor told me that the average survival time for my type of situation was 18-22 months. Pretty sobering news. If you have never heard the "incurable cancer" diagnosis for yourself or a loved one - take it from me - it'll make you think about a lot of things. There are three or four ways you can deal with that kind of news:
- Despair and surrender
- Bitterness and anger
- Determination to fight it with all you've got - or
- Turn it over to God
I chose the fourth option. It suddenly occurred to me that NOTHING suddenly occurs to God. In His Omniscience - He knew this was coming from before time began. In His sovereignty, the whole thing was in His control anyhow. He has promised nothing but good for me and has known the plans He has had for me all along (Jeremiah 29:11). Having an excellent, capable and caring oncologist locally, and the Great Physician on duty around the clock I did three things. I was anointed by the elders of the church and they prayed for me with the laying on of hands (James 5); I prayed for wisdom for Dr. Jain; and I determined that it was all in God's hands and that my job was to strap in and take the ride.
It's been quite a ride!
So today, I had the birthday, they thought I would never have. It has been a day of work, rest, and joy. I have received many birthday greetings by phone, email and cards. I sent the usual bouquet of red roses to Mom (which I have been doing on every birthday for the past 15 years or so). The thought occurred to me back then - "Why should I be receiving gifts? Mom is the one who deserves the gift. She gave me life!" Benji, Leigh Anne, and the boys came by the house, as did Mom and Dad for pizza, birthday cake and ice cream. Jay called from Louisiana and I had phone calls from both of my younger brothers. Linda gave me a beautiful card and some thoughtful gifts, and I have just spent some quiet time with God.
So now it's official. I have reached the age of 57. What have I learned in the past 57 years? Actually, I have learned nearly as much in the past three years. I have learned:
- Life is short - Every day is precious
- God has given me a wonderful wife that I do not deserve
- I love Linda more today than the day we walked down the aisle 36 years ago.
- Family is SO important
- I have not only ministered to my church -
- They have ministered to me
- Friends are more valuable than gold
- I have peace with God that cannot be described (Philippians 4: 7)
- It is good for me that I have been afflicted (Psalm 119: 71)
- God's Grace is Sufficient for every need (2 Cor. 12: 9)
- God is good - all the time
- God is in control- therefore -
- Don't sweat the small stuff (and basically it's ALL small stuff)
I want to thank all my friends who have been so kind, helpful and prayerful on my behalf. I want to thank my family for being such a blessing to me, and my grandsons for making my life even richer than before. But above all, I want to thank God for all He has done for me, and for sending His Son to give me forgiveness and eternal life.
Who knows - I may even be around to see number 58 - Or I may get to spend that one with Him.
Either way - It's a wonderful life!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Is this just something that comes from getting older?
I just love being around little children!
I really don't know, but I can tell you that the older I get, the more I seem to appreciate kids. Maybe it's their innocence - or not. They can be downright scheming and devilish. Perhaps it's their inherent happiness or the joy of playing with others - or not. Often times they cry and pout, and sometimes they don't play well with others at all! Maybe it's their lack of formal learning - although everything they do is a learning experience. Their impressionable little minds soak up EVERYTHING - good or not so good. At times they exhibit total honesty and goodness. Yet no one has to teach them how to lie, or to take something that doesn't belong to them.
Curious creations - little children. Their comments can break your heart - or bring uproarious laughter.
They can drive you crazy during their waking hours, and yet you can stand in silent adoration while watching them sleep. Oklahoma Pastor Shane Waldrop once said, "Did you ever notice how they look like little angels when they're sleeping? God does that so you won't kill them in their sleep!" There may be something to that...
When diagnosed with incurable fourth stage cancer, one of my first concerns was that I would not live to see my grandchildren grow and mature. One was three, one was four and the third was born the week my malignancy was diagnosed. The fourth wasn't born until I was into my first course of Chemotherapy. These were kids I barely knew and selfishly I wanted to build a long relationship with them and I wanted them to remember me!
God has richly blessed me to have these three "extra" years with the grandsons, with my boys and their wives, and with Linda. I just want to publicly give Him thanks today for that gracious gift. Every day is special and I relish every visit with the little ones, every photo or video image of them, and every conversation with them. Oh, how I treasure those moments! I am not going to bore you today with all the profound and cute things my grandsons say, but I do want to share some funnies with you regarding some of the funny things that kids have said. This list was shared with me via email from Jim Fugate. You may have seen some of them before. If so, move on. If not, I hope you get a good chuckle from them.
As Art Linkletter used to say, "Kids say the darnedest things!"
JACK (age 3)
was watching his Mom breast-feeding his new babysister. After
a while he asked: 'Mom why have you got two? Is one forhot and
one for cold milk?'
MELANIE (age 5)
asked her Granny how old she was. Granny repliedshe was so old she didn't
remember any more. Melanie said, 'If youdon't remember you must look in the back
of your panties. Mine say fiveto six.'
STEVEN (age 3)
hugged and kissed his Mom good night. 'I love you so much that when you die I'm going to bury you outside my bedroomwindow.'
BRITTANY (age 4)
had an earache and wanted a pain killer. She tried in vain to take the lid off the
bottle. Seeing her frustration,her Mom explained it was a child-proof cap
and she'd have to open it forher. Eyes wide with wonder, the little girl asked:
'How does it know it's me?'
SUSAN (age 4)
was drinking juice when she got the hiccups.'Please don't give me this juice again,' she
said, 'It makes my teeth cough.'
DJ (age 4) stepped onto the bathroom scale and asked: 'How much do I cost?'
MARC (age 4)
was engrossed in a young couple that were hugging and kissing in a restaurant.
Without taking his eyes off them, he asked his dad: 'Why is he whispering in her
CLINTON (age 5)
was in his bedroom looking worried. When his Mom asked what was troubling him, he replied, 'I don't know what'll happen with this bed when I get married. How will my wife fit in?'
JAMES (age 4)
was listening to a Bible story. His dad read: 'The man named Lot was warned to take
his wife and flee out of the city but his wife looked back and was turned to
salt.' Concerned, James asked:'What happened to the flea?'
TAMMY (age 4) was with her
mother when they met an elderly,rather wrinkled woman her Mom knew. Tammy looked at her for a while and then asked, 'Why doesn't your skin fit your face?'
The Sermon I think one Mom will never forget.... this particular Sunday sermon...'Dear Lord,' the minister began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face.'Without you, we are but dust...' He would have continued but at that moment my very obedient daughter who was listening leaned over to me and asked quite audibly in her shrill little four year old girl voice,'Mom,
what is butt dust?'
Kids are amazing. Many years ago, we picked up a lady on the way to church. She was a friend and co-worker of Linda's and she was going through a difficult time in her marriage. We stopped the car and she climbed in the back seat with our two boys. Jay was looking out the window and didn't pay much attention to the new adult who had embarked. Benji, on the other hand, studied this lady with great fascination. We had driven a mile or so, making the usual small talk and Benji continued to give her his rapt attention and he said not a word. Finally, she looked at him and said, "How are you this morning, Benji?"
"Fine" he said. Then he announced in a very serious tone, "My dad's growing a moustache too!
You have got to love little kids...
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
If, by chance the link didn't work - here are the lyrics:
And She called...
Blacks, Whites...wait African Americans and Caucasians, Asians, excuse
me.Vietnamese, Philipenes, Koreans and Jamaicans or Haitans, waitin' Hispanics
Please be paitentMexican, Puerto Ricans, Venezualean, Cuban, v Dominican,
Panamanian DemocratsI beg your pardon, you partied with the late, great
Republican, Independent, Christian, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, 7th Day
Adventist, 5 Percenters, Hindu, Sunii Muslim, Brothers and Sisters who never
seen the New York city skyline when the twin towers still existed.But still She
From the bowels of Ground Zero she sent this 911 distress signal.Because
She was in desperate need of a hero, and didn't have time to decipher what to
call 'em, so she called 'em all Her children.
The children of the stars and bars who needed to know nothing more than the
fact that she called. The fact that someone attempted to harm us this daughter
who covered us all with her loving arms. And now these arms are sprawled across
New York City streets. A smoke filled lung, a silt covered faced, and a solitary
tear poured out of her cheek.Her singed garments carpets Pennsylvania Avenue and
the Pentagon was under her feet.
As she began to talk, she began to cough up small particles of debris and
said, "I am America, and I'm calling on the land of the free."
So they answered.All personal differences set to the side because right now
there was no time to decide which state building the Confederate flag should fly
over, and which trimester the embryo is considered alive, or on our monetary
units, and which God we should confide.You see, someone attempted to choke the
voice of the one who gave us the right for choice, and now she was callin. And
somebody had to answer. Who was going to answer? So they did.
Stern faces and chisled chins. Devoted women and disciplined men, who rose
from the ashes like a pheonix and said "don't worry, we'll stand in your
They tightened up their bootlaces and said goodbye to loved ones, family
and friends. They tried to bombard them with the "hold on", "wait-a-minute's",
and "what-if's". And "Daddy, where you goin?". And, "Mommy, why you leavin?".And
they merely kissed them on their foreheads and said "Don't worry, I have my
reasons. You see, to this country I pledged my allegience to defend it against
all enemies foreign and domestic. So as long as I'm breathin, I'll run though
hell-fire,meet the enemy on the front lines, look him directly in his face,
stare directly in his eyes and scream, "I AM AMERICA! WE WILL NOT BE TERRORIZED!
WE WILL NOT BE TERRORIZED! I REFUSE TO BE AFRAID! I'LL FIGHT YOU ANY COUNTRY,
ANY CONTINENT, ANY TERRAIN.I'LL FIGHT TO MY LAST BREATH!"
And if by chance death is my fate,pin my medals upon my chest, and throw
Old Glory on my grave. But, don't y'all cry for me.
You see, my Father's prepared a place. I'll be a part of his Holy army
standing a watch at the Pearly Gates. Because freedom was never free.
POW's, and fallen soldiers all paid the ultimate sacrafice along side
veterans who put themselves in harms way. Risking their lives and limbs just to
hold up democracy's weight, but still standing on them broken appendages anytime
the National Anthem was played.
You see, these were the brave warriors that gave me the right to say that
I'm Black. Or white. Or African American or Caucasian,I'm Asian, excuse me.I'm
Vietnamese, Philipene, Korean, or Jamaican.I'm Haitan, Hispanic Y'all, Please be
paitent.I'm Mexican, Puerto Rican, Venezualean, Cuban, Dominican, Panamanian,
Democrat I beg your pardon, you see I partied with the late, great Reagan.
I'm Republican, Independent, Christian, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, 7th
Day Adventist, 5 Percenters, Hindu, Sunii Muslim, Brothers and Sisters We're
just Americans. So with that I say "Thank You" to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and
Marines, for preserving my rights to live and die for this life and paying the
ultimate price for me to be...FREE!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Kentucky has basically been the whipping boy for the Southeastern Conference football powers for several years. There have been some good teams in Lexington over the years off and on, but football has long taken a back seat to that "other" sport at UK. Kentucky football fans talk with pleasure about the days when Paul "Bear" Bryant stalked the sidelines in Lexington - way back before he went to Alabama and built a perennial powerhouse out of the Crimson Tide. Last season was a good season by Wildcat standards, and the Cats made a postseason appearance in the Music City Bowl under Coach Brooks. This season promised to be a good one, but no one has anticipated the successes that have come to the Bluegrass in 2007!
The only blemish on the Cats' record this season has been a loss at South Carolina. But then again, Steve Spurrier is the head coach of the USC Gamecocks and he has ALWAYS had the Wildcats' number - at Florida and South Carolina. This year was no different. Folks here in Kentucky were a little incredulous when the Wildcats earned their national ranking a few weeks ago. The "wait and see" attitude basically prevailed in the Wildcat nation - especially after the loss to South Carolina. This week would tell the tale when the nation's number one ranked Tigers of LSU were coming to Lexington. I don't think many Kentuckians expected a "W" but they were hoping to make a respectable showing. I think they accomplished that, don't you?
The Bayou Bengals had just moved to the top spot in the AP poll after previously top ranked University of Southern California had been upset last Saturday by the Stanford Cardinal. The fans in Baton Rouge (and most of Louisiana) were on top of the world. While I was in New Orleans last week, LSU was the top story - especially since the professional Saints were having a less than desirable season. Purple and Gold was everywhere you looked and folks down in Bayou land were not taking Kentucky too seriously. "Kentucky? Are you kidding me? They're Tiger bait!"
Well, that's what they thought...
Keep in mind THIS is the season of College Football upsets. It began the first week of the season when I-AA Mountaineers of Appalachian State went into Ann Arbor and shocked the Michigan Wolverines right there in "The Big House". The upsets have continued each week and the "Top 25" has been shuffled like a deck of cards after each Saturday's results. LSU came into Lexington, pretty confident, but soon learned that the Wildcats were for real!
It was a great game for the fans to watch and really a shame that someone had to lose! Having lived in Baton Rouge way back when the kids were young, I came to appreciate the great football tradition at LSU and have always been sort of an "honorary fan". My true football love is the Thundering Herd of Marshall, but I really don't want to talk about that right now. Ouch! I can't say that I have ever been a real Kentucky football fan, even though we have lived in the Bluegrass State for 27 years. However, since football has always been sort of a stepchild in the land of Adolph Rupp, I have always hoped the football Wildcats would have success.
The three overtime victory last night over LSU was a victory that everyone in Kentucky can savor (possibly even the Louisville fans!). The Tigers missed a couple of scoring opportunities that should have won them the football game last night, but as they say, "that's the way the football bounces!"
My condolences go out to my many friends in the Bayou State where football IS king, but I still have to give the props to the Wildcats. They earned it. Jay and Michelle should be having a great time down there this week! They have listened to the Kentucky football jokes for five years at the hands of the Tiger fans. They should enjoy it while they can...
Perhaps the Ohio State Buckeyes will now wind up back in the Number one position - where I think they belong.
We'll see when the poll results come out tomorrow.
Friday, October 12, 2007
My Trustee meeting was over on Wednesday night so I stayed in the Seminary's Providence Guest House that night and Jay came over and picked me up on Thursday morning. I was able to spend the day with him and helped (slightly) as the delivery men brought the new baby grand piano for delivery to their church. It was a gift from a former member who wanted to do something nice for the church after the post Katrina remodling project has been mostly completed. Boy does that thing look beautiful up there on the platform in the bright newly refurbished sanctuary! It's been a long road back for the last two years for First Baptist Church of Westwego, but by the Grace of God and with the help of friends from all around the USA, the church is back up and running. More beautiful and with a more dynamic vision than ever before. Isn't it something how God can take the most tragic situations and turn them into something good? FBC Westwego is literally a different church than it was when Jay arrived five years ago this month. The facilities are much improved and the congregation is very different. The median age has gone way down. There are a number of young families and singles who have poured into the fellowship - including a number of folks who were saved as a result of the Baptist witness after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. If you would like to see more about FBC Westwego, click on the link to their new website (http://www.firstwego.org). The site is still under construction but you'll get an idea of the excitement that is going on there. To God be the Glory!
Speaking of the great number of people who came to the aid of FBC Westwego and the New Orleans area in general, one of the really great groups who helped Jay's church was the Disaster Relief Group from the Arizona State Convention. FBC Westwego's educational building wich was only moderately damaged by Katrina (roof) has played host to literally hundreds of Baptist Disaster Relief Volunteers who poured into the area to help in many ways. They have housed feeding (kitchen crews) and other types of workers - sometimes as many as 40 at a time! The toughest part about it for the workers who stayed there was the lack of shower facilities. That is where the Arizona group was such a blessing. They brought in a trailer equipped with 8 showers (four for the men - four for the ladies) and a washer and dryer bay. What a blessing! Take it from one who worked there for the first week of October 2005 - after picking through the muck of flooded homes, chain sawing fallen trees, moving refrigerators and freezers out of houses, and carrying off other assorted debris, that evening shower sure felt good!
The folks from Arizona left the shower unit there several months, thereby blessing hundreds who gave their time and talents to help others. Eventually, when it became obvious that FBC Westwego was going to become a long term base to house recovery workers, some permanent showers were built on in an addition to the building that now houses the church's offices. Jay was invited to come to Arizona to speak in one of their association meetings and a couple of local churches a year ago, and he is leaving tomorrow, at their invitation, to come speak out there again. That guy is getting around!
Katrina relief workers have given Jay opportunity to make many friends in a number of states. He has preached in Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Arizona, West Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi in response from invitations of folks who have stayed at their church during mission trips to New Orleans. He has so far, had to decline invitations from Oregon and Oklahoma simply because there just hasn't been time or opportunity. Another lesson they have learned from Katrina is a reminder of the tie that binds together the hearts of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. It's called love.
We had a nice meeting last evening of five who plan to make a mission trip to the Philippines in May of 2008. A few others who plan to go could not make the meeting last night, but it has the potential of being one of the largest teams that Beacon Ministries has sponsored to date. It is made up of several members of Jay's church and some Master's and Doctoral students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The group had planned on going with us in January, but school scheduling will not allow that to happen. So, they are leaving the day after finals in May. That trip will involve some extra dimensions that previous mission endeavors have not offered. A number of the readers of this blog have already given to the January mission trip and a fund that will also help accomplish the goals of the May trip. I am so thankful for those who financially support this wonderful ministry. Perhaps there are other readers who have not given but would like to be a part of these ministry activities. If so, your tax deductible contribution would be welcome. Gifts of any size may be made payable and mailed to:
Beacon Ministries, Inc.
317 - 49th Street
Ashland, KY 41101
If you have any questions about this two part 2008 Philippine mission, they may be directed to me at email@example.com.
My little "puddle jumper" plane for Huntington is just about to board. Hope to see all of our WBC folks in church Sunday and I look forward to getting in on a part of the "Pound the Pavement" outdoor concert tonight on the parking lot of Westmoreland Baptist.
Thanks for visiting my blog.
Come back often.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
It is very difficult to type this because of his ultra cool ergonomically designed keyboard which makes it take at least three times as long for me to type a paragraph than it normally would.
The International Mission Board
The North American Mission Board
LifeWay Christian Resources
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission,
The Executive Committee
· Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Kentucky)
· New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (New Orleans, Louisiana)
· Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Fort Worth, Texas)
· Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, North Carolina)
· Mid-Western Baptist Theological Seminary (Kansas City, Missouri)
· Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (Mill Valley, California)
The “Convention” itself only exists two days a year when messengers from 43,000 local churches come together in their annual meeting. Our Convention’s mission of carrying out the Great Commission is placed into the hands of the entities listed above. The Convention messengers elect Trustees (representing the various State Convention churches) to oversee the operation of each entity. The Board of Trustees in turn, hires a president of the entity, formulate the budget, and set particular entity policies in regard to completing the assigned mission of the entity.
Individual Boards of Trustees are made up of as many as 40 members who serve in staggered five-year terms of office. If a Trustee’s service is faithful, he or she is eligible for election to a second five-year term. The genius of this system accomplishes several purposes. First, no institution comes under the control of one particular person. Each entity has a president who is a strong leader, but that president is elected by and answers to the Board of Trustees. Secondly, with Trustees who are pastors and lay people from all over the Convention, the local churches who make up the Convention, and each State Convention are represented in the decision making processes. Thirdly, the Trustees seek to carry out the mission of each Convention entity. Like the name suggests, the Convention messengers place each Trustee in a position of “trust” to be a good steward of the resources provided for each entity.
That is one of the beauties of the Southern Baptist Convention. Things aren’t done from “the top down” with a hierarchy telling local churches what to do. Rather, the local congregation is at the center of fulfilling the Great Commission. Local churches voluntarily join together in regional Associations, which make up State Conventions. The local churches give to the “Cooperative Program” which has proven to be the greatest mission-sending vehicle in the history of the church. The convention has broken down the task of completing that mission into those 12 entities and elected Trustees from the local churches govern the entities. The plan is beautiful in it’s simplicity.
I have just completed my first full year as a Trustee of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It has already been an educational and fulfilling experience.
After being elected at the Greensboro Convention meeting two summers ago, we “new guys” were brought to the Seminary in September 2006 for an orientation of what is involved in Board membership. It was designed to familiarize the new Trustee to the entity. In our case we toured the campus (getting a first hand view and update of the post Katrina recovery work). We met the administration officials, and got to know one another as the new Trustees who would serve together until 2012. We got a two day crash course in how the Seminary works, it’s day to day operation, it’s finances, instruction and curriculum, and how it is presently seeking to fulfill it’s assigned mission. We new Trustees came from West Virginia, Missouri, Texas, North Carolina, New York, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
The importance of the September orientation session became apparent when we returned to New Orleans the following month for the Board’s semi annual meeting. Our Board of Trustees is internally broken down into four standing committees. These committees are Buildings and Grounds, Instruction and Curriculum, Finance and Investments, and the Executive Committee (which is made up of the Board Chairman, three members at large, and the Chairmen of the other three committees). These standing committees meet separately to hear reports and consider the business of their particular area of oversight. They in turn, make recommendations to the full Board of Trustees when it meets the second day in Plenary Sessions. It is in those sessions that any official actions of the Board are actually taken.
The first October meeting for the new Trustees is truly a hectic and exhausting one. The new members are not yet assigned to a standing committee. They attend each of the separate committee meetings and get a first hand view of the mechanics and substance of what each committee does. Seminary President Charles Kelley and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees sit in with the new members on each committee meeting. After the October meeting, the President and Board Chairman assign the new members to their respective committees. By that time, the President and Board Chairman have had opportunity to meet and get to know each new member. They have had opportunity to observe them and get a feel for where their interests lie and where their particular gifts might best be put to use. Once assigned to their particular committee, the new members are ready to “hit the ground running” when they arrive back on campus in April for the spring meeting.
I really didn’t have a particular choice as to which committee I would prefer. I was a little leery of the finance and investment committee. While that committee is charged with an extremely important task, I can tell you that a few hours of looking at budget lines, tables, charts, and financial reports tend to make my eyes glaze over. I was somewhat interested in Buildings and Grounds due to the daunting task of rebuilding after Katrina and I can relate to bricks and mortar issues. However, my assignment turned out to be to the Instruction committee. While I wasn’t necessarily hoping for that committee assignment, I was happy to get it. After all, instruction and education is really what Seminary is all about.
The Instruction committee works closely with Dr. Kelley and Seminary Provost, Dr. Steve Lemke. Our chief responsibilities are to elect faculty members, grant tenure and sabbaticals, explore and implement education delivery systems, approve curriculum changes, new courses of study, new certificate and degree programs, add extension centers and Hub Campuses, etc. In my opinion, election of faculty members is probably the most important of all our duties. After all, these are the men and women who will be ultimately responsible for educating the students of NOBTS and it’s undergraduate arm, Level College. These are the folks who will be delivering important theological education to the future pastors, missionaries, Christian education professionals and local church and convention leaders. This is an awesome responsibility. On the instruction committee, we understand that we cannot tell these people what to teach or how to teach, but we do have the task of making decisions about prospective faculty members. These must be folks who meet the educational requirements and hopefully have had practical ministry experience in their areas of expertise. They must hold a high view of scripture, be men and women of integrity, have a passion for evangelism, and serve as life examples and mentors for the students they will instruct.
We have had an excellent meeting this week and I am thankful for the opportunity to serve. My first responsibility, of course, is to the congregation of Westmoreland Baptist Church and I thank them for allowing me to serve our Convention in this small way. I appreciate Randy Spurgeon, our Associate Pastor and my good friend, who is willing to take on a few of my responsibilities while I am away. I hope to represent you well in this area of ministry.
Oh yes. One other thing you need to know about the instructors, administrators, and trustees of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. All of us have signed personal statement of belief in the infallibility of the scriptures, and a statement of our personal agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message. Each of the twelve entities of the Southern Baptist Convention have done the same.
We are all on the same page and seek to make the main thing, the main thing.
New Orleans is much more than the French Quarter. It is a fascinating city, surrounded by water, and built mostly below sea level. It has a long and storied history as Spanish and then French territory. The architecture is beautiful. Most folks are familiar with the balconies of the old buildings in the Vieux Carre, and the stately mansions of the Garden District. The colorful shotgun style homes that line many of the streets are accented by ancient live oaks, and the wide boulevards with an occasional pine tree add character to the landscape.
Lake Ponchartrain serves as the northern border of the city and the curving Mississippi River creates the southern boundary, and hence the “Crescent City” moniker. The people are friendly and interesting, and the native New Orleanian’s accent is distinctive. They sound as though they may be from Brooklyn rather than the Deep South. There are parks and a marina, art galleries, museums, streetcars and a beautiful zoo that all add to the beauty and character of New Orleans. Live music is everywhere and the soundtrack for New Orleans includes Jazz, Dixieland, Cajun, and Zydeco.
And there are the restaurants!
Jay used to take us to the Cheesecake Bistro on St. Charles, but alas, after Katrina, the bistro is no more. However, local sources say that there are now more eateries up and running than there were in the pre Katrina days. Seems hard to believe but look around and there are restaurants EVERYWHERE. From his television fame, everyone knows Emeril Lagasse, but his places are just two of the multitude of great places to eat in New Orleans. One couldn’t hope to visit them all in a lifetime, so most folks find a few favorites and frequent them whenever possible.
I’m not about haute cuisine, nor do I live for fast food, but I do love that vast middle ground between the two. New Orleans has many such eateries from which to choose.
One can enjoy the red beans and rice at Café Mespero or the catfish at Ralph and Kacoo’s in the Quarter. (be sure to try the fried pickles and alligator from the appetizer menu at R&K’s) Perhaps you may wish to try the shrimp, gumbo, and jambalaya at Mother’s Restaurant on Poydras Street. Good stuff! Hungry for a delicious filet mignon and some Jazz music? Try Snug Harbor on Frenchman Street in the Marigny district. The best cheeseburger and baked potato you ever put in your mouth awaits you at Port of Call on Esplanade. Want a delicious Po Boy? Sammy’s on Elysian Fields is my favorite. How about a Pizza or Muffaletto? Try Mo’s Pizza across the river in Westwego. Or if you just want a snack with a real taste of New Orleans, the Bignets at Café Dumonde will leave you satisfied - and covered with powdered sugar!
If I lived in New Orleans, I would weigh 400 pounds!
Tonight, when our Seminary Trustee meeting concludes, we will enjoy a Seafood Buffet in the dining room at the seminary and finish up with coffee and dessert at Café New Orleans in the Hardin Student Center on campus. Café New Orleans offers 72 different blends of coffee. 72!!! I wouldn’t have thought that possible. Loretta Scroggs, who is a member of Jay’s church, manages the coffee shop, and she’ll have a couple of pounds of fresh ground coffee (blend of our choice) for each of us to take home. Linda has told me to make sure I come back with “Columbia Supremo” blend. I learned long ago not to cross her up on her coffee!
I will write later tonight about our Trustee Meeting itself. But for now, it’s off to the campus gym and weight room to try to work off last night’s meal.
Monday, October 8, 2007
NOBTS has been very special to our family over the past five years. It has been the focal point of the life of our older son, and the reason he and his family moved so far away from "home". A year ago I had the privilege to have been elected to the Seminary Board of Trustees and it has been a joy to serve this wonderful "School of Providence and Prayer". We have our semi annual Trustee meeting this week and I will be leaving for that meeting in a few hours. I look forward to doing the business that is entrusted to us, and to the special time of prayer and fellowship with the other trustees and with the wonderful administration, faculty, and staff of the Seminary.
Dr. Chuck Kelley has served the Seminary as President for just over 10 years. Besides being a great academic leader, Dr. Kelley is an evangelist at heart. He and his wife, Dr. Rhonda Kelley are dear folks who love New Orleans and the young people who come to that Seminary to train for ministry, evangelism, and missions. Rhonda is the daughter of Rev. Bob Harrington who was well known for many years in New Orleans as "The Chaplain of Bourbon Street". Chuck is a graduate of the Seminary and served for many years as a professor of evangelism. Their roots go deep in the Crescent City.
It was truly through the Providence of God that Dr. Kelley was there to lead the Seminary family through the worst natural disaster to ever strike the United States - Hurricane Katrina. Two years have passed since the hurricane struck and several levees were breached sending 80 percent of the city under water for days. The Seminary family took losses that would do most of us in. There was some question as to whether the Seminary should even try to reopen or possibly relocate to another city. But through strong faith in God, the leadership of Dr. Kelley and his staff, and an outpouring of help from Southern Baptists all around the country, a modern miracle has taken place on Gentilly Boulevard.
The Seminary hosted a "Homecoming" celebration last week to thank God for his provision. Everyone who has been part of the Seminary family along with the many who helped in it's restoration and recovery were invited to come and celebrate what God has done. I wasn't able to attend the Homecoming since I am going to be there this week, but I read with interest Joe McKeever's blog about it. (www.joemckeever.com ) Here is part of what Joe writes, regarding the special service held in Leavell Chapel:
"After testimonies from students and professors on the Lord's care for them and their families through the Katrina tragedy, Dr. Kelley went into detail about the Father's watch care over both the campus and the seminary family. He called attention to a handout with facts seminary-lovers will want to know.
During and after Hurricane Katrina's storm and flooding....
80 percent of the city was underwater.
Seminary students were scattered to 29 states.
Faculty and staff evacuated to 12 states.
The Georgia Baptist Convention put 300 seminary families in housing.
The seminary campus itself sustained some $60 million in damages, most of it due to the flood waters which saturated the homes and buildings for many days.
Most of the campus housing was under 3 to 5 feet of water for 2 to 3
45 percent of all student housing was flooded, resulting in almost total
loss for those families.
92 student apartments were demolished afterward.
All the faculty houses were flooded.
Administrative offices were relocated to Atlanta from September '05 through April '06.
Over 1,000 students from the main campus were contacted by the Student Life Office after the hurricane, to find out what needs they had and help them stay "in class" through the internet.
Over 400 refrigerators on campus were destroyed.
Over 150 automobiles were destroyed.
Campus recreation facilities and equipment were unusable.
400 National Guardsmen set up their base camp on the campus.
100 NY Highway Patrolmen stayed in campus facilities.
No class programs were eliminated as a result of Katrina. (No other
institution of higher learning in the New Orleans area can make this
The seminary was the only institution of higher learning in this area not to lay off a single faculty member.
Over 3/4 of our students continued to take classes, most over the
2500 students enrolled following Katrina, which was 25 percent below the previous year's enrollment.
The SBC Executive Committee gave the seminary $6.2 million for recovery efforts.
The International Mission Board donated $1.2 million.
The Florida Baptist Convention donated cash and gift cards to distribute to seminary families.
Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana state conventions sent significant
More than 3,000 volunteers completed the equivalent of more than $3 million in labor.
60 acres of sod was laid on the campus.
All campus landscaping was replaced.
SBC disaster relief teams and church volunteers have been in New Orleans continuously since the hurricane, over 2 years ago.
Volunteers from churches and other SBC entities, too vast in numbers to keep track of, have given time, materials, and money toward the recovery of this seminary, our churches, and our city.
Dr. Kelley said, "Our favorite scripture comes from the 43rd chapter of
Isaiah." He read the opening verses.
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,Nor will the flame burn you.For I am
the Lord your God."
The campus has been beautifully restored and the Seminary family has been actively involved in working to help their neighbors recover from their losses. Many acts of kindess and compassion to others have helped open doors of evangelism in New Orleans that have never been opened before. I'll be spending the next 4 days in the presence of a modern miracle.
Oh yes. I'll also get to spend a couple of evenings with two of my grandsons! Not bad duty...
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Gene returned after a few days of intensive clean up work at Westwego with stories about how much damage he had seen. Along with the cable news outlets and their coverage of the disaster, the vision of helping New Orleans recover spread quickly across the country. Doug Virgin is the Director of Missions for the Greater Huntington Baptist Association and he caught the vision as well. Knowing Jay, Doug wanted to do something to help his church so he got busy. Soon he had rented a 24 foot box truck and it was filled with plywood, sheet rock, drywall mud, roll roofing, roofing nails, and assorted other related materials. He put out the call in this area and three of us responded to make the week's relief trip to the Big Easy. Naturally, since Jay was my son I wanted to be part of the effort. We were joined by Pastor John Freeman of Calvary Baptist Church in Chapmanville, WV and Mike Dixon, a layperson from the Coal Fields Association who had a lot of experience in SBC Disaster Relief work. WV State Convention of Southern Baptist's Director of Missions, Dr. Greg Wrigley, loaned us his personal van. We loaded it up and our two vehicle caravan set off for New Orleans.
We drove straight through and upon arriving, threw out our sleeping bags in a Sunday school classroom in the church's educational building. There were also some Katrina refugees living in the other class rooms. More about that later.
While in the New Orleans area that week we were overcome by the devastation. Jay gave us the quick tour of the worst affected areas of the city. It was heartbreaking and awesome in the scope of the devastation. There were still pools of "toxic soup" in the lower lying areas. Thousands of ruined "flood cars" dotted the landscape. Damaged shrimp boats sat in the middle of four lane highways and tree lined boulevards. The central business district was a mess from the flooding and looting. All of the grass was dead and a grey dried mud was everywhere. Trees and power lines were down and the place was pitch black at night. Military patrols and search parties were active all over the city. In the now famous lower 9th ward the scope of the damage was more than I can express. Houses had been washed off their foundations by the results of the breech in the nearby levee. They were piled up against one another, crumpled like broken models, and sitting in the middle of streets. It was not unusual to see vehicles on top of the rubble of houses, but in the lower 9th we saw houses on top of vehicles!
We spent several days helping out on Jay's side of the river doing various tasks for the church and some of it's members. We helped complete the gutting out of the sanctuary and unloaded all of the building and cleaning supplies there. One side of the former sanctuary was filled with boxes of clothing that had come in from all over the country. The other side was a community food pantry where neighbors were allowed to come in and take whatever their families needed.
Jay was working as a coordinator for the huge kitchen unit that had been set up nearby by the Georgia Baptist Convention's Disaster Relief people. They cooked nearly a half million meals while deployed to Westwego and the Red Cross delivered the meals to various distribution sites on the West Bank. Another SBC kitchen unit was at Calvary Baptist and others were set up on the New Orleans side of the river. No stores were open yet and I don't know how thousands of people would have survived without the selfless service of those precious volunteers.
We helped move refrigerators and freezers from a couple of homes and took them to a makeshift appliance dump on a shopping center parking lot. There were a mountain of fridges and freezers, piled high there. Each one duct taped shut with its rotting contents inside. The pile of appliances was only one of hundreds just like it all over the area. We helped a seminary student move out of his off campus apartment as he was pulling up stakes and heading for Atlanta. We cut down and moved a damaged tree from "Miss Mae's" property and we spent an afternoon chain sawing and clearing a huge tree that had fallen and was resting on the roof of "Miss Margie's" house. Less than a year later Miss Margie went to heaven as the result of a stroke, and a few months after that her house was demolished by a tornado that touched down in Westwego.
The most gut wrenching day of the week we spent there was the day we spent on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It was hot and humid and the smell of the place was overpowering. The faculty and students had been evacuated and the campus had been locked down for the five weeks since the storm. On this particular week Seminary President Chuck Kelley had announced that all residents could return to the campus to remove from their homes, rooms and apartments any thing that might be salvageable. After this clean out week, the seminary campus would be locked down and turned over to contractor Mike Moskau for the tremendous task of demolition, repair, renovation, tree removal, and rebuilding.
It was the saddest scene I have ever witnessed. We helped clean out the house of Gary and Cheryl Halquist and their family. Gary and Cheryl and their folks were the ones who were also staying in the educational building of FBC Westwego. They had come back from their temporary home in Birmingham for this particular week to claim what they could of their belongings. On that morning we joined hundreds of people wearing heavy protective clothing, rubber gloves and masks in an almost other worldly scene. Folks were dragging out damaged furniture and other belongings from houses, residence halls, and apartments all over the devastated seminary campus. The stuff was piled along the streets of the formerly beautiful campus. Many were crying. Most appeared to be numb.
The formerly beautiful home of the Halquist's on Seminary Place was full of still wet muck on the floor and littered with wet moldy papers, lamps, and all types of personal belongings. Ruined furniture was turned over and piled wherever the flood waters had taken them. The black mold on the walls had spread nearly six feet high. Items that could be salvaged were taken to the driveway, where Cheryl and other family members hosed them off, cleaned them carefully with a Clorox/water solution, and hosed them off again. Once dry, those items were placed in the Ryder truck that Gary had brought with him from Birmingham. This ritual was being played out all over the seminary campus.
We came home from that week in New Orleans physically and emotionally exhausted. The work we had done was barely a drop in the bucket, but it was a beginning. The true heroes are the ones who face the battle every day. After two years I am still praying for them. I hope you will too.
Little did I know, at that time, that within a year, I would be elected to serve on the Board of Trustees of that same Seminary. I'm leaving tomorrow for our fall trustee meeting at the totally renovated and beautiful campus. In my next post, I will share President Chuck Kelley's post Katrina wrap up report. It is an inspiring one.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
The little guys, who live next door to their other grandparents (Lance and Linda Clanton) have an opportunity to get to spend a little time with us and get to know us as grandparents too. The usual "spoiling" activities of grandparents is something they both enjoy. The Friday night arrangement gives Benji and Leigh Anne a fairly regular "date night" or just some time alone to enjoy the quiet. Parents can use that from time to time! It also gives Linda and I the joy of getting to be with two of our grand kids on a fairly regular basis. It gives us opportunity to watch them grow, and get to know them better. Granted, we are both usually tired on Friday nights after a rough work week, and as a result, the attention, feeding, care, and entertaining of the little guys is not always an easy task. However, the ensuing Saturday mornings are truly a special time for us as we get to spend that quality time with the little guys before their parents come to pick them up around midday.
Friday nights with Will and Asher are somewhat of a bittersweet experience. As much as we treasure the time together with them, it always reminds us of out two other Grandsons (numbers 1 & 3) who are 900 miles away. Quint (age 7) and Canon (nearly 3) are also very special to us, but sadly, our opportunities to be with them are few and far between. Oh, how Linda and I would love to have them here close by. How we would love to have them here for the Friday night sleep overs! But it is just not meant to be - at least for now.
Five years ago this week, Jay and Michelle took Quint and moved to New Orleans. Jay had enrolled in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and had taken the pastorate of First Baptist Church of Westwego. Looking back on that traumatic time after a half a decade, I can clearly see the hand of God in that move and all that has transpired since then. However, at the time of the move, Linda and I were crushed. "You are taking our grandson away. He won't know us and we won't be able to watch him grow up", I told Jay. His reply, which seemed pretty cold to me at the time was, "Lots of grandchildren live far away from their grandparents."
True. But that didn't make the transition any easier for us!
Quint has lived far away from us for more than half of his life and Canon was born in New Orleans. Linda was able to be there when he was born, but had to rush home when I was diagnosed with cancer and immediate surgery was required. The opportunities that we have to be with Quint and Canon are rare. It is a fact that we have grown accustomed to, but that has never made it any easier to deal with. We miss them. We miss going to Quint's school activities. We miss being with them on their birthdays. We miss watching them grow and doing all the regular things that kids do. We miss those priceless moments. It is comforting to know that Jay and his family are doing God's will and are serving His purpose in New Orleans, but we selfishly sometimes feel that we and their boys barely know each other. That's hard for a grandparent.
Linda and I had grown up in the 50's . Those were different times and it was a different world then. We had both grown up around our respective grandparents. In fact, over the years, all of her grandparents at one time or another had actually lived with her family. When my paternal grandmother died in 1955, my grandfather came to live with us for a couple of years. That's just the way things were in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky in those days. In fact, when my other grandfather died in 1968, Granny (who only lived an hour and a half away from us) came to live with my mom and dad and made her home with them until she passed away in 1996.
Furthermore, Jay and Benji had grown up in close proximity to both sets of their grandparents. Except for my time in the U.S Air Force (and that year and a half we were in Baton Rouge) when the boys were young, they were never far away from their grandparents. For a few years my mom and dad were just a mile or so away and after we moved to Ashland, they were only 20 minutes distant. Linda's folks lived about two hours down the road, but we kept U.S. Rts. 23 and 52 hot as we visited on many weekends and all of the holidays. When we weren't heading for Pike County, the old folks were often headed up this way. After his retirement, Linda's mom and dad moved much closer to us and were only about a half hour drive away. Both of our boys had the privilege of knowing their grandparents well and playing with most of their cousins on a regular basis.
Jay was correct. There are many grandparents who rarely get to see their out of town grandchildren. I have a number of friends and church members who are in the same situation. All we can do is make the best of the circumstances and treasure the times when we can be together. Our New Orleans kids get to come home maybe a couple of times a year. Since Linda and I are both working, it makes it difficult for us to go there often, but we have been blessed to make a few trips to see them. Every visit is special, but when it's over the tears always come. I don't know if that will ever change.
I'll be leaving on Monday morning for a few days in New Orleans. A year ago at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, I was elected to a five year term on the Board of Trustees of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Our Board meets twice per year at the seminary, in April and October. Unfortunately, due to her work and school schedule, it isn't possible for Linda to go with me to New Orleans each visit (although wives are welcome to attend). It's an honor to serve the convention in that capacity, but it is a special bonus to get to spend a few extra days with Quint and Canon. It's nice to see their mom and dad too, of course, but you must understand, Grandchildren are special!
Last night I was counting my blessings while spending time with Will and Asher. I listened to them say their bed time prayers and ask God to watch over their family. They named individually their parents, each grandparent and great grand parent, uncles and aunts and cousins. It was a special time. We are still looking forward to that first sleep over when all four boys get to stay at Mamaw and Papaw's house together. Maybe it will happen this fall. I hope so.
I told Will and Asher last night that I would be going to see Quint and Canon on Monday. Will said sadly, "I wish I could go with you to see them."
I wish he could too.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Brandon is a big story around these parts. He is a hometown boy from here in Ashland, KY and a graduate of Paul G. Blazer High School. Brandon came up through the local youth baseball programs here in Ashland - first in the Ashland American Little League, then the local Babe Ruth League. He pitched for the high school Tomcats and played Connie Mack summer ball for French Harmon's Ashland Athletics. My younger son, Benji, played with Brandon on that Athletics team during Brandon's first couple of years. Webb was always an above average player, but really honed his pitching skills under Keith Madison at the University of Kentucky where he mastered the wicked sinker ball that helped him earn last year's Cy Young Award for the best pitcher in the National League.
I never had the opportunity to coach Brandon (which is probably a good thing for him!) but I did sponsor a minor league team in the American League where Brandon played as an eight year old. There is a good trivia question for future use. What was Brandon Webb's first Little League team ? Answer: it was none other than Adkins Insurance Agency! David May and Rob Francis were his coaches on the Adkins Agency team and Marvin Childers was the wise coach who drafted him to the Angels the next season.
Seeing Brandon pitching in the national spotlight tonight brings back many memories. Not just about him, but about the scores of young men whom I have had the pleasure of coaching personally in Little League and Babe Ruth Baseball programs and in Grade School Basketball. There are literally hundreds who I registered and worked with as a league official in Little League Baseball and the Ashland Junior Football League. A few of the boys who have come up through those programs went on to play college ball, and some have had limited professional sports careers, although none as notable as Brandon Webb. But as proud as I am of them, I am just as proud of how many of the others have turned out.
Among the numbers of the boys I have coached (or coached against) most of them are now productive members of our society. There are salesmen, accountants, nurses, physical therapists, bankers, pastors, teachers and coaches. Some are skilled laborers, and business managers. Some are working in construction trades, some as maintenance supervisors, youth ministers, and one is a grade school principal. Others have made careers in the Military and as Police officers, dispatchers, attorneys, and fire fighters. Most of them are now husbands and fathers and some of them are even coaching kids in youth programs themselves. I look at some of these guys now and realize that indeed I am getting older!
Most of the coaches and league officials who I have worked with in various youth sports leagues were in it for the same reasons I was - to help kids. Some of us started out with our own kids, but stayed around a number of years after ours were already aged out. Most of us gained a lot more than we gave by building relationships with those young men. Just two weeks ago I performed a wedding ceremony for Kevin Johnson, whom I coached as a 13-15 year old in Babe Ruth. It's nice to run into some of the boys now and then and see their smiles and hope that I have had a positive influence in their lives.
I wouldn't trade those memories for anything in the world.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
“I Love My Church Sunday"
Do you love your church? Were you baptized in this building? Were you married here? Did your parents bring you here as a child? If not, as a visitor did you find a friendly welcome from the people here? Do you enjoy the music? Maybe even the preaching and teaching of the pastor? Have the members been there for you in times of grief and loss? A church family is a precious thing to have but sadly, like so many other blessings, it is often taken for granted.
If YOU love Westmoreland Baptist Church I want to ask you to join me and every other member in demonstrating that love on Sunday morning, October 7th. We are designating that day to be “I Love My Church!” Sunday. I want to ask each and every member of Westmoreland Baptist Church, who is physically able, to be in your place on Sunday Morning, October 7th for a time of Celebration, Contemplation, and Consecration.
People are constantly telling me, “I love my church!” From some folks it’s pretty easy to believe because of their faithful support of the church in their attendance, participation in our ministries, and financial support. But on appearances, with some folks, the “I love my church” statement has a hollow ring to it. As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”.
Our church records show a total of 672 “resident” members of which about half that number are considered “active” members. If that is the case, then why on any given Sunday, does our worship attendance only total 30% of our “resident” members? Clearly 40% of our “active” members are no where to be found. What’s wrong with this picture? To further complicate the problem, many of our members seem to forget the financial needs of the church during the summer months, making it very difficult to meet our financial obligations, and lessening the amount that we can give to missions.
We know that some of our elderly and infirm members are not physically able to attend. That is a given. Also, work situations sometime have an adverse effect on the attendance of others. Vacations hit us hard in the summer months, and that is to be expected. Yet 40% of our active members missing seems to be pretty much a year round pattern. Lest anyone think this is a particular problem for our church only, I would hasten to add that other pastors tell me this is the case in their churches as well.
There are a number of opinions that can be offered to explain this phenomenon, and there is probably some validity to several of them. However, I believe that the primary reason for the lack of attendance is that it’s easy to “get out of the habit”. Christians, like everyone else, are creatures of habit – whether they be good habits or bad habits. People can always come up with excuses as to why they are not attending church, but when pressed on the subject, most will admit, that they are simply “excuses”. As a pastor for nearly four decades I have come to the conclusion that people will generally do what they want to do. They will do those things that they deem important. After all, Jesus said “"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “ (Matthew 6: 21)
I hope you treasure the gift of Westmoreland Baptist Church. I believe we have a great number of folks who love God, and love their church. Let’s prove that love with action on Sunday morning, October 7th. My challenge to you is that EVERY MEMBER be in God’s house. Come expecting the blessings of God – you won’t go away disappointed!
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the house of the LORD. ' – Psalm 122: 1
Isn't it a shame that we would even have to consider such an idea as a "I Love My Church Sunday"? EVERY DAY ought to be an "I Love My Church Day" for the people of God.
On the first anniversary of the storm (August 29, 2006) NOBTS had a special day of remembrance. Following a special chapel service was held to commemorate the disaster hundreds of members of the NOBTS family went out to do clean up work in the Gentilly and Lakeview areas surrounding the campus. Special speakers in the chapel service that day were Joe McKeever (Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans), Jay Adkins (a seminary student, pastor), and Byron Townsend (another student, worship leader at a local church, and employee of the seminary). Jay is our older son and I have had the pleasure of meeting Joe and Byron on several occasions. Their stories are interesting.
The story, from Baptist Press, that follows tells of the activities of that first anniversary and chapel service, and it recounts parts of the testimonies of these three men. I will share the BP story with you in its entirety:
Seminarians share Katrina stories to aid in N.O. healing
By: Michael McCormack
Visit www.bpnews.net for the latest news from Baptist Press!
For each person affected by Hurricane Katrina,
NEW ORLEANS (BP)--
there is a story. And healing comes in the telling.
Members of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary family were
ready to listen to the stories of people throughout New Orleans on Aug. 29, the
first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall.
Disaster relief training offered to the seminary family on that
anniversary morning highlighted the importance of showing compassion during a
crisis by listening to a person’s story. Ways to identify a person suffering
from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder also were relayed in the training.
But perhaps the best preparation for the afternoon of ministry
throughout the city came during a time of worship and remembrance in the
seminary’s Leavell Chapel. During the service, students were able to experience
the healing power of telling their stories with one another and then offering
those memories up to God.
“Those who experienced Katrina can testify to God’s providence,” Ken Taylor, professor of missions, said. “Even those who don’t
know Him are beginning to see that providence, and they will see it in some of
Three people told part of their stories to those gathered for the
service. Each was different, but every story declared God’s providence,
provision and protection. The first person to share his story was Joe
McKeever, director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater
“Right after we returned from the evacuation late last September,
I noticed that in New Orleans at almost every intersection someone had printed
up a Scripture verse on these little signs,” McKeever said. “It was Jeremiah
29:11 -– ‘For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your
welfare and not your calamity, plans to give you a future and a hope.’”
get to the associational office, McKeever drives down Elysian Fields Avenue, a
street that for a long time, he said, had little or no activity on it.
“One day I was driving in and the tears were coming,” he said. “I
had this conversation with the Lord: ‘Lord, it’s not that Walgreen’s that’s
closed, and it’s not the Burger King that’s closed. It’s not this house or that
house. It’s just the whole thing, and I don’t know what to do for them.’ And God
spoke back to my heart and said, ‘This is not about you. It’s about Me.’
can’t tell you how liberating that was,” McKeever said.
The second person who shared his story from the storm was Jay Adkins, an NOBTS student and pastor of the New Orleans-area
First Baptist Church of Westwego. He said he usually rode out storms on the
second floor of the church’s education building but he had promised his wife he
would evacuate for a Category 4 or 5 storm. On Sunday, Aug. 28, early in the
morning, Adkins’ wife called him to report that the storm had become a Category
5. Later that day, he and the youth minister of the church evacuated to Eunice,
La. But they weren’t there long.
The storm came and the levees broke on
Monday, and Adkins and the youth minister came back to New Orleans on Thursday.
From the time they entered Orleans Parish that Thursday, God’s provision was
Adkins found a police officer who told him how to get back into
the parish by going through the least amount of checkpoints. When they made it
to the church, they discovered that the only working telephone in the area was a
rarely used phone in the fellowship hall of the church. For the next few hours,
Atkins worked to get a call out to anyone who could help.
“I called the
North American Mission Board and said, ‘I’m Jay and I’m in New Orleans. If you
can get us some food, we can probably feed a lot of people,’” Adkins recounted.
In the end, NAMB sent two mobile kitchens from Georgia, and through those
kitchens, thousands of first responders were fed.
“We were able to get the first food to West Jefferson Hospital, to the
police, fire and EMS workers, to nursing homes and other neighbors, and to the
National Guard people who were in the Superdome,” Adkins said. “It’s amazing
what God has done to open doors.”
Byron Townsend’s story, like Adkins’, testified
to God’s provision and His protection. Townsend and his wife Cynthia had their
first child just days before Hurricane Katrina came ashore. The provision came
on Tuesday when Cynthia, their newborn Ethan and Cynthia’s parents were
preparing to evacuate from Tulane Lakeside Hospital in Jefferson Parish.
Townsends’ nurse, Lynette, needed to get to Houston where her family had
evacuated before the storm. She asked Townsend for a ride. Townsend liked the
idea of having a private nurse ride with his family to Houston.
“Lynette, get in the car!” Townsend recalled as his response.
The family and Lynette evacuated, but Townsend stayed at the hospital
to help in whatever way he could. There, he said little concrete information was
known about the conditions of the city. Eventually, rumors began spreading that
the levees were going to break in Jefferson Parish and flood the area where he
was. Tension at the hospital was high.
“I said, ‘Lord, You’ve provided thus far. I know You can get me out of
here,’” he said.
Townsend got into his Toyota Camry and made his way to the
interstate. But between him and the ramp onto the interstate was a dip in the
road where the water was deep, and there in the low place a woman’s car had
stalled in the floodwater. As he prayed for strength and wisdom, he was able to
push the flooded car out of the way and drive his car through the water and out
the other side. Though the water came up over the hood, Townsend made it not
only out of the water but all the way to Houston safely.
“I had church in the car,” he recounted.
Immediately following the testimonies, NOBTS professor Preston Nix led students in a time of prayer that started with
each student sharing his or her toughest, most painful memory from Katrina.
Then, he prompted each person to share the most tremendous thing God did through
the storm. Afterward, in prayer, they offered those tough memories and the
tremendous memories to God.
Nix said the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina served as a
transition. It was a transition for the city of New Orleans from the first,
devastating year of recovery to the years-long rebuilding effort. For NOBTS, it
served as the launching point for the seminary’s concerted efforts to
participate in the rebuilding of the city. As the group went out into the city
to gut a neighbor’s house or prayer walk a devastated street, the volunteers
were ready to offer God’s comfort and love since that same comfort and love had
been extended to them earlier that day.
Copyright (c) 2006 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press. Visit www.bpnews.net. BP News