Eddy Garner’s neighbor, Mr. Craig, didn’t know what was going on in Garner’s life the afternoon he walked into the yard shuffling some papers.
“He said, ‘Hey, Eddy, I was going through my papers, and I thought you might want this,’” Garner recalled.
Mr. Craig handed him a two-page letter written in the late 1980s by Tommy Ingle, who was director of missions for Colbert-Lauderdale Baptist Association at the time.
“The letter was written to the whole community saying, ‘We are Colbert-Lauderdale Baptist Association, and this is what we do,’” Garner remembered.
The day Garner saw it — a Sunday in March 2006 — he had gotten a call from that association’s DOM search committee, wanting to interview him for the same position.
“On the backside of the letter it had a map of the two counties with all the churches starred on it. I lifted up my eyes to the sky and said, ‘Thank you, Lord — this was the confirmation I needed.”
Garner had been a Baptist campus minister at the University of North Alabama for 17 years when, at the encouragement of others, he submitted his resume to the CLBA search committee.
He wasn’t sure it was the right time to leave UNA. He’d been unsure since providing his resume in January and getting that phone call in March.
So Garner prayed again for what he’d prayed about for weeks: confirmation. That day in the yard, Mr. Craig handed it to him in the form of an old letter.
“I met with the committee, and when they called me back and said I was their choice, I told them about how God had confirmed it to me too,” Garner recalled.
He had loved his 17 years at UNA.
“It was exciting,” Garner said of student ministry. “What I loved about campus ministry was the attitude of students that they would be willing to do anything and go anywhere and tackle any type of ministry.”
He added that “being able to pour into students’ lives, make a difference in their lives and help them grow in their faith” was a joy.
But in 2006, he started a new ministry as director of missions for CLBA. That season would also last 17 years and bring its own joy as Garner spent time encouraging and supporting churches and pastors in the same area as UNA.
“A beautiful part of that now, a lot of our ministers here now are former students,” he said. “As I look around our pastors conference or our meetings, I see 15, 20, 30 former UNA students who came through our program who are in ministry now. That’s one of the neat rewards the Lord has blessed me with, to see them grow up and be so effective in this community in ministry.”
Over the years Garner has helped churches, encouraged ministers, been involved in missions work with the churches and watched CLBA’s Disaster Relief ministry grow and develop.
“It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s been a tremendous blessing,” he said.
One of the biggest highlights of his time with CLBA, Garner noted, was seeing two churches in Sheffield — York Terrace Baptist and First Baptist — merge to become York Bluff Baptist Church and give the former York Terrace building to Greater Fellowship Missionary Baptist, a predominantly black congregation.
“Since then, that congregation is part of the association, and two African-American church plants are [too],” Garner said. “That was a prayer and a dream come true that the Lord has blessed us with — Greater Fellowship becoming a part.”
Another encouragement for Garner was getting to follow Jim Warren twice — Warren served as his predecessor at UNA, then again at CLBA.
“Jim Warren laid groundwork both places that I am grateful for, and he was a great listener and encourager anytime I went to him for advice,” Garner said.
And now as he prepares to retire at the end of February, Garner is working with the CLBA search committee and praying that God will confirm a call there for someone else just as He did for Garner.
Gregg Woodard, pastor of Greenhill First Baptist Church in Killen and chair of the committee, said he and others recognize “the gravity of the task that we have because of how well he has done in this position.”
Having Garner in the position of director of missions/associational missions strategist was “like having a best friend in that position,” Woodard said.
“And it wasn’t like that just for me because I’ve known him so long,” Woodard clarified. “He treats all the pastors in the association that way — he gets to know us, he knows our family, he keeps up with our birthdays and anniversaries and has a personal, humble touch when it comes to that relationship.”
Woodard noted Garner is “a great encourager, always reaching out and giving you a positive and encouraging word, and he does so in great humility.”
He also said Garner’s wife, Donna, has been “a wonderful help” to him in ministry — and Garner agreed.
“[She] has been supportive and beside me all the way, and [she has been] involved in missions trips,” Garner said, noting she currently is a trustee for the International Mission Board. “We plan to do more short-term missions work in retirement.”
The Garners have children and grandchildren serving in Southeast Asia with whom they plan to spend more time.
They also have children and grandchildren in the Florence area where they plan to stay, serving in interim pastorates, playing tennis and being out on the water. They are members of Woodmont Baptist Church in Florence.
“These folks here in this area are like family, and it’s become our home,” Garner said. “We plan to spend our retirement years here.”
To learn more about CLBA’s open position email email@example.com.