I’ve been thinking about the spiritual leaders, mentors, pastors and other faith giants in my life lately. Maybe with October being Minister Appreciation Month they are coming to mind more than normal.
Along with growing up surrounded by dedicated parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, my brother and other family members in a nurturing faith environment, I have been blessed with so many amazing people of faith who chose to invest in me along the way.
Friends (especially my best friend, Vickie), teachers, community leaders and others in northwest Alabama helped me find my way in total surrender to Christ at 19.
Pastor Sammy Taylor of Mountain View Baptist Church, Phil Campbell, his wife Judy and countless others at Mountain View taught me, challenged me and helped me grow.
The faith community of Five Points Baptist Church, Northport — especially the Wallace family — invested in and cared for me during my college days at the University of Alabama (UA) in Tuscaloosa.
The Southern Baptist missionaries and Caribbean nationals who served the Caribbean Basin region took me in as their own during my two years on the missions field with the International Mission Board and Caribbean Christian Publications.
Every family — especially the Searcys — poured into me as did the leaders and members of Sheridan Hills Baptist Church, Hollywood, Florida, where I served and worshipped during my time on the missions field.
When it was time to return home to Alabama it was another mentor in my life, Jim Oakley from UA, who connected me with Bob Terry of The Alabama Baptist. Dr. Terry quickly began investing in me and encouraged me in my journey as a faith-based journalist and editor.
Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, also became a mentor and encourager while I was a student at Beeson — and still is to this day. So many professors mentored me too.
The new dean at Beeson, Doug Sweeney, has become a fast friend and I look forward to learning from him as well.
Moving to Birmingham in 1996 meant finding a new church home and that too brought more opportunities to grow and learn.
I had the privilege of sitting under both Pastor Charles T. Carter and Pastor Danny Wood at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, for a while. And who knew at the time that being part of Shades during the leadership transition would turn out to be an experience I could pull from later in life? God did of course.
My pastor for the past 15 years has been Bill Wilks at NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville. He and Rondie as well as associate pastor Stephen Hall, current staff, past staff, ministry assistants, lay leaders, Bible study teachers (especially Terry Newberry and Ray Walker) and the membership as a whole keep me grounded and love me unconditionally.
They have taught and are teaching me so much about faith and living life as a community of believers.