A Day with Presidents and Princes

Yesterday Student Pastor Mike D’Attoma and I had lunch in Columbia at an annual Bar-B-Que Fellowship on the State House Grounds.  The lunch is hosted by The Office of Public Policy and the Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee.  Its always a good occasion to meet legislators and discuss any particular bills moving through the SC General Assembly which may be of interest.

Although I met and spoke to a few government officials, I didn’t discuss politics.   It turns out that I was there for a very different reason.

I happened to sit down next to Sonny Holmes, who served as President of the State Convention in 2011.  I appreciated his tenure and credit him with getting us moving in the direction of the Great Commission Resurgence.  In July of that year, his 33-year-old son was killed in an early morning shooting.  It had to have been an unbelievably difficult year for him and for his family.  We chatted for a few minutes.  I tried to focus on the positive and express my appreciation for his work and the direction in which he led.

After he had eaten and carried on a few conversation, he excused himself to go speak to others.  And who should sit down in the chair but D. J. Horton, the current SCBC President.  I believe that God arranged the upcoming conversation for my benefit.

D. J. is young (36) but wise.  He is still serving his first church, Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church near Spartanburg.  His doctoral work was specifically on preaching.  I told him that I struggled as a preacher.  I believe my spiritual gift is teaching and teachers don’t always make the best preachers.  I told him I have committed to telling more stories as Jesus did, even if it means I disseminate less information like Paul.  I then listened as he spoke for a few minutes in a way that was both helpful and encouraging.  “The church is dying from information,” he said. “We need less information and more inspiration.”  He noted that with modern technology, people simply don’t need pastors to provide  information because they have it at  their fingertips all the time.  He spoke of great preachers of the past and what they shared in common – an ability to connect with people, not to deliver profound theological treatises.  I came away truly grateful for the discussion and encouraged that this young man was our leader.

I also spent some time with Pastor Naveen Balakrishnan of Hopewell Baptist Church in Adams Run (near Charleston).  He is from India and has spoken at several events which focused on the international community here.  I mentioned to Mike his amazing ability to not only cite the Scriptures, but its reference as well.  I mentioned that when he spoke at our chapel once, I could quote every passage he quoted, and I could probably cite the book of the Bible, but not the exact chapter and verse the way Pastor Naveen does.  He  truly is remarkable.

After returning home from the lunch, Debi and I set out for Augusta to attend a Fernando Ortega concert.  I have been so blessed by his music for so many years.  The concert was undiluted joy for me.  I love the music.  I love the spirit of his ministry.  He is a wonderful composer, arranger, writer, singer, poet and pianist.  His talent is such that he would have been successful in any one of those fields.  To have all of those gifts rolled into one … well, he is a gift from God.  I also discovered that he has another major talent … storytelling.  As he spoke between songs, he was open, personal, humble and hilarious.  I came away thinking I really would like to hang out with him sometimes.  I just felt so full, so happy, so blessed.

As we were looking for our seats, I heard a familiar voice behind me call my name.  I turned to discover Bob and Becky Hagler, with Robert and his wife Sherry Lynn, and Elizabeth and her boyfriend Ben.  The Haglers are such a special family.  They were members of the church in Easley, before moving to Augusta where Bob leads a successful engineering firm.  It was just icing on the cake to see them again.  And I was touched to hear why they were there.  They lost a daughter, Rebecca, two years ago in a tragic drowning accident.  In their heartbreak, Fernando Ortega’s music had brought them comfort.  Becky said it was like his music was a blanket for her.  I can understand that.  I find his music so soothing, so calming.  Debi told me later that Becky had written a card to express to him how much his music meant to her, especially in their time of sorrow.  Attendants had promised to pass the card along to him.  I know they will, and I’m almost as confident that he will respond if she provided a way for him to know how.

So, I spent the day with some of the sharpest, most talented, devout and best people on the planet.  How blessed am I?

gkr1996 posted at 2014-3-19 Category: Personal