Monday, October 31, 2011

Blog 75 - Respect & Courtesy Shown to an Octogenarian

Blog 75

The Cult of Respect and Courtesy

Shown to an Octogenarian and

The Physically Challenged


Vernon M. Herron

Just a few days ago, I observed 83 years of God-given life on this earth. It was a day to be remembered. It was a time for reflection, recording and expression of gratitude. Reflection because of a recent popular circulating view that—“all old people should be killed and buried because of being a burden on society.” This shocking statement contended for a society of the young and restless; a point of view which contradicts the teaching of scripture “to honor” the aged and the African “griots” who taught reverence and respect for the same.

The word “cult” is a devotion to a person, idea or a thing. Add “respect” and “courtesy” to the definition and you will have a vivid picture of my daily experiences as both an octogenarian and as a physically challenged individual.

As I constantly strive to maintain personal independence in dress, driving and negotiation, I totally depend upon my two canes, chair lift and a push seat for walking, movements and achievements. The one thing which is always touchy and makes me want to cry, is the kindness and courtesy of the public in assistance even before being asked.

When the public sees me walking with “assistance,” they volunteer to share the walk way, open doors, offer to put packages and grocery in my car, teach their children the many acts of kindness, sharing concerns by e-mail while offering other acts of social and computer technology, always asking, “do you need help, sir? Or how may I help you?” One brother, John Frison and his sons, always meet me at the church’s entrance and accompany me to my seat while others form a line for greetings.

Still another group constantly engages me in conversation as if they are seeking words of wisdom from a sage or an octogenarian. I find myself constantly saying, “thank you.” But the most dramatic experience and fantastic story comes from and about a young man, named Lewis Brooks of Gaston County, NC, who was nurtured as a beloved male parishioner of mine, 59 years ago in my first pastoral charge. One birthday night, thinking that all of the celebration and telephone calls were done, I settled in my bed room chair for relaxation, prior to bedtime. (Here is where the unusual drama begins)

The phone rang and I answered. The caller identified himself as one who was blessed by my ministry years ago and he wanted to come and take me to a late night snack. I said, “oh no! I am relaxing and soon will be going to bed.” Just then, the door bell rang. I would not move, allowing a family member to answer the door while I continued the telephone conversation. The caller continued, “Well, since you won’t go for a night snack, I’ll come to you.” Not realizing that he was conversing with me on his cell phone, the next minute he entered my bedroom with a lighted candle and cake singing, “happy birthday” and wishing me a long life with happiness. What a surprise!!!!

But more than that, what an antithesis! Instead of hearing, “all old people should be killed and buried,” I experience respect and courtesy. May God continue to bless all who honor the aged with His “promise.” (Deut. 5:16 & Eph. 6:2)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Utilizing a Unique Strategy for Spiritual Growth and Development

Blog 74

Utilizing a Unique strategy
Spiritual Growth and Development


Vernon M. Herron & Patrena Rice

With Photography
William C. Youngblood

By now, I assume that you recognize my delight reflecting on the 100 plus ministries of my church, The Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Charlotte, NC. This time, let me reflect on its unique strategy of utilizing three popular engagements to advance spiritual growth and development.

Traditionally, the Homecoming Celebration was a gathering of members and friends, under a big tent to provide “a meal” and fellowship to “kick off” the annual revival. But recently, both the Homecoming and the Revival have been incorporated into a strategic planning process, resulting into spiritual growth and development. The process resulted in an understanding and expansion of knowing what it means to be a Christian.

The three major membership engagements prior to the Revival/Bible Study are the Jericho walk, the community Tailgate Party without alcohol and an Automobile and Truck Classic Show. Let me explain the “Christ-centered” engagements of a mega church toward its common objective.

The Jericho Walk:

The Jericho Walk is a 12 hours walk in prayer around the church’s premise, when meditation and petitions are offered to the Devine for the ministries of the church and community engagements. Based on the Biblical Jericho walk, (Joshua 6: 3,4,20, & Heb. 11:30), the local walk is conducted around the clock, resulting in fellowship, health benefits, morale and spiritual benefits to the walk’s goal.

The Tailgate Party:

Charlotte is a football town. Every game is preceded by a tailgate party i.e. the serving of food from a truck bed, a camper or a tent area. In like manner, one of FMBC’s Home Coming activities is its Tailgate Party for the community, held on its huge car parking lot.

Below is an array of circles of members engaging in "circle" prayers.

This is not a fund raising affair. The food is provided by each ministry and their respective families. Concessionary stands and open tent areas with grilled foods and drink (non-alcohol) for relaxation, fellowship and fun.

The festival is conducted on a Saturday preceding the revival from 12 noon-4 p.m. Other program activities include a musical, an art show and a provision of organic foods including fruits, vegetables and water melons. The Immobilized senior citizens are accommodated in the church’s Conference Center with the same program.

The Classic Automobile and Truck Show:

The Classic Automobile and Truck Show attracts men and women from far and near. This is a display of restored trucks and automobiles which were popular in former years.

If motor biking were to be added, I suppose there would not be room enough to accommodate the same!

Now here is the spiritual point. This celebration is in keeping with Homecoming which starts the Annual Revival the next day. People are now motivated toward spiritual oneness, which renews/revives the church. This is strategizing for spiritual growth and development. As a result, we noted:

Mass attendance in Bible Study
Souls added to the church family
Growth in church fellowship

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blog 73 - My Church Administers to the Physically Challenged

Blog 73

My Church Administers to the
Physically Challenged

Vernon M. Herron

The Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Charlotte, NC in its diversity of ministries constantly administers to the physically challenged. This mega church has more than 7,000 members of which approximately 25% are senior citizens, including the handicap, with its own focused minister, under the leadership of a senior pastor.

Facility, worship and program wise, The Friendship Missionary Baptist Church is handicapped equipped. It should be noted that the ministry to the physically challenged is an integral part of the Senior Ministry yet addressing the needs of the handicaps has its own priority. In senior church ministry, the handicapped is encouraged to participate in the normal Senior Bible study, Care Team Ministry, Resource Fair, Monthly Health Emphasis, Valentine Fellowship/Fashion Show, Movie Day, Annual Picnic, Pre-Thanksgiving Service and Fellowship and Pre-Christmas Service and Fellowship. But the church also provides the following for the physically challenged, special handicap parking with ramps and automatic door openings, a handicapped auto entrance, wheel chair equipment, elevators and personal attendants, a Deaf Ministry with sign language classes and  services interpreted for the impaired hearing, a doctor, a nurse and security on duties at all times.

Donald Jones is one of the many physically challenged members of FMBC who writes on his experience, faith and resolve. He is a 67 year old Christian believer, born in rural Virginia, a graduate of Virginia State University, a Captain in U. S. Army, married to Diana P. Jones, experienced as a Civil Engineer, seven years membership in FMBC. and life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Here is Brother Jones’s testimony entitled:

Christian Faith Tested & Accepted
Donald Jones

When asked by Dr. Herron, to write an article on the difficulties I faced as a handicapped person coming to church, I reflected on my first conversation with him. I’d seen him walking, leaning into his walker, in front of the church toward his parked car. I often admired him for his tenacity. His first question was about my red scooter. I gave some of the features, and from there a friendship has occurred. In preparation for this article, a visual assessment was made.

The gamut of disable persons at 9:30 a.m. service, runs from those with a walking cane, to those with motorized wheelchairs and scooters. Each disabled person faces his/her own specific set of obstacles we encounter as we attend services. I am a Vietnam combat veteran. Until 2007, I was able to work with constant back pain, then in October, 2007 I became paralyzed from mid cheat down. Since then, after two spinal surgeries and a total knee replacement, I am able to drive and get about on my own with the help of my scooter. I have gone from using a manual wheelchair (pushed by my wife and others) to using hand crutches and the scooter. To God, be the glory. Each change has mirrored a change in my physical condition.

  There are six steps I encounter in attending service each Sunday: Each step has its own pros and cons.

We utilize the handicapped parking on the North side of the building (McAllister Dr.).There is a group of about eight vehicles queuing for the parking spaces. Usually the first in line arrives about 8:25 a.m. Those in line appear to be pre 70’s and 70’s to octogenarians. These people have ambulatory abnormalities, breathing problems requiring octagon tank, etc.

As a space opens up from patrons exiting from the 7:30 a.m. service, those in line fill those spaces. Courtesy has always been shown.

Offloading the scooter:
Offloading takes several minutes. Maneuver from the driver’s seat to the lift is difficult on wobbly leg. Getting the basket (with my Bible) from the back seat along with my crutches is challenging. Lowering the lift and offloading the scooter must be done quickly in order to not block the walkway.

Entering the vestibule:
I am greeted with many warm and friendly smiles.

Elevator ride to the balcony:
The elevator does not allow turn around, therefore, only pull-in and back-out.

The walk to my seat:
My scooter is parked outside the balcony and I use my forearm crutches to walk to my seat. I sit on the end of the pew in order to facilitate placement of my crutches and to aid in standing.

Taking my seat for worship.

Approaching the FMBC edifice, brother Jones shares with brother Herron , three pet peeves, which he encounters weekly.

1.     People who use handicapped placards because it was easily obtainable.
2.     People who want to park close to the entrance.
3.     People who try to bypass the queue line

I thank God for all that He has brought me through...