Two weeks ago, I was in a whirl-wind tour of ministering in the Great State of Georgia. I love the South and the last time I was there instead of the trademark Georgia Peach someone after hearing me speak called me “The Georgia Preach.” In just eight days, I drove 3,004 miles (alone), preached eight times, taped two TV shows and it was exciting but exhausting. What a JOY it was to return and preach revival for my good friend, Pastor Dean Knipe at Providence Church in Columbus, GA and stayed four nights at Fort Benning Army Base. Honestly, I hadn’t felt that “safe” sleeping in a long time on the military base surrounded by a bunch of America’s finest and bravest soldiers. On the last night of the revival we had a 76 year old Vietnam Veteran walk the aisle, bend his knee and give his heart to Jesus Christ. It doesn’t get much better than that!
The following day, I raced to tape TWO television shows in Phenix City, AL and what an honor it was to look in the camera and speak LIFE into the audience. The Lord had me preach “Waiting on the Lord” and Christ’s Cross & Coming Again. The Lord showed up on that set! God’s Word never returns void. Pastor Dean hosts a show called “Straight Bible Talk” and he self-lessly invited me to not only be a guest but elected to stay home and gave me two 28 minute time slots to preach whatever God laid on my heart. Pastor Dean is the salt of the earth and you won’t find a more gracious, self-less soldier of Christ. Brother, thank you for your friendship and your reward will be HUGE in Glory!!
That evening I was blessed to catch up with my dear friend, Pastor Chris Dorrity of Grace Pointe Church in Macon, GA and they rolled out the red-carpet and his entire family and pastoral staff took me out to eat at BONEFISH GRILLE. Pastor Steven Furtick is one of his personal mentors and they are doing a great work in Georgia. You cannot beat “Southern Hospitality.” Pastor Chris had me preach twice last year and we are scheduling now to return later this summer. Lord willing, I will not be driving again but on the next flight!
After crashing at Pastor Dorrity’s beautiful home it was off to the races to connect with one of my heroes of the last Quarter Century. My pastor loaned me a video over two decades ago created by Dr. James Dobson on “Focus on the Family” of the true life story of ex convict Harold Morris. The show was called “TWICE PARDONED” and other than Billy Graham and a few other’s I had never seen the POWER of God rest on a man more than on that message Harold gave in 1988. Before or since, I don’t recall an individual connecting with a crowd or teens quite like the way God used Harold speaking that night in San Antonio, TX to over 16,000 souls. I recall watching that video praying that maybe God would use me too as an evangelist to touch others for His Glory. After years of no success obtaining his information, one of my heroes of the faith and mentors, Dr Tim Lee tracked down Harold’s home phone and I called him. Brother Harold returned my call! Today, Harold Morris is 75 years old and resides in Clayton, GA. After scheduling a lunch with him I drove 400 miles out of the way to have lunch with one of the men that God used mightily to encourage me into full-time evangelism. The hour lunch turned into FOUR and we had a time! I would have walked to fellowship with that Gospel Giant.
The next day, I was blessed to reunite with one of America’s choice pastors, Jerry Walls of Southside Baptist in Warner Robbins, GA and he bought me a steak dinner at Outback. God is using that dear man of God POWERFULLY and Brother Jerry is loved by everyone and they are in the middle of a massive building project. It would be hard to find a finer pastor across America than Pastor Jerry Walls. He is a WINNER! I was scheduled to have dinner and stay the night with my buddy, Rick Stanley (Elvis Presley’s step-brother) but our plans got changed at last second. Rick rocks! #Thank ya very much
My dear friend, Bob Lockhart is priceless to our family and ministry. We met several years ago when I was preaching in LaBelle, Florida and almost everytime I came back to preach in the Sunshine State he was there to support us. Bob sinced moved north to Georgia and we reunited on Sat, March 11 and toured Warner Robbins AFB Museum together and took a pic standing next to both the Thunderbirds Jet Plane and a smaller version of “Air Force One.” What is really crazy is in 1995, when I was employed with the United States Senate I recall the photographer of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC coming to the Capitol to take the picture of all 100 Senators at their desk. As if it were yesterday, I recall smiling proudly and was fortunate to be in the picture in the balcony that day before being promoted by the Sergeant at Arms as “floor staff” of Senate. In the Warner Robbins AFB Aviation Museum they have a room dedicated to Senator Sam Nunn and my heart skipped when I saw a massive mural of that same picture of the Senators. I knew the picture looked familiar because 1) I was there 2) I bought the smaller 8×10 as a keepsake at home 3) I AM IN THE PICTURE on the wall in the museum at age 23!! Look out Forest Gump! 🙂
The next day, Bob and I drove together to Plains, GA and I wanted to honor him for all he has done for me and I invited him to be my guest at Maranatha Baptist Church. Yes, you guessed it the home church of President Jimmy Carter. Our 39th President was born in Plains, GA and after leaving The White House he elected to return to Plains and waived his right to buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery and going to be buried in Plains, GA. It was my privilege to meet President Carter twice before. The first was in 1997 in Philadelphia, PA and he was leaving a restaurant with his wife and President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara along with General Colin Powell and his wife, Alma and Governor Tom Ridge (R-PA). They were all in town for President Clinton’s “Volunteer Summit” and I recall thinking that was a pretty influential “Party of Eight.” He was walking to the awaiting armored black Suburban and I just outside of the security barrier said: “Mr President” and he stopped on a dime and to his credit came straight over and shook my hand only to head right back to the car. In the words of Forrest “I met the President, again”
The second time was at Maranatha Baptist in June 2000. Ironically, two weeks before I was with President William Jefferson Clinton on the flight line of Andrews Air Force Base and got pics with him, Senator John Glenn (D-OH) and Secretary of Defense William S Cohen (R-ME) moments before POTUS boarded “Air Force One” and flew out to give a speech. During my 17 years on Capitol Hill it was a joy to work in both Presidential Correspondence Office for Clinton and George W Bush, respectively.
Bob and I got to the church early on May 13, 2013 and President Jimmy Carter has taught Sunday School every year (twice per month) since leaving The White House in 1981. After going through the United States Secret Service I was placed on the “front row” and the President spoke from Hebrews and did a fine job talking on leadership. You are probably a Washington “insider” when you actually know some of the names of Special Agents of Secret Service (past and present). President Carter in his lesson said: “Jesus Christ is the greatest leader of all time.” The President asked if any preachers’ were in the audience and my friend, Bob from Florida (now Georgia) hit me in the shoulder and our former Commander in Chief began to ask me questions. President Carter asked me if I would open in prayer for his Sunday School. I have always said: “The Greats are Gracious.” You can see the video below and I didn’t realize that they were filming it but was honored then and humbled to receive it on film.
At the conclusion of the service, I was bombarded with folks whom visited from all over the Country to learn more about our ministry. It was humbling to say the least and en route to the car it was a JOY to re-unite with President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn one last time for a picture. Today, he is 88 years young and he thanked me for my ministry and extended greetings that God would continue to use me. Greater than a MasterCard commerical it was PRICELESS. That afternoon, I drove 15 hours straight alone (except for the Holy Spirit) and arrived back home at 4:45AM only to preach three times in two days at a Men’s Conference in West River, MD for the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship and raced to fly Saturday evening to Music City USA – Nashville, TN to speak on Sunday-Tuesday at Michael W Smith’s legendary ROCKETOWN studios. What a privilege it was to minister and pour into hundreds of Christian artists from around the globe.
In closing, after racking up another 3,000 miles in over a week I could have driven across the Country (literally) and I had Ray Charles “GEORGIA ON MY MIND” while criss-crossing the state. One has a lot of time to think and pray while driving (especially alone) and I am reminded regardless, if homeless or Hollywood, paupers to Presidents everyone needs Jesus and the ground is level at the foot of the cross. What a privilege it was to petition the “King of Kings” in the presence of our 39th President. PRAISE THE LORD and in the words of the late White House reporter, Helen Thomas whom I met in 1999 “Thank you, Mr President.” To God Be The Glory Great Things HE Hath Done.”
WATCH President Carter call on Evangelist Frank Shelton to open in prayer