Posts Tagged With: Plains

A Week with President Jimmy and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter

Last Saturday, April 29, when I arrived in Plains, Georgia, I assumed I would have a chance to meet the Carters. After all, he was teaching Sunday school in the sanctuary and I was preaching there immediately after—for two Sundays.

I’ve never been to this section of Georgia, so I had a couple of places on my “to do” list for the week—Koinonia Farm, the Habitat for Humanity Global Village, and the Andersonville Prison. All three of these were pilgrimages. Clarence Jordan, author of the Cotton Patch translation of the New Testament, was a huge influence on my young life. Greenlawn Baptist Church and I built the first Habitat for Humanity House in Columbia, SC. I said the first cuss word on a South Carolina Habitat site when a nail punctured my flesh in an inconvenient place. Andersonville prison, as someone posted on Facebook, is the saddest place in America and its story needs to be told.

The President Carter component of the week many of you have seen on Facebook was pure serendipity. My boarding house hostess is, it appears to me, the primary source of orientation for the guests at Maranatha Baptist Church, where the former Leader of the Free World teaches Sunday school. She talks to the gathered congregation before Sunday school about protocol. She makes sure the Carters’ needs are met and is very protective of their privacy. Between Sunday school and worship, in the seclusion of a church office, she (Jill Stuckey) asked if the Carters might be interested in having a meal with the guest preacher (me) sometime during the week. President Carter answered, “Let’s see how he preaches first.”

That’s an honest man. (I didn’t know this story until later.)

Of course, the Carters and I spoke to one another briefly after worship and after pictures had been taken with everyone else. That was a pleasure and an honor, and I was a happy camper.

President and Mrs. Carter returned to Sunday evening church. That was a surprise. They were good listeners. They seemed to like what I had to say.

Later, Jill told me we’d been invited to dinner at the Carter’s on Monday night. I actually prepared some questions in case we had time for serious conversation. I don’t intend to share details of a private evening, but this is worth repeating:

In response to one question, he said, “Be flexible for changing times, but cling to enduring principles.”

Two Mrs. Carters were at dinner. Billy Carter’s wife, Sybil, joined us for dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed her part in table conversation. After dinner, we admired the audacity of a raccoon eating his supper from a bird feeder. He did not seem particularly threatened by the 39th President, but he eventually ambled away.

On Tuesday, I played the tourist, visiting President Carter’s boyhood home and other attractions around Plains. I understand the President was turkey hunting. Sunday school teacher, author, volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, hunter, fisherman, peacekeeper, humanitarian, husband, father, artist, furniture-maker, eradicator of diseases (through the Carter Center in Atlanta) and who-knows-what-else? The former President stays busy.

On Wednesday, I visited the POW Museum and the Andersonville Prison about which I blogged earlier this week.

Meanwhile, I discovered the Carters were coming over for Thursday supper as long as I cooked. Landlady Jill claims she’s not a chef, but my Mom taught me how to prepare a meal long ago. Everybody in my family loves breakfast for supper, so I bought sausage, bacon, berries, milk, eggs, coffee and pancake mix and prepared a meal. Folks have asked if I fed the Secret Service. Yes. Sybil Carter and one of the other boarders here also joined us.

Today, Friday, Nelle Ariail, wife of the former pastor at Maranatha Baptist Church, escorted me to Americus and sites of interest there.

There’s a big front porch on the boarding house, and I’ve spent a good hunk of my free time there reading.

Sunday will roll around again, and my plan is simple: Go to Sunday school and hear a good lesson and then preach. After lunch and a nap, I’ll preach again on Sunday night.

“The boundaries have fallen for me in pleasant places.” Psalm 16: 6

 

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Andersonville Death Camp

Imagine a football stadium, maybe the bottom half of a two-decker. Cram 45,000 people into that arena, then lock the gates. Nobody can leave. Keep the people enclosed there for months, maybe a year. If anyone gets close to an outer wall of the compound, they have entered the Dead Zone and are immediately shot.

No one leaves.

Twenty-five acres total for thousands and thousands of God’s children crowded together. The only water available is a tiny, two-foot wide muddy rivulet that runs through the center of the newly formed camp. The stream serves as drinking water and sewer. Every day is worse than the day before. More men. More disease.

Nobody can leave.

Very little food is available for those within the walls of the stockade.

Nobody can leave.

Andersonville is a Prisoner of War camp. These are not, in spite of my metaphor, sports fans forced to live together in a confined space after a football game for a few hours or a few days, but United States soldiers being held captive in 1864. There’s not enough food or supplies for Southern troops, much less enemy combatants.

These prisoners are not criminals. They fought honorably.

Of the 45,000 imprisoned at Andersonville, 13,000 died. Within months. Dysentery. Starvation. Murder.

Through the years, I’ve often read about and seen at least one documentary concerning the Andersonville Prison. You can find videos on YouTube. I’ve wanted to visit there for the same reason I wanted to see a Nazi Concentration Camp—to be reminded of the horrors of war. I don’t ever want to be complacent about human atrocity. I want to be at least a small voice in the wilderness crying, “Stop. No. Enough.”

It’s strange how many Americans can tell you the names of Buchenwald and Auschwitz but who’ve never heard of Andersonville. It’s always easier to confess someone else’s sins.

I’m not a pacifist. But violence should be a last resort. There are codes of human decency, even during combat. I’d be glad to explain the Just War Theory to anyone who isn’t familiar with it. What happened at Andersonville was not just. It was evil, one of many immoral, criminal, foul results of the belief that some human beings are less human than others.

Attached to the Andersonville Prison site is a Prisoner of War museum. You can see both places in a single morning or an afternoon. But what you see there, I predict, will stay with you for a lifetime.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Football, Health, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia

Here’s the bottom line of this blog: If you’ve never attended Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, to hear President Jimmy Carter teach Sunday school, you need to put that on your short term bucket list.

This is a unique experience. One-of-a-kind. Unparalleled. This humble Christian, former President of the most powerful nation on earth and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, stands in front of a sanctuary full (about 300 people) of pilgrims to Plains almost every Sunday. He delivers, without notes, his understanding of a selected Bible text.

Maranatha Baptist Church invited me to preach for them today (April 30) and next Sunday (May 7). Home from my four months in Connecticut, I gladly accepted.

Long an admirer of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, I’ve looked forward to being in Plains at the same time as the Carters so I could participate in Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church. My daughter Julie and I attended the Baptist World Alliance in Birmingham, England, in 2005, and President Carter taught the Sunday school lesson there to a couple thousand of us gathered in a civic arena of some sort. That was a good, but different, experience.

The church members of Maranatha, a small congregation, are the unsung heroes of this ministry. They arrive at the church as early as 5:30 on Sunday morning to begin their hospitality ministry to out-of-town, out-of-state, and out-of-country guests. This morning, worshipers gathered from half a dozen or more countries and twenty or thirty states. The locals are gracious in sharing their church with visitors from afar, as well as with Secret Service agents. Before Sunday school, the church’s guests are given an often-humorous lecture about protocol, what to expect, and what not to expect. No clapping. You don’t clap for your Sunday school teacher, after all, do you? Today, Jill Stuckey gave the speech. She charmed everyone, but she was also clear about appropriate behavior. This is a Baptist church, after all. You can’t be too careful.

After church, members and guests are likely to adjourn to The Cafeteria, a local eatery owned by Jody Monts. I ate supper there Saturday night, pork chops and turnips, and she asked me if I was in town to go to Sunday school. I told her I was preaching. I ate lunch there again today, baked chicken, dressing, collards, and sweet potato pie. There were other choices, but snails were not on the menu if you’re hoping for French food. This is Southern cooking. I’ll weigh four hundred pounds by this time next week.

I’ve not been in Plains for twenty-four hours yet. But I’m enthusiastic about being here. Nearby is Koinonia Farms and I’m going there tomorrow with a church member. I’ll report on the remainder of the week, I’m sure, but I wanted to get this message across:

Plan a trip to Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. You’ll thank yourself later!

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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