“What happens when you run into trouble and you do everything you can to get out of it? There is no answer on your own timetable, and you fall deeper into the muck and mud. Faith is tested, really tested,” Espy said. “At your show down, God shows up, and together you show out.”
The Mississippi native ran for Congress in 1985 to represent a poor district where the people who would vote for him could not afford to donate to his campaign. At 29, he became the youngest House Representative and the first African-American Congressman elected in Mississippi since Reconstruction. A decade later, President Bill Clinton appointed him to serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The first African-American to hold that cabinet position, Espy said he was expected to “do nothing slowly,” but within days responded to deaths caused by under-cooked hamburgers at a national fast-food chain as well as a 500-year flood and negotiated tariff and trade quotas with other countries.
Then trouble came, and Espy was accused of receiving improper gifts, including football tickets, and was investigated by the FBI.
“I went from calling presidents and prime ministers to not being able to call a cab,” he said. (more…)
For the second year in a row, University Ministries led a team of freshmen on a “Fall Break Plunge,” a three-day mission project Oct. 12-14. The Plunge is an allusion to the University’s annual “immersion” spring break trip program, which is designed to give a broad spectrum of students at Belmont the chance to be immersed in God’s world in various destinations, experiencing God’s work in a number of contexts. The Plunge enables freshmen to get a taste of what a week-long mission trip could be.
This year the Plunge found 20 freshmen, along with University Ministries Director of Outreach Micah Weedman, going to downtown Atlanta for Fall Break. The team stayed in Grant Park and worked with the Medici Project, an organization that designs and hosts alternative break trips for college students.
“For all of the trips we sponsor, we take a broad spectrum approach that is shaped by the locations we go,” Weedman said. “While in Atlanta, we wanted to do Atlanta-centric work. That included spending time with a homeless ministry in one of the city’s abandoned urban neighborhoods and volunteering with one of Atlanta’s most successful urban gardens that distributes the food it grows to low income families in the community.”
Freshman Noreen Prunier, a music business major from Long Island, NY, added, “I chose to go to Atlanta for my Fall Break because I wanted to do something meaningful, and something where I felt my time would be put to good use. This experience has changed my perspective on service because on this trip I was able to see the joy and gratitude in the people we served from such small actions. Even though it seemed like passing out lunches on the street was such a small action, the people receiving them were so grateful and were looking forward to it. So, no matter what small deed we do, it will affect someone in some way.”
“Why sing to the Lord as opposed to throwing bowling pins or spinning dishes on a stick for Him? At every place and every time Christians gather, they make a proclamation of Scripture, prayer and song. Music is a universal feature of human worship and a universal characteristic of human beings,” said School of Religion Associate Professor Steve Guthrie.
The eight-member panel included Guthrie, a music industry executive, pastors and noted musicians who each wrote chapters of the book. Among them were recording artists Sandra McCracken, a Belmont alumna, and Sarah Masen, classical pianist Bethany Brooks, EMI Vice President of Artists and Repertoire Brad O’Donnell and singer-songwriter Joy Ike.
Forsaken by her prostitute mother and alcoholic father, Oksana Nelson became an orphan at age seven. Although she no longer had to steal food or spend nights on the street, she recalled the orphanage as a “difficult and challenging place.” There she shared one toilet, one sink, one bar of soap and one toothbrush with more than two dozen other children.
“Many other orphans who aged out of the system at 16 turned to drugs and prostitution to survive,” said Nelson, a spokeswoman for Operation Christmas Child, who shared her story during chapel in early October to kick off a University-wide service project. “We saw that and thought it was the path for our lives. You see, we were taught that we were the bottom of society and that we would never amount to anything. You were an orphan because you were an inconvenience, a nuisance; you were just in the way and not supposed to happen.”
At age nine, missionaries came to her orphanage, played games with the children and shared the Gospel. (more…)
Through personal anecdotes and dry humor, the Rev. Dr. Andrew White, chaplain of St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, Iraq, told the Belmont community on Friday how he spreads Christianity with love in the Middle East.
His journey to the Middle East began following his work in Eastern Europe with the International Center for Reconciliation.
“The Middle East is a major issue of tension in the world. I had no problem with Israel, and I tried to get into Iraq and they didn’t want me. I tried and tried and failed and failed,” White said. Eventually, Iraq allowed White to enter the country. “When you pray, he answers them. When you don’t, he won’t.”
Shortly after the terrorist attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, White said he sat in his Baghdad, Iraq hotel room and looked over the Tigris River to see unrest in the city. He turned to the Biblical book of Ezekiel for insight and later used Google to find the tomb of Ezekiel.
“I didn’t know it had 48 chapters. I’d never read it in one go before. And I read that the experience of Ezekiel in Baghdad was the same experience I was having,” he said.
White also told the story of a man who visited the church seeking a blessing for his ill daughter. He told the man she would be healed and to go to the hospital and say “Jesus” in Arabic all the way there. When the man arrived, doctors told him that his daughter had died. The man asked to see her body and hugged it, again repeating the name of “Jesus,” and the daughter awoke and began to speak. The astonished man returned to the church and told White. White replied, “Don’t worry. It’s been done before.”
Among the most moving moments of chapel was when White listed his horrible experiences in Iraq, his church being bombed, the murder of 11 of 13 Iraqis the week after he baptized them, being locked in a torture room with removed digits strewn about the floor and being threatened with guns in his face. Still, he faces his adversaries with love, he said.
“When Jesus tells us to love your enemies, he doesn’t just mean the people in our families. He means others as well. So, I know much of my work is engaging with terrorists. The really bad kind,” White said. “Making peace is long-term business, and you have to engage religion in an attempt bring peace.”
More than 6,000 people, including 600 Muslims, are connected to St. George’s Anglican Church, which is the largest in Iraq and operates a medical clinic and food program. White studied at both Cambridge University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He served as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, is the author of seven books, and has won the Three Faith’s Forum Prize for Inter-Faith Relations and the International Council of Christians and Jews Prize for Intellectual Contribution to Jewish-Christian Relations.