Thursday, November 04, 2004

Leaders: Girls must be taught modesty can be fashionable

Posted on Nov 24, 2004 | by Theresa Shadrix
ANNISTON, Ala. (BP)--On the heels of ABC's decision not to renew its annual television contract with the Miss America pageant, the issue of modesty has emerged as a center-stage issue with Christians.

This year, contestants were featured in revealing swimsuits in the on-stage competition, and were placed in hot tubs during their pre-recorded introductions.

The reduction in modesty did not yield the pageant the extra exposure it had hoped to achieve. Instead, Miss America received its lowest television ratings in its 50-year history.

Only 10 girls opted for the more modest optional swimsuit, while Miss America, Deidre Downs, donned the two-piece string bikini for the judges and the audience. Downs viewed the swimsuit competition as a reflection of physical fitness and told Baptist Press she tried not to think about what she was wearing before the airing of the competition.

"I just thought about what I would wear to the beach," Downs said.

The issue of modesty is not a new controversy in pageant swimsuits, but as fashion trends like short skirts, tank tops and belly shirts make their way from the local mall to worship services, church members are looking for guidance.

Modesty is one of the topics -- along with dating, eating disorders, depression and self esteem -- addressed in Beyond the Eye conferences.

The conference founder, Leslie Gary, cautions parents to be aware of contents in their daughters' wardrobe and to not only discuss why some things are not appropriate to wear but explore the roots of immodest clothing.

"I feel there are many issues that young girls face today, but I believe these issues stem from their desire to feel needed, be wanted and accepted and to fit in," she said. "Whether these girls end up becoming sexually active, wearing revealing clothing, or suffering from anorexia -- just to name a few things -- they have a longing in their hearts for true acceptance."

The birth of the Beyond the Eye ministry came from Gary's own struggle with self-worth and identity.

"I personally have struggled with low self-esteem and inferiority my entire life," she said, "but God has allowed me to be taught His Word through various ways and has graciously allowed me to have some amazing role models in my life."

Many girls dress inappropriately because they have never been taught that their beauty is far beyond what people see on the outside, Gary said.

"It is a heart issue," she said. "I truly believe that confusion about modesty and clothing that is appropriate will begin to subside once God's Word is planted daily into the hearts of these girls. We desire to judge no one. Our desire is to give girls the key that opens the truth about who they are through God's Word."

Mary Mohler, director of the Seminary Wives Institute at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sees an opportunity for Christian parents to teach daughters, and other misguided women, that modesty matters.

"A daughter must be taught from an early age that her body is precious and should never be flaunted," Mohler said. "Fathers need to lovingly convey this message to their daughters, as they can give first-hand testimony of how men think and respond."

Younger girls face obstacles when older girls dress inappropriately in church, Mohler said, adding that holiness is not dependent on a woman's attractiveness.

"It is not something that should have to be drilled into women as if restrictive rules were being placed on their personal choices of dress and appearance as some way to punish them," Mohler said. "Regenerate Christian women should deeply desire to reflect Christ in every aspect of their lives -- including how they dress."

Modest dressing, Mohler said, is a reflection of God's work of grace in a woman's heart. Women must dress appropriately not only in church but also in everyday life, she added.

"What started in our churches as a well-intentioned move toward making seekers feel welcome has spiraled into a situation where Sunday dress is virtually disappearing," Mohler said.

The dangerous side to immodesty is women unknowingly causing their Christian brothers to stumble, she said.

"Many young women are more caught up in fashion and trends," Mohler said. "They have to be taught that many fashionable clothing trends that may seem 'fun' to wear are also revealing in ways that plain and simply cause men to lust."

Mohler and Gary both recognize that modesty is not a stylish term but they insist girls and women can be fashionable, while also reflecting Christ.

"I believe the Proverbs 31 women was a tastefully dressed woman in her 'fine linen and purple.' She was not drab, unkempt and unattractive," Mohler said.

"However, women must make wise choices when it comes to fashion such that we enjoy the variety of appropriate styles, luscious colors and a multitude of fabrics available to us. Men have few options in this area. We have so many choices. Eliminating ones that are immodest is certainly not too much to ask.
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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Vietnam POW continues to speak of freedom & faith

ANNISTON, Ala. (BP)--In 1967, U.S. Army Colonel Benjamin Purcell traded his job as professor of military science at Kemper Military School and College in Boonville, Mo., to go to Vietnam as deputy commander of the Da Nang Sub-Area and executive officer of the 80th General Support Group.

That career decision would end up putting his life in peril and his faith to the test.

In Vietnam, Purcell was quite comfortable in the bachelor officer's barracks, considering the turmoil of war surrounding him, and he communicated with his family through daily letters, weekly audiotapes and monthly telephone calls. But a routine midnight helicopter ride on Jan. 30, 1968, changed everything when the aircraft was shot down by enemy fire and Purcell along with Warrant Officer Joe Rose, Warrant Officer Dick Ziefler, SP/4 Robert Chenoworth, SP/4 Mike Lenker and Private First Class James George were captured by the North Vietnamese army.

Imprisonment was an issue Purcell and wife, Anne, had never really weighed. "Anne and I had talked about the possibility of my being injured or killed but never of becoming MIA (Missing In Action) or POW," Purcell recounted.

Almost immediately his faith in Christ was put to the test as the U.S. captives walked all night barefooted with their hands tied behind their backs along a narrow path into the mountains south and west of Khe Sanh.

Private George, his face burned after retrieving a rifle in the flaming helicopter, was in urgent need of medical attention. After Purcell was promised George would receive care, the two men fearlessly recited the Lord's Prayer with the tip of a Viet Cong's gun aimed in their direction. "Never had the words meant more to me," Purcell said. George was left behind anticipating a doctor when a shot echoed in the dark Vietnam air. Although he did not witness the gunfire, Purcell believed George was killed that fateful night, as he was never seen or heard from again.

Purcell feared his broken ribs and blistered feet would slow down the caravan of prisoners and he likewise would be killed so he turned to God. "I prayed for a light to guide me and minutes later the man in front of me turned on a flashlight and pointed it to my feet." This would be the first of many incidents when Purcell's Southern Baptist roots would be planted deep in the muddy soil of Vietnam. "There were times when I wanted to give up but I would think of Anne and then of how Christ endured pain on the cross. I knew I had to keep going," Purcell said.

For 62 months, 58 of those in solitary confinement, Purcell suffered interrogations, hunger, depression, illness, loneliness and complete loss of dignity and freedom. Of the many lessons learned during his nightmare, he noted, "I learned that in order to live with fellow man, a person must first live with himself."

Twice Purcell attempted to escape from two different prison camps. And even though he had trained a chicken as a lookout in one attempt and fashioned a dummy named Charlie out of bamboo and spare clothes in the other attempt, it was not until March 27, 1973, that Purcell and 32 other American POWs tasted the sweetness of freedom. Purcell greeted a crowd at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines by saying, "Man's most precious possession, second only to life itself, is freedom."

From that day forward, Purcell would bear the distinction of being the highest-ranking Army officer captured as a POW and released during the Vietnam conflict.

With no communication during his five-year captivity and no idea of his whereabouts, Purcell's wife, Anne, struggled to raise their five children, David, Debbie, Clifford, Sherri and Joy, who was only 18 months when her father volunteered to serve his country. "Faith, hope and love is what helped us all," Purcell said.

Three days after his release, on March 30, 1973, Ben and Anne were reunited at Bush Field in Augusta, Ga. Their oldest son, David, who was a senior in high school when he said goodbye to his father, greeted him in his West Point cadet uniform with what Purcell called the most gratifying salute of his military career.

Whenever he and Anne share their testimony of faith, hope and love to churches and civic organizations across the country, Purcell brings along items from his captivity. Among them on display during a Nov. 3 visit to Parker Memorial Baptist Church in Anniston, Ala., were a communion set he used once a month; a wedding ring fashioned of bamboo; salt and pepper shakers that never held the precious commodity; and drawings of the bare cells and clothes he was forced to wear. He and Anne also recount the ordeal in their book "Love & Duty." Daughter Joy, a television journalist, traveled to Vietnam with her father and a few other POWs in March 1993 to film a documentary titled, "The Final Healing -- Vietnam Revisited."

Purcell retired in 1980 after 30 years in service with such distinguished honors as the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Parachutist and Combat Infantryman Badges and a Purple Heart.

He subsequently served his home state of Georgia as a state representative from 1993-97. Today the Purcells live in Clarksville, Ga., where they operate a Christmas tree farm. They are active members of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
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(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FREEDOM AND FAITH.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Gadsden’s Camper named Miss Alabama in ‘God’s time’

By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
October 21, 2004

Shannon Camper thought her pageant days were over when she was first runner-up to Miss Alabama June 12, her seventh and final attempt at the title.

Camper, who turned 25 Oct. 20, aged out of the scholarship pageant system that awarded her more than $28,000, which she used to obtain a degree in mass communications from the University of Alabama.

After the competition, held at Samford University, she moved on with her life and got a job as a leasing agent, focused attention on her ministry of singing gospel music and enjoyed church activities at Central Avenue Baptist in Gadsden, where her father, Larry, is minister of music and mother, Sarah, is a pianist.

Then Miss Alabama, Deidre Downs, was crowned Miss America 2005 in Atlantic City Sept. 18.

Downs is the third Alabama contestant to win the Miss America tiara, along with Yolande Betbeze in 1951 and Heather Whitestone in 1995. With Downs’ victory, the Miss Alabama first runner-up has the option of assuming the state title. In a phone call from the Miss Alabama organization, Camper sealed her name in the pageant history books when she accepted without hesitation.

“There were a lot of decisions to make right off the bat. I had to quit my job and move to Birmingham in the apartment provided for Miss Alabama,” Camper said. “I didn’t have time to think about anything. I was just so excited for Deidre and me!”

Camper said the title offers her the chance to speak about her platform, breast cancer awareness, and share what God has done in her life. “There is a history of breast cancer in my family and now I can help educate women,” she said.

“It is just so amazing to see how God has moved because after seven years this was something I put aside. I think of the song, ‘Wait on the Lord and Be of Good Service,’ and I am reminded that He is in control.”

Family friend and pastor of Arbor Baptist Church in Pell City Whitt Hibbs baptized Camper at age 7 when he served as pastor of Central Avenue.

Hibbs said all Southern Baptists in Alabama should be very proud. “She is one of our own, literally born and raised in the Southern Baptist church, and Shannon has a gleam is her eye and the Lord in her heart,” said Hibbs. “Her faith is real and she also has such an unbelievable talent in singing.”

Born into a musical family, Camper said she has been singing all of her life. “My mother sang when she was pregnant with me when my parents traveled in a southern gospel group. I also remember that she would prop me on the piano stool at the age of 2 and I would sing. It has been a big part of my life.”

Camper’s singing talent does not go unrecognized. She received the only standing ovation when she sang “God Bless America” during the talent competition at the Miss Alabama pageant and she has been working in a studio to record her own music.

“All I want to do is share my testimony and sing. I hope I can do it in churches around Alabama.”

For information on how to schedule Miss Alabama 2004, Shannon Camper, visit www.missalabama.com.

Copyright 2005© The Alabama Baptist. All Rights Reserved. Contact The Alabama Baptist

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Faith motivates Miss Alabama as she prepares to compete in Miss America

By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
July 22, 2004

Deidre Downs planned on attending medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham this fall but she traded in books for a crown when she was named Miss Alabama.

Held on the campus of Samford University June 12, the Miss Alabama pageant awarded Downs, 23, more than $18,000.

“I was elated,” said Downs, a member of Baptist Church of the Covenant, Birmingham. “It was my fifth time and I really wanted to be Miss Alabama.”

Now she is busy preparing for the Miss America Pageant and making public appearances across Alabama promoting her platform, Curing Childhood Cancer.

“Between now and Sept. 1, when I leave for Atlantic City, I’m preparing by working out, continuing my voice lessons and doing mock interviews.

For talent, I will sing the same selection I performed at Miss Alabama, a Linda Eder song called ‘I’m Afraid This Must Be Love.’”

As an activist for children, Downs is raising funds for Children’s Hospital in Birmingham through a specialty license plate approved by the Alabama Department of Motor Vehicles. Children’s Hospital treats more than 95 percent of children with cancer in Alabama, she explained. “Research is the only way we will approach a cure for pediatric cancer,” she said.

The statuesque beauty takes her new job as Miss Alabama seriously, as well as her life, career ambitions and faith.

The almost $50,000 in scholarship money she received in her five years of competition allowed her to complete a bachelor of arts in history from Samford University.

The funds will help her resume studies at UAB after her reign as Miss Alabama to fulfill her goal to work in the medical profession.

“I want to become a pediatrician because I love kids.”

Her desire to medically care for children started through her experiences at Camp Smile-a-Mile, a camp for children with cancer, and as a volunteer at Children’s Hospital.

She started a nonprofit organization, Making Miracles, four years ago to allow opportunities for high school students to volunteer with pediatric cancer patients in a hospital setting.

Making Miracles has also provided volunteers for the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge and the Leukemia Society’s Light the Night Walk, as well as held a Rock-a-Thon fund raiser for pediatric cancer research.

Downs said her faith in Christ not only motivated her decision to pursue medicine as a career but also her involvement in community service.

She became a Christian when she was 8 years old but feels she has grown in her faith over the years.

“I’ve come to realize what it means to devote (my) life to Christ,” Downs explained. “I hope to always live my life in a way that reflects my faith and to be someone who really walks the walk by putting my faith into practice every day.”

The 2002 Rhodes Scholar finalist puts her faith into action not only through raising awareness of pediatric cancer but also as a role model for young women.

Teresa Cheatham Stricklin, Miss Alabama 1978 and first runner-up to Miss America 1979, judged Downs last year.

She believes the same charm and professionalism the Miss Alabama judges saw in Downs will be seen in Miss America and by people in Alabama who meet her during appearances.

“I am excited for Deidre and she will be a fabulous Miss Alabama,” Stricklin said.

Copyright 2005© The Alabama Baptist. All Rights Reserved. Contact The Alabama Baptist

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Mark Lowry reaches crowds with humor, music

By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
May 6, 2004

In all of Mark Lowry's antics alongside gospel singer Bill Gaither, there is one thing Lowry wants to be — real.

“Be real for them like you want Jesus to be real for you,” Lowry said.

People will listen if they see what they’re going through is what others have been through, he said.

Lowry’s fusing of clean comedy and southern gospel music on TV and the stages of arenas and churches brings a chuckle and a tear, concert goers say. Among his Alabama church appearances are Hill Crest Baptist Church, Anniston; Dauphin Way Baptist Church, Mobile; and others.

Throughout his 13 years as a baritone with The Gaither Vocal Band, Lowry often pokes fun at Gaither. “I think I am the only one that Bill allows to make fun of him,” Lowry said. “Who else would get to wear a wig and laugh at him?”

Along with appearing on the Gaither Homecoming Series videos and sharing the stage with other gospel music recording artists, such as Sandi Patty and Michael W. Smith, Lowry has made six comedy and musical videos during his 20-year career.

In a phone conversation with The Alabama Baptist from his Houston, Texas, home, Lowry joked that at the moment his real life included cleaning out the swimming pool, feeding a stray dog he adopted and talking on the phone.

“I am ADHD, and I can’t concentrate on one thing at a time!” ADHD — Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder — was no laughing matter to Lowry as a child, because he couldn’t sit still. He was labeled hyperactive. Now he would not change a thing, he said, because it actually helps with his comedy.

“Everything in comedy has truth. Not being ADHD is like asking a blind man what it would be like to have sight. It is all I have ever known,” he said.

Lowry said people love stories about people, and that is why he relates well to his audiences.

“Jesus is for everyone. We ought to let our scars be seen because we’re all sinners, and we all need to know that Jesus is real,” he said. Lowry said that so many times Christians do not encourage one another and talk about what is happening in real life.

On the flip side of his hilarious stage antics and joke-telling is an introspective Lowry, who delves into questions of the soul.

“I had questions for Jesus, but I really had so many for Mary and those questions produced the song,” he said, referring to his hit song “Mary Did You Know?” a Christmastime classic. Lowry owes his life of ministry to his mother.

“I was born two months early, and my mother gave me to the Lord,” he said. Lowry’s mother also dressed him in an American flag at age 11 to sing patriotic songs to a crowd of more than 10,000 at the National Quartet Convention. This performance landed Lowry a recording contract.

After a brief stint at Liberty University pursuing a degree in business, Lowry found more success singing southern gospel music.

His comedy came when jokes were introduced as a filler of time.

“The independent Baptists I grew up around didn’t clap, and they might say ‘Amen’ after a song,” he said. “I needed something to fill in the time and started to tell jokes. Plus, it was the only way I knew they were listening!”


Copyright 2005© The Alabama Baptist. All Rights Reserved. Contact The Alabama Baptist

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Gadsden woman’s ministry teaches teens, college-age girls truths for godly lifestyles

By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
April 29, 2004



While women like Britney Spears and Janet Jackson lead the fight for an “anything goes” mentality, many parents battle to keep their teens from being part of statistics this viewpoint generates.

More than 16,500 babies born in Alabama in 1996 were to girls 15–19 years old, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

But parents hope to curb these and other statistics through a ministry named Beyond the Eye (BTE), which focuses on teaching the truth of the Bible to girls grade 6 through college.

With a realistic approach to depression, fashion trends, sex, eating disorders, gossip and self-esteem, BTE holds one-day conferences, taught by college-age girls under the mentorship of its founder Leslie Gary.

Along with break-out seminars, the conference has a praise and worship time, a fashion show and skits. Each girl attending receives a gift bag with a T-shirt, Scripture cards and memory verse outline.
The ministry of BTE started with a Bible study Gary facilitated several years ago for college girls from her church, CrossPoint Community Church in Gadsden.

As the group grew, the concept for the ministry began to form. It held its first conference under the guidance of Breakaway Ministries, a Gadsden-based organization that organizes yearly retreats for students. A dozen BTE conferences later, Gary is juggling teaching responsibilities at Piedmont Elementary School and overseeing the ministry.

Because discipleship was a vital part of the Bible study, it is with the ministry as well. “Our job as women is to seek after Christ and become more like Him. Character will determine true beauty‚” she said.

With discipleship, memorizing Scripture is a vital key to the Christian life. Gary first learned the skill of memorizing Scripture from her father as he made his children quote a verse before each left for school.

No Scripture verse meant the tardy bell. In her adult life she developed a true love for Scripture and seeks to pass on this passion to help fend off temptations from the world.

“Girls are looking for attention and if they don’t get it at home, they are going to go to something or someone looking for it,” she said. She said craving love and attention can lead to wrong choices in dating, friends and fashion.

One of the most entertaining aspects of the conference — a fashion show and skit about the do’s and don’ts of girls’ clothing — is also the main reason boys are not allowed.

“Girls need a setting that they can be themselves and get a clear view of what a godly girl should be,” Gary said.

The skit is important because girls today are bombarded with images and fashion trends that give the wrong message to boys, she noted. “Girls can still be pretty and attractive without showing guys what only their future husband should see. I am thinking about adding a do’s and don’ts about fashion.”

Learning to dress appropriately is something Nikki McClellan, 21, had to learn from Gary. McClellan, a nursing student at Gadsden State Community College, leads the “Getting Past Your Past” seminar because she thinks it is important for girls to know God’s Word. Raised in a non-Christian home and engaging in hurtful activities, she speaks from her own experience and her heart.

“Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll were my life for five years‚” she said. That changed when she met Gary three years ago, and a discipleship lasting two years helped her to change her attitude and heal her spirit.

“God took the desires away,” McClellan said. “It is fun for me to wake up every morning and know that I am accepted by God. I am complete.”

The 17 college girls who lead the seminars are a close group that share with, encourage and teach each other as well as conference attenders.

The bond of friendship is important to Gadsden native, Randi Lipscomb, as she leads the “Friendship & Accountability” workshop.

The 20-year-old attends Auburn University where she pursues a degree in elementary education. She began to study the Bible with Gary in grade 7.

“Coming from a completely different background than Nikki, I was raised in church but I lacked passion for Christ.”

She is now able to teach girls why Christian friends are important. “So many times the reason we fall is that we are not being held accountable by anyone. Friendships are an investment.”

Lipscomb said she is grateful to her parents for providing a solid, Christian home but now Bible study time is the “most amazing encounter with God. I know who I am and teaching girls their identity in Christ is what Beyond the Eye is all about.”

Gary also speaks at church services, Sunday School classes and women’s conferences.

Recently Adrian Rogers invited her to speak to the young women at Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn. Gary said the opportunity was amazing and reminds her that the main goal is to teach young women to have a hunger and thirst to get to know Christ intimately.

“God’s Word is our sword to fight with, our convector and our lamp to guide us,” she said. “We hope to show that to girls.”

Copyright 2005© The Alabama Baptist. All Rights Reserved. Contact The Alabama Baptist

Thursday, March 04, 2004

FBC Opelika member sees DHR job as way to serve God

By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
March 4, 2004

A high-level public servant in Alabama infuses commitment to Christ into his life and work as he fulfills his responsibilities to protect Alabama’s children.

Page Walley, a member of First Baptist Church of Opelika, leads the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) as commissioner.

He promises a new day in the child welfare agency that oversees child support enforcement, child and adult protective services, food stamps, foster care and adoption.

The post was left vacant when Bill Fuller announced his resignation to become a career missionary.

Like Fuller, Walley brings a strong sense of faith, desiring to be a vessel used by God. “I will follow the example of Jesus Christ and go out and serve and draw people to Him,” he said.

Raised in LaGrange, Tenn., a small antebellum town of 160 citizens, Walley, the oldest of three siblings, said his childhood offered the perfect environment. His father’s hard work at his job in the cotton industry and his mother’s commitment to raising the family created a safe and loving Christian home. This influence would guide Walley throughout his life.

Upon graduating from high school, he attended Davidson College, Davidson, N.C., on a football scholarship, where he still holds fifth place in the top 10 for career rushing yards.

Although he was a stand-out athlete at Davidson, the pigskin did not determine his future as much as a gothic-style psychiatric hospital located in Bolivar, Tenn., just 22 miles from his hometown.

“I always was intrigued by the mental health field and the massive state hospital and wanted to pursue psychology,” he said.

Walley said he publicly confessed his salvation in his junior high school gymnasium during an evangelism meeting. “I admit though, during my college years I did not always remember the lessons learned in my Christian home,” he said.

His faith would find replenishment after he completed a master’s and doctorate in psychology at the University of Georgia. He then took a residency at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Coral Gables, Fla., and joined University Baptist Church, Coral Gables.

The love and influence of his new church home, as well as the leadership of Dan Yeary, now senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, Ariz., offered a renewed faith. Yeary recruited him as the director of Christian counseling ministry at University Baptist, a position he held 1985–1987.

The staff position afforded him the opportunity to discover a gift for preaching after occasionally preaching in Yeary’s absence. “The church approached me about licensing,” Walley said. “Their policy was to reserve ordination for those who have seminary training. The church wanted to recognize a calling in my life, but I am not a full-time preacher.”

So Walley was licensed to the gospel ministry by University Baptist Church in 1986.

Walley said he does a lot of guest speaking in churches and Sunday School classes and is interested in supply preaching.

He met his future wife, Terry, a Montgomery native and Auburn graduate, at University Baptist in Coral Gables. With a strong foundation built on Christ, the Walley family — which includes children Blake, Jordan and Annelise — moved back to his hometown in 1987 so he could take the position of clinic director of Quinco Community Mental Health in nearby Bolivar, Tenn.

Amid his interaction with people in the community, he regained a grassroots feel for the needs of the people, enough so that he ran for public office. “People kept saying things about changing the state policy, and so I ran for office,” he said.

This led him to serve in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1990 to 2000, sponsoring the legislation that created the department of children’s services in 1996. He held membership on the calendar and rules committee, health and human resources committee, finance committee and the governor’s task force to study child care.

But he decided after 10 years in public service he wanted to focus on his family and the career he loved, so he served as a consultant for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. He next became the department’s commissioner. In March 2003 he moved to Alabama when Gov. Riley appointed him director of the department of children’s affairs.

Although Walley was the recipient of the American Psychological Association’s 1994 Karl F. Heiser Award for Advocacy and several other awards, he wants no glory for his achievements.

He said it is the everyday heroes like his parents, grandmother, minister, his wife, his in-laws and those in adversity he has counseled, who have influenced him.

Copyright 2005© The Alabama Baptist. All Rights Reserved. Contact The Alabama Baptist

Adoption offers Alabama Baptists the opportunity to care for orphans

By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
March 4, 2004

Alabama’s adoption activity in 2004 could reap more rewards for the state thanks to the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003.

Signed into law in December by President Bush, the law allows states to receive extra incentive money based on the number of older children adopted each year.

The new law renews a 1997 law that provides $4,000 to the state per finalized adoption, regardless of the child’s age and $6,000 for each special needs child adopted. But it adds an additional $4,000 to the state for each child adopted who is 9 years old or older. This is because most people prefer to adopt younger children or infants.

According to the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR), the state benefited from the 1997 law by receiving $519,821 for 838 adoptions from 1999 to 2002.

The incentive money will have no effect on the cost of adopting in Alabama, nor is it distributed directly to foster children, families or private child welfare agencies. The DHR receives 100 percent of the funds into its budget and the entire amount is allocated for the recruitment of foster parents and adoptive parents, their training and materials with which to train them.

While praising the previous adoptions in Alabama, newly appointed DHR Commissioner Page Walley appeals to Christians on behalf of the 200 children currently awaiting placement by the DHR Alabama office of adoption.

“As a Christian, I think we should hold true to our belief that involves taking care of orphans and widows‚” he said. “Putting our faith into action means taking care of the least of these.” Walley — a licensed counselor, former Tennessee legislator and licensed Southern Baptist minister — believes bringing a child into a home is an act of worship.

“It is a calling,” Walley said. “Taking care of children is our Christian duty and when we do [it], we are blessed.”

The number of finalized adoptions in Alabama has risen since 1999 when 152 children were adopted. Couples adopted 200 children in 2000, 237 in 2001 and 249 in 2002. The figures for 2003 were not finalized at press time.

Walley said the children who are available for adoption through the state DHR are there because parental rights have been terminated for various reasons.

Some children in foster care or awaiting adoption have special medical or emotional needs. These needs should be carefully considered by prospective parents, since adoption is a final commitment to a child.

“People need to have open hearts and need to realize that they come out of situations not of their own making,” Walley said. “We need to recognize that these children really are the least of these.”

Children categorized as having special medical or emotional needs include any child over the age of 8; any black child over the age of 2; a child with mental, physical or emotional difficulties; sibling groups of three or more and a child with a high risk background, such as one born to a cocaine-addicted mother.

“We need to support the (DHR) workers. Sometimes they may fail but more often they are the only safety net for these children.” One idea Walley has for churches and individuals to support DHR is to “spiritually” adopt children. “We need to commit to prayer for children and workers. Their battle is not just physical, but they need spiritual protection and they need to know they are loved,” he said.

Walley said a Web site set up by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services features photos and biographies of children awaiting adoption in Alabama and other states — www.adoptuskids.org.

“We need to bathe them in prayer. As a body of believers, we must pray,” he said.

To adopt a child an Alabama couple must be at least 19 years old, have been married for three or more years and undergo 30 classroom hours of training by DHR. Other requirements apply, including but not limited to criminal background checks.

A child lives with his or her adoptive parents for three months before the adoption process can be sanctioned by the courts, plus a social worker must give consent for the adoption to proceed. At this point the couple begins the legal process in probate court. Once this court process is complete, the adoption is finalized and the state may then receive funds from the Adoption Act of 2003.

A ministry opportunity can also be found through foster care. Eligibility requirements include the foster parent’s being at least 19 years old, the ability to provide a safe, comfortable atmosphere for the child with enough space for the child and his/her belongings and a home that conforms to Alabama minimum standards for foster family homes. Another requirement is that all members of the family be in good health, with all adults agreeing to undergo a thorough background check, including criminal history.

Every county offers a local department of human resources that provides the 30-hour preparation course for foster care with foster families receiving guidance from an assigned social worker.

Foster parents receive a monthly payment for room and board, but are limited to a maximum of six children at one time.

Prospective foster parents can also contact the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries (ABCH). With campuses for children and youth in Decatur and Mobile and group homes in Mobile, Dothan, Gardendale, Oxford and Alabaster, ABCH also licenses and trains foster families. Paul Miller, ABCH executive director, said they are always in need of Christian couples.

“This is a ministry opportunity and we are looking for the type of people who are willing to open their homes and invest in children‚” Miller said. The staff, which includes social workers and counselors, provides supportive services and works diligently to match families with children, he added.

To contact ABCH, call 205-982-1112, 1-888-720-8805 or visit the resources section of www.thealabamabaptist.org.


Copyright 2005© The Alabama Baptist. All Rights Reserved. Contact The Alabama Baptist

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Anniston, Bessemer youth fast, become ‘homeless’ to help others

Matthew Wilson tries to shield himself from the cold during HillCrest Baptist's homelessness event.

By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
February 26, 2004

As most teenagers in Alabama prepare for weekend nights of fun on the town, some youth are putting aside this social frivolity for lessons in gratitude. Teenagers in the youth group at Hillcrest Baptist Church, Anniston, gathered Jan. 23 in the parking lot of the church to experience homelessness.

They unfolded cardboard boxes suitable for shelter and spread blankets for warmth. Fifty-five gallon drums for fires littered the concrete.

While the rules included being able to bring blankets and empty boxes, aid from electricity was not allowed. The 70 youth and adults who participated also had to defeat hunger brought on by the 24-hour fast, which started at 6 a.m. the day of the event.

The event was organized by Tim Thomas, Hillcrest’s youth pastor. To coincide with the event the youth collected two truckloads of used blankets, coats, gloves and clothes to donate to Calhoun County shelters that assist the homeless.

“We are attempting to get teenagers out of their comfort zone and get out of the ordinary lifestyle,” Thomas said.

He believes it is only the start of teaching the youth to meet the needs of people in the community. “We have no idea where it is going to end up, but we know where it is going to start,” he said.

Maghen Haynes, 18, said the experience offered her a lifetime of gratitude.

“At first I did not know if I could handle it, but I don’t regret it. I realize now that I don’t take anything for granted,” she said.

The Wellborn High School senior encourages other youth groups to have similar awareness events because it unites people.

The National Coalition for the Homeless indicates approximately 39 percent of the homeless population are children.

The most at risk for becoming homeless are people living in poverty. A growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty are primarily to blame for h0omelessness.

Hunger is a major part of homelessness. To combat world hunger teenagers from Loveless Park Baptist Church, Bessemer, will observe a fast for world hunger Feb. 27–28.

For 30 hours more than 30 students are expected to go without food after asking sponsors to donate money that will go to World Vision, a nonprofit organization coordinating efforts to relieve world hunger in many countries.

“This will bring our students to an awareness they have never felt before,” said Will Nahrgang, minister to youth.

To begin the Friday and Saturday World Vision 30-Hour Famine the youth will begin fasting at 12:30 p.m. wherever they are on Friday. They will gather at the church at 6:30 p.m. to begin a night of varied group activities. The event will end 6:30 Saturday evening.

Nahrgana cited World Vision statistics that 29,000 children in the world die every day from hunger and other problems. It takes $30 to feed and care for a child for one month and $360 to feed a child for a year.

“I know that when we participate in the 30-hour famine we will be changing lives and spreading the love of Christ to those in need,” he said.

His youth group’s goal is to raise $7,200 — enough to feed 20 children for one year in a developing country. (Anthony Wade contributed)

Copyright 2005© The Alabama Baptist. All Rights Reserved. Contact The Alabama Baptist

Thursday, January 01, 2004

About Me

I am the Graphic Arts and Yearbook teacher at Oxford High School. I am the SkillsUSA advisor and Technology Fair Coordinator. I love my job and working with students to bring out their creativity. 

Before I started teaching in 2012, I was the Managing Editor of Longleaf Style magazine and Special Publications Editor at The Anniston Star. This job offered me a chance to fulfill my dream of being a journalist, but I felt something was missing from my life. I didn't even know something was missing until I became a teacher. 

I've been married to Mickey for 25 years and we have two sons, Solomon and Simeon.  

PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION

LIFE-LONG JOURNEY
My philosophy of education reflects the idea of a life-long journey of learning. From the first breath to the last, education is a constant process. As John Dewey said, “Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; it is life itself.”

INDIVIDUALIZED LEARNING
Individualized learning and individualized success is important to me. In order to understand how to teach a student, I feel that I must understand the whole student and his or her personal journey. Each student brings experiences from his or her home, culture, and social life to the classroom. So, when a student enters my classroom, I have no preconceived ideas about the student. I value only what I witness for myself and seek to help each student learn in his or her unique way. My desire is for every student to take responsibility for his/her learning and to be motivated to excel.

ACTIVE AND FREE

Learning, to me, is active. In Progressivism, the foundation of learning is not passive. I appreciate the Progressive belief that learners are seen as problem solvers and thinkers. To me, engagement in the process of learning is essential to success. An environment that embraces communication and fluid learning between the student, the community, family, and school is important.

EDUCATION 
Master of Science in Education, Secondary Education, ELA 
Expected graduation date: Fall 2017 
Jacksonville State University 
Jacksonville, AL 

Bachelor of Social Work 
Minor: Sociology 
Graduated: 1996 
Jacksonville State University 
Jacksonville, AL 

CERTIFICATIONS 
TEACHING 
Career Technical Education Certificate 
Alabama Department of Education 
Valid: 7/1/2013 - 6/30/2018    
Specialty Area 3, Career and Technical (CS3)    
Grade Level: 6-12    
Technical Education (025)    
Technical Education: Advertising Design (T01)    
Technical Education: Graphic Arts (T18) 

SOCIAL WORK 
Licensed Bachelor Social Work 
Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners 
Valid: 3/1/1997-3/31/2007 

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS 
Alabama Education Association (AEA) 
Alabama Association for Career & Technical Education (ALACTE) 
Association for Supervision & Curriculum (ASCD) 
National Education Association (NEA) 
Phi Delta Kappa 

PRESENTATIONS 
Freedom's Choice 
CORE Academy, Jacksonville State University, 2015 
The Freedom Rides of 1961 and some Calhoun County residents clashed on May 14, 1961 when members of a local Klan Kavern burned the Greyhound bus in the Welborn community and beat Freedom Riders on the Trailways bus. This workshop focused on the local history of the Greyhound bus, the photos taken by Joe Postiglione for The Anniston Star, and ways to teach the topic in secondary schools. 

Cover It!  
CORE Academy, Jacksonville State University, 2015 
Workshop about communications, journalism and media in classroom projects. 

Augmented Reality in the Classroom 
CORE Academy, Jacksonville State University, 2014 
Augmented Reality (AR) is a merging of the physical and virtual reality worlds. Using an iPad, iPhone, or Android device, apps like Aurasma and Layar allow a printed page to link with digital content, like websites, videos, coupons, social media, photo galleries, 3D animations, and audio. The Anniston Star: http://webmedia.newseum.org/newseum-multimedia/tfp_archive/2014-06-06/pdf/AL_AS.pdf 

Connect. Create. Change 
CORE Academy, Jacksonville State University, 2014. 
Integration of technology in the classroom. Using digital art and media projects to allow students to Connect to the topic, Create a project, and Change the way the student learns. Connect. Create. Change.