01 May 2008

Meeting my hero

Unfortunately this can't be included in my SoFoBoMo book, because I didn't take the picture. But it does go down as one of my favorite photos taken on my camera.

I was visiting my brother in Atlanta for a few days last weekend. I drove three hours to Plains to attend Jimmy Carter's Sunday School class at Maranatha Baptist Church. I've been wanting to do that for years, since I found out his classes are open to the public, but this was the first time he was on the schedule to teach when I was in the area.

Carter is one of the people I admire most in the world. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, he continues to be involved in peacemaking and humanitarian work even into his 80s. He recently returned from a trip to the Middle East, where he met with Hamas leadership in the hopes of moving things further along towards a peace agreement with Israel. He faced criticism from Washington for his overtures, but I believe his approach is more likely to win lasting peace than what we've been doing for the past few decades.

The Carter Center which he founded is involved in peace negotiations, human rights, and global health (they have almost achieved their goal of the complete elimination of the horrible guinea worm disase, which would only be the second ever disease eliminated from the face of the earth). Jimmy and his wife Rosalynn (which he pronounces with a long o: ROSE-a-lynn) have also worked with Habitat for Humanity, actually on the ground building houses with them.

In spite of his world fame, Carter is a remarkably down-to-earth and humble man. He would not allow any applause for him in the church. He would not sign autographs there. He wanted us to remember we were there first of all to worship. (All of this was announced to us ahead of time by a member of the church, so that he could just come out and be himself.) Yes, there were secret service guys protecting him, as well there should be (we had to get wanded down and have our bags searched at the entry). But he came across as just a normal person teaching in his home church. Which of course he was.

He taught a real Bible lesson, on the book of Daniel. His message was about sticking up for what you believe in, even in the face of opposition (which is what he does all the time with his peacemaking work). He walked us all the way through the major parts of Daniel's story, which was the text du jour in the teaching materials he was using (Adult Uniform Series from Smyth & Helwys). He spoke from his heart, with hardly a need to refer to the notes on his podium. Jimmy Carter is the only president to have ever taught Sunday School while in office (he taught some classes in Washington and back in Plains on visits), and to the best of anyone's knowledge, the only one to ever teach it after leaving office.

President Carter has been a hero of mine for years. His election was my political awakening. I would have voted for him if I'd been old enough (I was 13). I remember getting permission from my parents to stay up late and listen to the election returns on the radio in my bunk bed, and it was very exciting that he won. To have met the man in person is one of my greatest joys.


Anonymous said...

What a blessing for you!
God is good.

By His Grace,

Sørina Higgins said...

Wow! Cool!!


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