Finding hope in tragic fires

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Friends of Hale County have done it again.

The group led by Law Lamar brought smiles to many faces and hope to many broken spirits Sunday afternoon as they fellowshipped with pastors and members of the four Black Belt churches involved in the recent burnings.

The Friends, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, and members from Morning Star Baptist Church in Boligee, Spring Valley Baptist Church in Gainesville, Galilee Baptist Church and Dancy First Baptist Church, both near Panola, met yesterday at Zion Valley Baptist Church in Panola to celebrate the good things in the face of such unfortunate events.

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“Each of the four ministers from the burned churches were there and their joint theme was that good things had stemmed from such tragic incidents,” Lamar said. “One of the ministers said 10 new members had joined, and they all mentioned that attendance numbers were up. People are feeling a need for church to get answers and hope.”

Among the crowd of approximately 80 attendees, were visitors from Opelika who plan to help the churches in their reconstruction efforts and guests from Covenant Presbyterian Church in Birmingham who raised enough money to donate 56 bibles to the churches.

“They read their 15 favorite Bible verses, privately prayed with the children and blessed their lives and the Bibles,” Lamar said, “It was a sweet moment in honor of God.”

And because Lamar figured the 56 Bibles wouldn’t be enough for the crowd he ordered 100 of Emmett Cooper’s children’s Bibles, which he distributed all of that afternoon to Sunday school teachers, pastors and parents. Cooper was even there to witness the gladness his simplified study Bibles brought to the faces of the families who had lost their church homes.

“It took him 20 years to put that Bible together and he told me he had seen the joy of someone giving his books to someone else as a gift,” Lamar said about the creator who flew from Tampa to attend the event, “But he said that day was the best day of his life.”

The group spent the day remembering how God works in mysterious ways and realizing that people from across the state and country were praying and supporting them.

Davis, D-Birmingham, spoke the message that God wouldn’t be surprised about what’s happening in the world if you asked Him about His thoughts on humankind, Lamar said, but He would be shocked about how divided we are as people.

“When I looked at Congressman Davis that afternoon, I didn’t see a just politician,” Lamar said, “I saw that he truly deeply cared about what’s going on.”

To continue the message of working together, Lamar said he used a song to encourage attendees to work together.

“There’s a song that says ‘people get ready there’s a train a’comin. We don’t need no ticket, you just get on board,'” he said, “That symbolizes God’s will for people to come together by pushing their faults and problems aside and jumping on board to lend a hand. The next line says how God has already paid the price more than 2,000 years ago, so we just have to go. I’m just trying to get people to recognize that we can help all people.”

Everyone there wanted to worship, follow God and get together to move forward in the future as friends, Lamar said, and they weren’t wishing bad on the students who committed the crime, but the group prayed for them.

Although his goal was to help despondent members and those who had lost their hope regain their faith, Lamar said he walked away with something as well.

“I went there to give a gift and I came home richer than when I left,” he said, “There were some really terrific people there and I walked away with some new friends.”

Lamar said he and the Friends will play a big role in the churches reconstruction processes and that he plans to take things a step further to help all rural churches.

“I see a lot of these churches out here can use simple things like a sidewalk, some Bibles, painting supplies, flowers, or a sign,” he said. “I am just going to travel the roads and find those churches that need help. Landscaping is my aim.”