Mississippi blessed with dedicated nonprofitsBy WYATT EMMERICH,
It is truly a blessing to have a job that involves helping the community achieve good things.
One of the fundamental functions of the Northside Sun is to help charities and non-profits achieve their goals by promoting their causes and informing and exhorting the public to get involved.
I feel blessed, energized and motivated to have a role in helping the dozens of awesome charity organizations in our metro area. Properly run community newspapers can be valuable assets to their readers and advertisers.
So many people come up to me and say things like, “Thank God for the Northside Sun,” or “I read the Sun cover to cover,” or “What would we do without the Northside Sun?” They mean it.
Let me remind advertisers tempted by the lure of out-of-town Facebook and Google: They don’t do a thing for this community except suck dollars out. The Northside Sun provides a fundamental service to the community. Plus our numbers are better and our advertising more affordable. Your customers love the Sun and that goodwill is a valuable benefit to our advertisers. Nobody cares about Facebook or Google. They are monopolies ruthlessly raising prices.
Last week, I had the chance to attend the annual fundraising banquet for the Mississippi Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at First Baptist Church in downtown Jackson. I was joined by hundreds of others.
Thanks to Victor Smith’s prompting, I always attend this luncheon and walk out on Cloud Nine. You would have to have a heart of steel not to be inspired by these young people and their stories.
The very existence of this organization is a miracle. This is a big, vibrant, dynamic organization that is changing the lives of thousands of young athletes. They have 40 staffers deployed throughout the state. The staff – which consists of an amazing group of charismatic and motivated Christians – then connects with hundreds of coaches who help them connect with thousands of young people.
As one speaker put it, “Sports is just a door through which we work to reach young people and bring them the message of Christ.”
Can you imagine the fundraising necessary to maintain a staff of 40? This is truly miraculous.
It couldn’t have happened without the late Bill Buckner, truly one of Mississippi’s legendary figures, whose leadership and faith were instrumental to Mississippi FCA’s success. He was larger than life.
I was happy to see several names on the board of friends and acquaintances: Clint Herring, the chairman, who built the Northside Sun building 25 years ago; tennis buddy Sonny Steel; Victor Smith; my banker Duane Dewey and many others.
Duane called me up weeks ago to make sure we publicized this year’s speaker, Mo Isom, a young mother who was an LSU All-American soccer goalie. She is the author of the bestselling book “Wreck My Life: Journeying from Broken to Bold.”
Talk about galvanizing. Speaking without notes, her presentation was flawless as she recounted her own personal spiritual journey. You really felt that every word was being driven by the Holy Spirit. Tears came to my eyes a dozen times.
On the surface, her life seems like an unlikely platform for explosive spiritual transformation. She was a pretty, well adjusted, smart young woman who was an outstanding athlete. But like us all, that was just the surface of a raging spiritual battle that no human escapes.
As she put it, “We should all win Academy Awards for our ability to pretend everything in our lives is going great.”
Below the surface, Isom’s demons were raging: the ruthless peer pressure of the new social media, eating disorders, her father’s tragic suicide and a wreck that nearly killed her.
She had asked God to take her cultural Christianity and turn it into real faith. “Be really careful when you ask God to do that because he will be happy to oblige.” And boy did he deliver.
Her message was perfect for the FCA fundraiser, because at every step along her journey FCA members were reaching out to her and trying to break through. It worked.
Afterward, I just had to shake her hand, hoping some of that Holy Spirit would come zooming out of her and into me. It may have been the most perfect display of public speaking I have ever witnessed.
I have been a Mississippian long enough that I can clearly tell a Baptist function from an Episcopalian function from a Presbyterian function and so on. The Baptists have a certain cadence in their voice, a certain super enthusiasm, lots of music, tons of energy, lots of praying. I love it!
The week before Mission Mississippi had its annual banquet. What a display of racial harmony and goodwill. What a great organization. Hundreds attended. This is another miraculous organization that has impacted our state in unbelievable ways. Neddie Winters and his staff have done a phenomenal job. The 17-member board consists of selfless, dedicated members of our community putting their valuable time and effort into one simple goal: racial harmony.
And if that’s not enough, this past Saturday I attended the Night of Unity at the Veterans Memorial Stadium. Tens of thousands of Mississippians, black and white, celebrating unity, goodness, togetherness, hope and all the good things.
I can’t help but be saddened that the real Mississippi of love and compassion is still largely hidden from the rest of the world. One day this will change and the rest of us will see us for who we really are.
It is truly a blessing to live in Mississippi. I know we don’t have the economic affluence of bigger, more urbanized states, but when it comes to spiritual wealth, nobody tops Mississippi.