Lending a Helping Hand: Habitat for Humanity & Wells Fargo

Lending a Helping Hand: Habitat for Humanity & Wells Fargo

Mission Makers

As a part of a national effort to improve the homes of Veterans across the country, Habitat for Humanity Greater Birmingham and Wells Fargo volunteers recently teamed up to improve the homes of two local Army veterans. “We all share a common interest and passion to serve those who served our country,” said Richard Busby, Wells Fargo V.P. and Senior Community Dev. Officer in Mid South Region. “This is a tangible way to show our gratitude and bring community together.” Established in 1987, Habitat Birmingham is a nonprofit Christian housing ministry serving Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker Counties. The organization is dedicated to making quality, affordable housing solutions available to low-income families. Learn more at www.habitatbirmingham.org

Volunteers focus on exterior repairs and painting at the homes of veterans living in Bessemer and East Lake.

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UAB Football’s Bill Clark

UAB Football’s Bill Clark

Back in the Game

“There’s bringing it back and there’s bringing it back the right way. I think we’re bringing it back the right way,” says Bill Clark of the reinstated football program at UAB. The Blazers game on Sept. 2 at Legion Field marks the first since the program was eliminated in 2014. Photos Courtesy UAB Athletics

When the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) discontinued its football program in 2014, Bill Clark had just completed his first season as head coach with a 6-6 record that made his team eligible for its first bowl appearance since 2004. What seemed like a giant step in the right direction for the program was followed by the University declaring the sport fiscally unsustainable. This was a devastating blow for the coach, his team and the community, but it wasn’t long before Birmingham businesspeople, alumni and former players began to rally: Blazers football will return. “Obviously it was tough, but to watch those people fight for us made me want to stick around and help them make a difference,” Clark remembers. “One of the things that I always wanted was to be a part of making a difference in a community or a school. That’s the stuff I’ve always loved.” Raising more than $44 million to fund both the program and new operations facilities, the team kicks off the 2017 season with a game against the Alabama A&M Bulldogs at Legion Field on Sept. 2. Clark celebrates the victory by reflecting on how his small-town upbringing and lessons in faith led him to the life he leads today.

A Passion for the Game. Clark jokes it was an air conditioner that first influenced him to fall in love with football. The son of a high school coach, the only way for him to get cool in his Ohatchee, Ala. home was to hang out in the room with the window unit A/C, which also happened to the office where his father watched films to prep for upcoming practices and games. “That was where I liked to hang out, for obvious reasons, and spend time with him. I loved everything about the sport,” he says. “I loved the strategy. I loved the interaction with the players. I loved game nights. I loved pregame speeches. I think everything that went with it, I enjoyed, and I just knew that’s what I always wanted to do.”

Grounded in Faith. Clark’s family eventually moved to Piedmont, Ala., where his father took another coaching job. His mother was a home economics teacher who played piano at the local church. “It was a simple childhood growing up, just athletics and church and school,” he remembers. “Most things revolved around the community… We were brought up that the church is just a part of everything you do. I was lucky in that—blessed I guess is the word—that’s just kind of who we were.” Life changed when Clark’s mother was killed in a car crash when he was 19 years old. Already studying physical education and history at Jacksonville State and starting his own coaching career, he moved back home with his father as they dealt with their loss. It’s an experience he draws on to this day when mentoring young men. “I tell guys all the time there’s always the why of why things happen. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t think that. One of the best people I had ever known—just as good a person as you’ll ever meet—was killed. That is when your faith is so important. That’s when you need it.” Clark says he never had any doubt that his mother’s resting place was in heaven. “That’s the faith that helps us go on.”

Dream Come True. Clark’s first head coaching job was at Prattville High School, where his players were awarded 106 wins and only 11 losses during his tenure. They won back-to-back Alabama High School Athletic Association State Championships for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. In 2008 Clark began coaching at the college level as defensive coordinator at the University of South Alabama until 2012. He then spent one season as head coach at Jacksonville State University before he was hired at UAB.

Coach Bill Clark and wife Jennifer with their children at daughter Katie’s October 2016 marriage to son-in-law Justin Spinks. Son Jacob Clark is a Redshirt Freshman for Blazers football this year. Photo: CWF Photography

Seeing the Big Picture. Prepping for the return of Blazers football has not been a singular focus for Clark’s team. Joined by Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) staff, he leads the charge in giving back to the community that supports the program. Last year coaches and players teamed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham to become Big Brothers and mentors of males in middle and high school in the greater Birmingham community. Participating students were bussed from their schools once per month to spend time with their Big Brothers on the UAB campus. Clark also purchased and donated 100 season tickets to the upcoming season to the mentoring program. In June, Clark and more than 40 members of the UAB Football team helped construct a five-bedroom house as a part of Habitat for Humanity’s 30th Anniversary build in Pleasant Grove. “College age, sometimes it’s easy to just think about yourself, but when you get around Big Brothers Big Sisters or you are doing something for Habitat for Humanity, you realize this world is bigger than you and we are called to serve other people,” says Tavon Arrington, UAB Campus Director for FCA, which returned to campus with the help of Coach Clark and former UAB FCA Board Chairman Charlie Nowlin.

Observing his athletes both on and off the field, Clark says youth today are intelligent and tech savvy but still need the face-to-face effort that a team sport like football offers. “I don’t think kids have changed as much as our expectations have changed. These kids today are so smart. They’ve got access to so much information,” he says. “[However,] human interaction is so important, and that’s the great thing about athletics. It still requires the same things it required 10 years ago, 20 years ago. It takes each other, it takes a physical effort, and I think an emotional effort, which is what I love about football. It takes more than yourself. It is truly a team effort.”

Keeping Faith First. A member of Church of the Highlands with wife Jennifer, Clark says lately his faith has been centered on whether the fruits of his faith can be seen in his character and actions. “What do people see in us that tells them something is different? That can be hard for coaches. I know for players and myself, when you are in an ultracompetitive world where everything revolves around winning and losing, I have to remind myself of that.” As a couple, wife Jennifer explains that prayer helps keep them grounded in what matters most. “Praying together is important to us, and Christ is at the center of everything we do and every decision we make,” she says.

“I tell our players all the time, for sure I’m not perfect,” says Clark. “There was only one perfect One, but hopefully that’s something that people can see in our daily walk and how we carry ourselves. Hopefully they see that as something they want to be part of.”

  • Camille Platt

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Ministering in the Workplace

Ministering in the Workplace

Faith at Work

S.S. Nesbitt executive, Paul Barber, approaches his work as his ministry.

Richard Simmons founded the faith-based Center for Executive Leadership in Birmingham 17 years ago, to teach and mentor young men and leaders in the business community. From his first breakfast meeting with 60 men to more than 400 in attendance at those same breakfasts today, Simmon’s team has influenced countless numbers of men to approach their work as their ministry. “I am seeking to equip men in the workplace so they can go out and build up the body of Christ,” he says.

Throughout the years, Simmons has encouraged leaders to pray for God to open up opportunities for servant leadership within the workplace. “This is the way God designed the church to work,” he explains. One of those individuals Simmons encouraged was Paul Barber, who was recently tapped by EBSCO Industries as the new president of its insurance division, S.S. Nesbitt. After 25 years as an insurance executive with McGriff, Seibels & Williams, Barber retired and spent the past year working alongside Simmons to mentor young leaders. But then Barber felt drawn back to the workplace, back to the industry he knows so well and back to doing what he was teaching others to do. “Jesus was a small contractor—in the Jewish faith you became a man at 13, so he had 17 years to learn what it meant to love your neighbor as a businessman,” Barber explains. “Exercising our faith in the workplace by being good stewards of our gifts and giving our employers a good return on our investment are all things that are living the Christian life.”

Barber shares how the former CEO at Protective Life Insurance Company, Drayton Nabers, inspired his transition. Speaking at one of Simmon’s early morning breakfast meetings, Nabers recounted how he would begin each Monday morning with a group of other believers at the company in prayer, sharing scriptures that invoke the business world. “We would hit those key issues confronting us that week,” recalled Nabers of his time spent with employees in prayer. Nabers weekend prayer time included a more extensive prayer list, often naming up to 100 employees at a time.

“The best leaders are servant leaders,” Barber says. “My job here is to serve every employee as they serve our clients.” Simmons agrees. “Executives need Christ as much as anyone else does,” he says. “I tell guys all the time that the apostle Paul says to pray that God will open doors for service and I encourage them to do that.”

-Ann Marie Harvey

Vice President of Communications

Vertical Solutions Media

 

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Serve Christ by Serving His Church

Serve Christ by Serving His Church

Mission Makers

70 churches over 37 years built by hundreds of volunteers to reach thousands for the sake of the Gospel = Builders for Christ (BFC).

Karen Denenberg (center) from Meadow Brook Baptist nails roof shingles during Builders for Christ project in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

By the end of August 2017, eleven Baptist churches and organizations from the Birmingham area will have sent Builders for Christ (BFC) teams to Gatlinburg, Tenn. to help reconstruct the Worship Center and Family Life Center of Roaring Forks Baptist Church. Both buildings were destroyed in the fires that swept through the area last year. “It’s almost like a family reunion,” says Kellyann German, 4-year BFC veteran (Meadow Brook Baptist). Overall, teams will have come from 76 churches in 22 states bringing more than 1,800 volunteers including newcomers, seasoned veterans, families, teenagers, and couples. Some are skilled (e.g. home builders, engineers, architects) but the vast majority is non-skilled laborers (e.g. nurses, teachers, salespersons, homemakers). They come for one week to offer Kingship efforts nailing roof shingles, installing sheetrock, designing ductwork, sawing boards, and cutting metal supports. Regardless of the task, all come with willing hearts to serve and sweat.

Construction takes place between late May and mid-August every year. However, much planning has occurred earlier in the year through an extensive screening process. This year’s site selection was Gatlinburg, Tenn. Last year it was Greenfield, Wis. BFC has been all over the country building churches. “Every trip we encounter churches with different ministries and different needs,” says German. “This year’s trip was unusual in that it followed a disaster. Roaring Forks had an involved transportation and feeding ministry for children and that ministry needed to be able to continue.” German’s husband Brandon, a 6-year veteran, said he especially enjoyed doing HVAC because it taught him a lesson in the concept of serving. “HVAC is an unseen task; it is the epitome of servanthood to me.” Numerous others, when asked what they like, simply said it is a blessing.

Mike Foster from First Baptist Church Birmingham cutting support structures in the rebuilding of Roaring Forks Baptist, Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Lawrence Corley, founder of Builders for Christ and member of Brookwood Baptist, Birmingham, Ala. proudly admits, “I’ve never met a single person unless they were too feeble (he chuckles) who couldn’t help with construction.” Ken Howell (Meadow Brook Baptist) reinforces Corley’s statement. “You don’t have to be skilled to be of great help.” Corley quickly adds that volunteer cooks play a significant role. They feed volunteers three times a day with a grand slam breakfast, a sandwich/fruit lunch combo, and a dinner equivalent to a Thanksgiving meal. Between 300-500 meals/day are prepared throughout the fifteen weeks of construction.

“Serve Christ by serving His church,” that’s what the Germans say they do now every summer and urge others to do the same. For details on joining the mission visit www.baptistbuildersforchrist.org.

Karen Allen 

Author of Confronting Cancer with Faith, www.confrontingcancerwithfaith.com

 

 

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Defending the Faith 2017

Defending the Faith 2017

Church Leaders

“Defending the Faith” speaker Gary Habermas has appeared on many national television outlets including the History Channel, Discovery Channel and BBC World defending the Christian faith. His brother Keith Habermas, is the former executive pastor at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Birmingham.

If you are a pastor or engaged lay person, you will not want to miss the upcoming “Defending the Faith” conference hosted by Tactical Faith ministry and Samford University. The one day event, August 7, will include multiple workshops focused on one of the most important topics of today- Christ and Culture. One of the keynote speakers will be Distinguished Research Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy Gary Habermas, PhD who has dedicated his professional life to the examination of the relevant historical, philosophical, and theological issues surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus. “It’s a difficult time for Christians,” says Habermas. “My burden is to train up people to see that we have a reason to believe what we do, and to share the foundation we have.” Habernas is the Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University and teaches in the PhD program at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has also authored, co-authored, or edited more than 40 books, of which over 20 are on various aspects of Jesus’ resurrection. Other subjects include near-death experiences, religious doubt, and personal suffering. He has been a Visiting or Adjunct Professor at some 15 different graduate schools and seminaries in the US and abroad and taught dozens of graduate courses in those venues. Habermas’ workshop topics include “Why Should We Trust the Bible?” and “Evidences of the Resurrection.” Learn more about him and read one of his latest e-books free, “Evidence for the Historical Jesus,” on his website, www.garyhabermas.com. There are a limited number of seats available for the August 7 “Defending the Faith” event. Registration is $20 for a full day of training and includes lunch. Learn more and register at www.tacticalfaith.com/defend-the-faith-2017/  †

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Area Youth Ambassadors to the World

Area Youth Ambassadors to the World

Youth News 

Youth from around the state gathered for the recent ReThink Conference in Birmingham that showcased philosophical, theological and apologetic topics.

We are accustomed to think of today’s youth as rash, impulsive and given to desultory grandeur. However, today’s Christian young adults are living in the same tension most of us deal with daily: a pressure to live a life for Christ in a western world that is increasingly secular and at best haunted by a Christian past. What I witnessed April 21st and 22nd at Briarwood’s ReThink youth apologetic conference was a generation aching for purpose and significance in light of their devotion to Christ.  Over 1600 people attended the two-day conference that showcased philosophical, theological, and apologetic topics. It was satisfying to see such interest in Christian learning and the attendance was remarkable considering the bevy of activities in central Alabama.

Briarwood, by organizing the event, understood the importance of helping Christian youth think deeply about their faith. By bringing in world-class educators they, as well as the sponsor partners, showed a continuing commitment to promoting a deep solid faith among our youth. I had the pleasure in talking with many parents and young adults at the event and the serious staunchness to Christianity was evident and astounding. It is nice to witness the handy-work of God as he constantly raises up able and willing Christians to be ambassadors to the world. The work, however, in our state has only started.  We need to be ever mindful of how our culture is changing even in the deep-south. Bemoaning how things should be or were in the past is not helpful to the church’s evangelical mission. If Rethink taught me anything, it’s that there are young people out there that are serious Christians and they want to make a real difference in their community, country and world. We as Christian adults need to turn our attention toward our youth and create environments where they can think deeply and honestly about their Christian faith. We must remember that our Christian worldview is powerfully comprehensive and consistent when it comes to answering life’s biggest questions. More importantly, we must live out these commitments in our own lives and devote ourselves to seeking after God with our minds and showcasing it in our character. We should view the Rethink conference as an important step toward our state’s commitment to the Christian faith. Learn more at www.rethinkapologetics.com

– Matthew Burford, President/Founder 

www.tacticalfaith.com

 

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“Youth Group of the Year”

“Youth Group of the Year”

Photo Fun

Ronald McDonald Charities of Alabama named Prince of Peace Catholic School students “Youth Group of the Year.” The middle schoolers volunteered at Ronald McDonald (RM) House in Birmingham for the past two school years and raised almost $8,000 for the charity through bake sales, car washes, jewelry sales and other fundraisers. “I’ve never seen a school do this before. We think it is just incredible,” said RM’s Kathy Robson. The group hand delivered a check that will sponsor a family room at RM House in Birmingham for one year.

 

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Birmingham Volunteers Share God’s Love in Moldova

Birmingham Volunteers Share God’s Love in Moldova

Mission Makers

David Brown and Karen Allen of Birmingham shovel buckets of dirt to be used for flooring in a Moldovan mud-thatch house being built for an area family.

“How beautiful the feet that carry the Gospel of peace to the fields of injustice and the valleys of need. To be a voice of hope and healing, to answer the cries of the hungry and helpless with the mercy of Christ.”

As I joined in singing these words from the “Compassion Hymn,” I reflected on how significant they were having just returned from a mission trip to Moldova – a poverty-stricken picturesque eastern European country about the size of Maryland still struggling to find autonomy after the ruin of Soviet socialism. Our team of 14 included volunteers from Meadow Brook Baptist and Fullness Christian Fellowship in Birmingham. We traveled to Dancu, Moldova to put the words of the hymn into action. We served meals to the sick and elderly, did home improvement projects, taught English, played children’s games, baked new recipes, constructed toolkits, ministered to disabled kids, shared testimonies, visited prisoners, provided greenhouse training, prayed, sang, crocheted, and tatted. And that’s not all! The talents and interests of each team member were used to shine the light of Christ.

Our mission: share the Gospel and help create an environment for economic development. The need for a sustainable level of economic stability and job growth is crucial. Moldovans are often forced to seek employment beyond the borders of their country. Human trafficking also entices desperate young girls grasping at the hope of a promised job that doesn’t exist

Team member David Brown works with Andrae from Moldova to measure and attach braces for hanging sheetrock in a mud-thatch house.

Our Birmingham team leader recognized the need for jobs and improved infrastructure in 2005 while working on a project for his MBA. God led him to a Baptist pastor in Dancu named Slavic. Over the years, their friendship has grown as has the vision. Pastor Slavic and his leadership team impact the community with ministries similar to American church ministries such as Girls in Action, Meals on Wheels, and youth activities. But Dancu Baptist partnering with Tabita Ministries extends its initiatives into business, agriculture, and specific needs including dairy and cheese production, bread baking, growing/harvesting lavendar and sunflowers, and reaching out to the learning disabled and handicapped. Our team shared the joy of assisting in their ministries and offering others during our weeklong stay.

 

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Miss Alabama Hayley Barber’s VISION to Help Others

Miss Alabama Hayley Barber’s VISION to Help Others

Miss Alabama 2016 Hayley Barber will pass on her crown at the conclusion of the 2017 Miss Alabama Pageant, held at the Wright Center at Samford University June 7-10. Photo Courtesy of Matt Boyd Photography.

Each time Hayley Barber has a chance to sign an autograph for a young fan, she pens the same encouraging message: You are fearfully and wonderfully made. A graduate of Pelham High School and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), she competed in the Miss Alabama pageant five times before she was crowned Miss Alabama in 2016. As her reign comes to an end and she passes the title to a new contestant early this month, she reflects on why that message will remain pivotal to her as she pursues a career in pediatric optometry: all people have a God-given value beyond the opinions of a judge, audience or peer.

Athletic and “always outside playing” as a child, Barber did not develop an interest in pageants until age 16, when she realized if she wanted to attend a four-year university, she needed to start looking at scholarship opportunities. She graduated valedictorian of her class, but her standardized test scores weren’t quite high enough for academic scholarships. She also had a passion for dance. The Pelham High School Pantherettes Dance Team won third place at the NDA National Dance Competition in kick and won state level competitions with kick, jazz, and prop while she was on the team. It took seeing a Miss Alabama Outstanding Teen pageant winner dance and speak at an event for Barber to realize pageants could be a way to prioritize her education, continue competing in dance, and give back to her community all at the same time.

As a child, Barber developed her dance skills at Exclusively Ballet & Dance on Cahaba Valley Road. After graduating from Pelham High in 2012, she became a Universal Dance Assoc. (UDA) Dance Instructor choreographing and teaching routines to middle and high school dance teams attending UDA camps across the U.S. Here she is seen tap dancing in the Miss Alabama 2016 pageant. Photo: Stacy Cobb/Willie Moore, Waterhouse Media

As her vision for her future was taking shape, Barber began to realize her eyesight was perhaps holding her back. She failed to get her driver’s license on her first attempt because she couldn’t pass the vision test. She had noticed problems with her vision in the classroom in the past but had never spoken up about it. After meeting with an optometrist and receiving corrective lenses, she began volunteering at the UAB Eye Care Center. “The very first day I worked in pediatrics, and I saw a young girl put on her first pair of glasses and she just lit up. She got so confident from being able to see things clearly,” she remembers. Barber could relate to that enthusiasm—she too had just realized the clarity that came from prioritizing her sight.


Barber founded her pageant community service platform “Sight for Small Eyes” in 2010. She has pushed for legislation that would require comprehensive eye exams for children entering kindergarten and wrote an interactive healthy vision curriculum for Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
She also partnered with optometrists at Wal-Mart Centers locally and regionally to provide free eye examinations to children up to age 8. Wal-Mart corporate later agreed to provide 10,000 free scholarship-based eye examinations nationwide.

Through her pageant community service platform, Barber raised enough money to give five electronic video magnifiers to children with low vision in Alabama. Photo Courtesy Sight Savers America.

Working alongside Pelham-based non-profit Sight Savers America, Barber learned there are many children who are legally blind in the state of Alabama who cannot have their vision corrected by surgery, therapy, or corrective lenses. These children need a closed-circuit television (now called an electronic video magnifier) that costs $2,500. In the five years Barber competed for the Miss Alabama crown—as Miss Tennessee Valley (2012), Miss Jefferson County (2013), Miss Phenix City (2014), Miss Talladega County (2015) and Miss Shelby County (2016)—she raised enough money for five machines to be given to low vision pediatric patients in Alabama. “The first girl that I delivered it to was unable to read before she got the machine. When I delivered it to her and trained her on it, she read her very first book on her own in front of me,” Barber remembers. “I’ve stayed connected with another child who received the machine and [then] was accepted to Alabama School of Fine Arts.” From among all the contestants competing at the Miss America pageant last fall, Barber was recognizednationally for her community service platform and won the Jean Bartlett Quality of Life Award. “That was probably my favorite and most rewarding experience thus far because I have worked really hard [to] grow my platform to its full extent so I can make the biggest impact I can possibly make,” she remembers.

Photo by Stacy Cobb/Willie Moore, Waterhouse Media

The daughter of Karon Holloway Barber and Rev. Mark Barber, pastor at Hillview Baptist Church near Forestdale, Ala., Hayley says as a child her routine was church every Sunday and every Wednesday. As she got older, she realized faith was no longer something she was required to participate in—it was up to her to make church attendance and spiritual development a priority. “I had to make the choice to have a relationship with God on my own,” she says. “That’s when I started to feel like I developed in my spirituality because I was making an active choice every day to read my Bible or pray continually.” That commitment gave her the strength she needed to handle the criticism that often comes with pageantry and the slips in confidence from comparing herself to other contestants. “Knowing that you are unique in your own right, that somebody created you for a special reason, has always helped me,” she says. “Being confident in the fact that I still had value was really important to me.” That is why she adds a hint of Psalm 139:14 to her autograph—especially when signing for girls.

To all the young women who walk away without the Miss Alabama title this month, Barber says the years she found herself in that same pair of heels she still benefitted tremendously from the program. “If I look at Hayley when I was 16 and was just starting out, I was shy. I was a tomboy. I was not outspoken whatsoever. And I look at me now and how much confidence I have gained. I know that’s due to the program,” she says. “I forced myself to live a healthy lifestyle because of the swimsuit competition. I forced myself to speak in public because I wanted to share my platform. I forced myself to build leadership skills by fundraising. So all the different aspects of the program really pushed me to become the best person I could be and I gained lifelong friends along the way. “Barber says she will draw upon all of the valuable experience she gained from the Miss Alabama program, the scholarship money she earned, and most importantly her faith as she applies to graduate schools to study to be an optometrist and live out her vision of serving others in our community.

-Camille Platt 

 

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