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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Faith at Work

Faith at Work

CIA Officer, Banker and UPS Store Owner, Keith Sides

UPS Store Owner Keith Sides and his staff are available to serve customers Monday through Saturday at 5184 Caldwell Mill Road.

Birmingham Christian Family recently sat down with Birmingham business owner Keith Sides who shared with us how God is using his life experiences to better serve others in his new role as owner of the UPS Store located at the intersection of Valleydale and Caldwell Mill Road.

Q. Does your experience as a CIA Officer, banker and now UPS Store business owner, allow you to better understand your customer needs, particularly the needs of small business owners?

    A. Every step along the way has been a learning experience. From the CIA, I learned about dedication to duty, honor, and integrity, and the importance of disciplined thinking. From 27 years in banking I learned to work with a variety of people in a variety of industries to help them succeed financially as it related to their business. As a small business owner now myself, I can draw on those experiences to remember that the reason my business exists ultimately is to serve others, to use my experience to creatively help them find ways to succeed through the resources I have available to me.

Q. How does your faith impact how you run your business?

   A. Jesus commands us to serve others and go the extra mile in that service. He set the example, not specifically in business but in every-day life. That is the key I want to remember and live out each day and I want my employees to do so as well.

Q. What is the most rewarding aspect of the business to you?

   A. I think the most rewarding aspect is the challenge of learning something new .I hope I can be an example of the truism that “old dogs can learn new tricks.”

Q. What are some of the services that our readers may not realize that you provide that could be helpful to them in running their business and/or running their home?

   A. When you think UPS, of course you think shipping. And that’s true about our UPS store. More importantly and more broadly I want people to think “business services,” specifically geared to small businesses, whether operating from the home or a more typical business location. Digital printing is by far the largest part of our business. We print everything from business cards to banners, flyers, brochures, stationary, and bound binders and booklets. Have your own art work- we’ll print it. Have just an idea – we have graphic artists that can turn ideas into reality. We cut documents to size, fold brochures, and drill documents for inserting into ring binders. One of the more significant benefits for small business owners operating out of a home is our mailbox service which provides an actual street address as an alternative to using a personal home address for business. We also provide shredding and notary services. We are all about a full range of business services.

Q. One of your slogans is, “Ask us about printing. Let us know your story.” Could you share a few of the ways services you offer help customers tell their story?

   A. Our goal is to work with customers to identify their needs. Our clients may bring in print ready artwork with a specific product in mind – and that is fine. Other times their first need is not necessarily to print – their need is to communicate who they are and the benefits of the products or services they offer and that can be communicated in a variety of printed ways. We bring a wealth of friendly and experienced personnel to the table to work with our clients in determining the best means to that end that is both efficient and cost effective. Then we print!

Visit Keith and his staff at 5184 Caldwell Mill Road in the Publix Shopping Center, 35244 or give them a call at 205-980-8180 to start a conversation about how they can help you, https://hoover-al-2389.theupsstorelocal.com/

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Women’s Committee of 100 Honors Daniel Cason

Women’s Committee of 100 Honors Daniel Cason

Music Man Daniel Cason Recognized for Humanitarian Efforts 

Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, CEO of Hoffman Media, presents Daniel Cason with the Brother Bryan- Prayer Point Award given by the Women’s Committee of 100 for Birmingham. The group was organized in 1964 “to amplify the greater good of people in Birmingham and environs.”

“He is our Brother Bryan of today. I have seen the lines of people he and his wife Gwendolyn feed on a weekly basis. He loves this city and the people he ministers to every day. He could have had a major concert career in music in the finest concert halls in the world, but he chose to minister to people,” explains Phyllis Hoffman of her nomination of Daniel Cason to receive the Brother Bryan- Prayer Point Award given each year by the Women’s Committee of 100 for Birmingham. With the award, the Committee recognizes an individual who has “made outstanding humanitarian contributions to the community exemplifying the life of Brother John Bryan. The nominee must identify a human need within the community and invest substantial time to resolving the need.” Cason received the award April 4 at the Birmingham Country Club. Cason, whose skills as a pianist led him to perform for the Pope and at the White House, also led him to dedicate his life to helping children and families in our community through Daniel Cason Ministries, www.danielcason.org. The ministry provides music and arts training for children, after school programs, hot meals to those in need as well as a feeding and clothing closet. †

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Workout for Water with Forrest Walden

Workout for Water with Forrest Walden

Workout for Water: Iron Tribe’s Forrest Walden

More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Nearly all these deaths occur in the developing world. Birmingham’s Forrest Walden, the founder of Iron Tribe Fitness, is best known for putting a creative spin on the competitiveness of group exercise—but his clients and franchisees also have a heart for global change, gathering once a year for a public workout that pays tribute to the hardships of villages in poverty-ridden nations. Their hope is that this month’s Workout for Water event in Avondale will raise $450,000 to provide access to clean water in struggling communities worldwide.

Forrest Walden and his wife, Mendy, met as cheerleaders at Auburn University in 1997.

Raised in Hoover, Walden realized as a freshman at Berry High School in 1990 that if he wanted any playing time on the football field he was going to need to get acquainted with the weight room. That’s where his passion for fitness took root. In college, he joined the cheerleading squad at Auburn University and needed to put on 30 pounds of muscle to have the strength to press his partner above his head. He set a goal, bought a journal, and wrote down every workout, meal and supplement. The confidence he gained changed his life, and he decided his future would be dedicated to helping others achieve their health goals as well

As a fitness coach and businessman, Walden eventually owned the franchise rights to a one-on-one personal training program and oversaw the development of 55 franchises in three states. However, by late 2007, he was losing his focus and passion. He was spending more time traveling than working with clients side by side. While working out with friends at home, he realized that the competitive enthusiasm among peers trying to outdo each other put an excitement and work ethic into fitness he had never seen in private personal training sessions. “I was witnessing the future of the industry in my garage. Because of peer pressure, people were pushing themselves harder than they ever would have with a personal trainer—they didn’t want to be beaten by a friend or quit in front of the group,” Walden writes in his book Iron Tribe: From Garage Hobby to Fitness Franchise. “I also realized that competition was something that appealed to everyone. If I could find a way to get others to experience it, they would be hooked in the same way my little garage band was.”

In business and in faith, Forrest Walden says his stepfather, Ricky Brooks, CEO of Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers, has been a positive influence on his life. “He’s a great model of someone who’s been very successful in the for-profit marketplace but also makes his life matter for things that matter eternally.”

As he took steps toward opening his first Iron Tribe location in Homewood in 2010, Walden was also becoming involved in global missions. David Platt, who pastored The Church at Brook Hills from 2006 to 2014, had challenged his congregation, including Walden, to spend two percent of their time overseas, the equivalent of one week each year. “[It] kind of wrecked my world and made me question a lot of things,” Walden remembers of the poverty he witnessed. “A couple of guys started traveling with me—good friends of mine in my small group—and we went to Sudan, India, Mexico. We just really felt like God was calling us to do something tangible with what we were seeing. We didn’t know what that would look like or what that would mean, and the more we pressed into it and sought Him the more it became clear that we were to start an organization that was focused on clean water, supporting the church in some of the most marginalized and least reached and poorest places on Earth.”

Walden joined Mark Whitehead and Spencer Stutton in assembling a board of directors and naming their organization—Neverthirst. They began partnering with existing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and for-profit organizations already drilling wells in North Africa and Southern Asia, then connecting them with the local church in the community in need. Church representatives drive the strategy for where the water source should go. Neverthirst solutions to clean water shortages include shallow rope pump wells, drilled deep wells, household rainwater collection, biosand filters, and piped water systems.

The Waldens adopted their youngest son Benjamin from Ethiopia in 2011. “There is no clearer picture of the Gospel than adoption,” says Forrest Walden. “He was given a new name and a new country and a new citizenship and new rights and new inheritance. To see where he came from and the desperate nothingness of his situation to now having everything through adoption, that’s just a picture of what we have in Christ.” Photo Credit: Amy Henry Photography

Walden has remained on the Neverthirst Board of Directors since its inception in 2008 and helps Iron Tribe locations in Birmingham, Ala.; Nashville, Tenn.; St. Louis, Mo.; Greenville, S.C.; Naples, Fla.; Raleigh, N.C.; and other franchise cities organize their own annual Workout for Water events. Participants include gym members and members of the community who enjoy a physical challenge and want to raise money for the cause. Iron Tribe clients have traveled with Walden to remote villages to see the impact their contributions for clean water solutions have made. Walden’s goal is to raise $800,000 for Neverthirst nationwide this year. Last year’s event raised $412,000 in Birmingham and another $295,000 from franchise locations for a total of $707,000 in projects implemented in Cambodia.

Walden says his most touching memory of his travels abroad is of his first trip to Witto, a village in South Sudan. The natives had been displaced by war and were returning home after living in the bush for 15 years. “The village pastor basically said for 15 years we’ve been praying that God would restore us to our land and send us help, and because you are here, we know that He has heard our prayers,” Walden remembers. “I was fighting back tears just thinking that we were tangible evidence of his prayers.” Witto became the location of Neverthirst’s first project in 2008.

Neverthirst staff Jason Berry, Mark Whitehead, Brandon Gossett and John Sides join Walden (center) in raising money for clean water sources in developing nations. Join them May 13, www.workoutforwater.com.

Since 2010, Workout for Water has raised more than $2 million for clean water solutions in India, Cambodia, Nepal, Chad, South Sudan and Sudan. Pledges are currently being collected for this year’s event, which will be hosted outside Avondale Brewery from 8:00 a.m. to noon on May 13. The fitness challenge will include Iron Tribe-style stations for teams of four, reminding participants of the importance of Neverthirst’s cause. Station Three, for example, will include a bucket (representing a well) and 100 blue poker chips on the ground (representing drops of water). Team members can place one chip in the bucket for every burpee completed. For details on how you can participate, call Neverthirst at 205-991-7757 or visit workoutforwater.com.

-Camille Platt 

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Mission Makers: Brother Bryan Mission

Mission Makers: Brother Bryan Mission

Extending Hope & Restoring Relationships: Brother Bryan Mission

The Mission’s old dining area has been transformed into a study area for men participating in the Mission’s residential recovery and job readiness program.

“Men become homeless because they have run out of relationships not because they have run out of money,” says Brother Bryan Mission(BBM) Executive Director Jim Etheredge, citing a recent study conducted by Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University. It is with that understanding that the Mission helps homeless individuals in our community restore relationships. “We see miracles here of guys that reestablish relationships with family…We just start loving them and help them put the pieces of their lives back together,” says Etheredge adding that the Mission specifically does this through the New Life Fellowship (NLF) Program focused on residential recovery and job readiness. Graduates of the nine-month Christian recovery program also have the option to continue living in the Mission’s safe, Christian environment for up to two years as a part of the back to work program, Exodus.

Food Service Manager, Bobby Montgomery at work in the new BBM kitchen. Montgomery is a Dean’s List student at Southeastern Bible College and graduated from the Mission’s NLF program last year.

The Mission is now better equipped to offer both these programs thanks to the completion of expanded kitchen and dining facilities as well as a renovated and much larger chapel area used for daily services. The expansion was made possible by the donated services of Grayson Construction as well as donations from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the S.E. Belcher Foundation, and Pace Runners, Inc. and individual donors. The Mission can now serve twice as many people at meal time and is expected to average 45,000 meals served this year. Plus, the old dining space has been renovated to provide more study space for residents. The next project is turning the old kitchen into laundry facilities so that residents can do their laundry in house. To help make this a reality and to support the ongoing expenses of the Mission, visit www.bbmission.com to donate on line or mail a contribution directly to the mission at P.O. Box 11254, Birmingham, 35202. Learn more at www.bbmission.com. †


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Cover Story: J. Warner Wallace

Cover Story: J. Warner Wallace

Forensic Faith:

Dateline Detective J. Warner Wallace

Called the “Evidence Whisperer” by the television crew at Dateline, best-selling author and apologist J. Warner Wallace will be a featured speaker at the reTHINK Apologetics Student Conference in Birmingham April 21-22, www.rethinkapologetics.com/alabama.

An outspoken atheist for much of his life, cold case detective J. Warner Wallace was familiar with two types of Christians as a young adult: fellow cops who had an evidential approach to their work but had no idea evidentially why Christianity was true, and the apologetic criminals he hauled off to jail. He wanted nothing to do with faith until age 35, when he decided to put his detective skills to work on the New Testament accounts of the life of Christ. Now a featured cold case detective on  NBC’s

Dateline as well as a Christian apologist and best-selling author, Wallace will speak at the reTHINK Apologetics Student Conference in Birmingham April 21-22.

Wallace’s parents divorced when he was young, and his mother raised him for many of his formative years. She was a “cultural Catholic” jaded by the stigma of being a divorced woman in the church in the 1960s, he says, and while he occasionally attended mass and took communion, he never believed any of it was true. Wallace started in law enforcement in 1988. He worked patrol with the Torrance Police Department in California before moving on to work gangs, SWAT, surveillances and robbery/homicide. As a police officer, he peaked in his passionate mockery of the faith.

Two things made Christianity absurd to Wallace. First, his friends who were Christians could not answer what he saw to be the simplest of questions: Why do you believe the Bible is true? Their best answer looked like blind trust or claims of personal communication from God. Second, on the job, he learned to identify Christians as people passionately repentant for regular, premeditated criminal misconduct. “If you were a drug user, you were using heroin, we would probably watch you come and go back and forth from your girlfriend’s house to your seller. Finally you’d run out of money and go off and do an armed robbery, and then we’d take you to jail,” Wallace says of his time in surveillance. “These guys would tell us, ‘I know I shouldn’t be doing this, I’m a Christian, you know, I’ve been a Christian for years.’ We would just think that was the funniest thing ever. We spent a lot of time mocking these guys to our friends.”

Wallace’s wife Susie grew up in the Catholic Church and wanted church attendance to be a part of their lives once they had children. Wallace was more than willing to participate, as an atheist. When their children were about four and six years old, however, Wallace attended a service at which he heard Jesus identified as the author of the teachings on which Western civilization is grounded. “Here I was a police officer who was enforcing the laws of the culture but never had really heard Jesus described as the source of those laws. So I said OK, I’ll buy a Bible. And I started reading through it to see what Jesus had to say.”

In an intense six-month personal study of Scripture, Wallace found the Gospels to be a historical account in which the authors were trying to convince him certain events actually took place. It was a familiar situation for a detective accustomed to solving cases from the distant past, with written reports but no access to original witnesses. Law enforcement had given him a skillset for evaluating the veracity of ancient text. “I was somebody who had probably done hundreds and hundreds of both witness interviews and suspect interviews. Interviews where people are for the most part doing their best to tell me the truth, and interviews where people are for the most part doing their best to tell me a lie,” he says of the unique perspective his work in law enforcement gave him as he originally wrestled with whether the Bible could be true. “What’s great about that process is you start to get really comfortable with distinguishing the difference between people who are truth tellers and people who aren’t.”

For him, the Gospel stories of the life of Christ passed the test. As far as he could test them, he could not disprove them. “I work complex, cumulative, circumstantial cases. When you work a case like that, you build up 100 pieces of evidence, small little things that by themselves are kind of meaningless but when you add them all up they point to the same guy,” he explains. “Christianity—there were lots of little things that all seemed to add up. I call it death by a thousand paper cuts. This is a good case. This is a case I could put in front of a jury.”

As a detective, Wallace has solved a dozen cold cases over 24 years and his work has been featured on NBC’s Dateline four times.

At age 37, Wallace remained a full-time detective while earning a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Since then, he has become a renowned Christian apologist and best-selling author. He has worked as a youth pastor and created a Cold-Case Christianity website, blog and podcast. He is passionate about changes needed in the church to respond to the crisis of young people leaving the faith. “We have a country that is less and less likely to be Christian in the next generation because it is the youngest people who are far more likely to walk away. We don’t see an attrition rate of people in their 50s who are deciding that Christianity is not true. That’s just not happening. It’s happening in your 20s, in your teens. Most atheists in their 30s will say those years between 13 and 17 were the most formative for them.”

Access to the Internet has allowed the atheist worldview to influence youth more than ever before. When teens find well-versed arguments against Christianity online or at school, Wallace says their struggle is often verbalized as:

  • I didn’t feel like I could ask these questions because if I did the church would doubt the strength of my faith.
  • When I asked these questions of people who mattered to me or I thought would have an answer, they weren’t articulate.
  • I’d get an objection from something online or from school and bring it back to my believing authority–my mom, my dad, my youth pastor–and the quality of the answer didn’t seem to be as high as the quality of the answer from the atheist perspective.

An adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University, Wallace has previously written books on making a case for Christianity, a case for theism based on evidence in the universe, and a case for the resurrection of Jesus. Forensic Faith, available May 1, will help readers understand why they have a duty to defend the truth and teach readers detective skills to discover new insights in God’s Word.

This means the bar set for youth pastors and college ministry is high. Church staff—and parents—need help to equip themselves for the questions coming their way. “As a church family, we have a crisis moment. You’d think as a family we’d kind of circle the wagons and basically shape and craft everything we do as a family based on the needs of our youngest,” he says.

Designed for junior high, high school and college-aged students and their leaders, reTHINK Apologetics Student Conference is a product of Stand to Reason, an organization that trains Christians to think more clearly about their worldview then defend classical Christianity and classical Christian values in the public square. At the Birmingham conference in April, Wallace will explain how Christians can use the principles of cold-case detective work to defend the resurrection and the reliability of the Gospels. “I have to eliminate the alternative suspects when I work a case. If I’ve got three possible suspects, I’m not going to want those other two guys to be brought up during my trial,” he explains. “If I know they’re not my guy, I’ve got to demonstrate why so when I get to trial my guy is the last one standing. So a lot of times you have to be well versed enough in alternative worldviews to be able to make a case for why Christianity is the strongest remaining worldview. That’s a lot of work… [but] we’re going to have to know at least enough about why this is true if we want to call ourselves Christians. You’re seeing people flip over to different worldviews because they have no reason to hold onto their own.”

– Camille Smith Platt



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Mission Makers: Woman’s Missionary Union

Mission Makers: Woman’s Missionary Union

Called to Serve: Sandy Wisdom-Martin, WMU Exec.Dir.

Sandy Wisdom-Martin began her new role as executive director/treasurer of Birmingham based WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union) in October of last year. She is succeeded by Wanda Lee who served as Executive Director of the national organization for 16 years. According to Lee, Wisdom-Martin’s “quiet presence puts people at ease while building confidence in the actions to be taken,” and she leads “from a place of complete surrender to the Lord.”

WMU Executive Director, Sandy Wisdom-Martin has a passion to “love, nurture, bless, and turn our young people loose for God to do what He wants through their lives.” WMU is a vehicle to do that. Learn more at www.wmu.org.

Previously, Wisdom-Martin was Women’s and Missions and Ministries Director for the Illinois Baptist State Association and Cooperative Program Missionary with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. These roles, along with numerous other circumstances along the way, shaped her into the person she is today. From being discipled and learning that God had a plan for her life at a young age, to joining a missions program called Acteens as a teenager, her experiences “set the stage for me to be able to hear and respond to God’s call on my life,” she says. Despite her lengthy list of qualifications, Wisdom-Martin insists she is not qualified to be executive director of WMU. She references 2 Corinthians 12:10 and says “being weak is not especially comfortable- but it is the means by which God’s holy power can be freely released.” She left behind a comfortable life, but her reward will be “to be a witness to what God and God alone can do in our midst.”

Wisdom-Martin’s biggest goal for WMU in 2017 is for people to understand why WMU exists. Wisdom-Martin says, “We put our hearts into this ministry because God said to care for the poor.” It is this belief that fuels her passion. “We are not defined by what others say about us nor what we think about ourselves. We are defined by the One who calls us by name.”


  • Rachel Biddy

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Faith at Work: Jeremy Miller

Faith at Work: Jeremy Miller

The Day I Met My Father

Being raised by my mother, who was a single parent, I started getting into trouble at an early age. I left home at the age of seventeen. I thought I had it all figured out, but nothing in my life changed; trouble with the law, drugs, and everything else that follows. I was like that until I turned 30 and was incarcerated. I had tried to blame my circumstances on everything else but the right reasons. One of my major excuses was not having a father figure in my life, for the most part which was right.

The day I received Christ as my Savior, life had pushed me to the breaking point. Everything was out of my control. I didn’t realize, God had put so many people around me. I was so lost in my own world that I never saw it. These people stood by me through God’s love, and never gave up hope; hope being defined as waiting expectantly. They knew God would change me, because they had what I lacked, Faith. I realized the reason I had failed in life was because I had no Father in my life. The day I met my Father, I found out that He had always loved me. He gave me forgiveness, grace, a new life, and most of all love when I didn’t love myself. What I’m most grateful for is, even though this life has challenges, He is there with me through it all.

God’s Word promises me that my new life is forever. He will never leave me, and most of all, He will never stop loving me. Everything is brand new for me. Everything looks differently now because I see through God’s love and His eyes.

This is the testimony of an incarcerated man that is serving a Life without Parole Sentence inside of a prison in the State of Alabama

-Jeremy Miller 

Miller serves in one of our Alabama Correctional facilities as a We Care Ministry Chaplain. To learn more about how you can be involved in prison ministry visit www.thehopeforlife.com or listen to his podcasts, “Detention to Redemption” on ITunes and Stitcher Radio.

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Education Extra: Tactical  Faith

Education Extra: Tactical Faith

Tactical Faith: Initiating Conversations About Christianity in our Community

Dateline’s cold-case detective and best-selling author of Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace, will be a featured speaker at the reThink Apologetics conference in Birmingham April 21-22.

Tactical Faith started as a simple idea between three men over a BBQ lunch in Homewood, Ala. The men present at the meal were accustomed to thinking and talking about Christianity in a certain way and tone. They all tried to love God using both their minds and hearts and desperately wanted to see Christianity promoted in Alabama as something both intellectual and spiritual. The founders of Tactical Faith loved the simplicity of the message of Christ, but also understood that Christians were called to a deep faith that could be probed emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. This is the basic passion that started our nonprofit ministry. Since Tactical Faith’s inception, we have made it our goal to bring the brightest minds of our faith to Alabama. Working with churches, schools and organizations we organize lecture series that cover a wide-array of theological topics. From the issue of resurrection, to the validity of miracles in a secular world, we try to find themes that appeal to a wide array of Christians and non-Christians.

We are purely a volunteer organization that runs on donations from our supporters. With no complex overhead, we can pursue the creativity needed for our type of ministry. Because we see the importance of the local church, we are mindful of our place as a support to the local body here in Alabama. We want to help develop the very best Christian education for our state. From Mobile to Huntsville, we have worked hard to initiate conversations about Christianity.

We are proud to partner with Briarwood Presbyterian Church on April 21-22, 2017 to bring one of the largest youth apologetic events in the country, “reThink Apologetics,” to Birmingham. This conference equips students with the necessary tools to talk reasonably and faithfully about Christ and the Christian worldview. Having this caliber of instruction in Birmingham furthers Tactical Faith’s goal of helping Christian churches and organizations flourish here in the great state of Alabama. I hope you will consider attending. You will not regret it. Learn more at www.rethinkapologetics.com/alabama.

– Matthew Burford, President/Founder 


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