“I realized that Dr. Wood is more than just a rock star; he is a real person, complete with legs and gold-toe socks.”
I first met Dr. George O. Wood (or THE WOOD as we respectfully and affectionately refer to him in my home), at the General Superintendent’s forum at General Council in Orlando, Florida in 2015. I had a simple job at this meeting to hand out papers. When I realized who I was handing out said papers to, I of course dropped them all on the floor. As I picked them up, assuring everyone seated of my competence as a minister, I realized that Dr. Wood is more than just a rock star; he is a real person, complete with legs and gold-toe socks.
I have since had the opportunity to selfie several times with Dr. Wood, which obviously makes me an expert and qualified to write this article. And from my non-vast personal experiences with him, I would like to share with you the nuggets of solid gold I have gotten from my hero in the faith. Some of these are actual wisdom-nuggets, some fools gold, but mostly it is a chemical composite of reality mixed with all the pretend hangout sessions he and I have had in my imagination.
When I was in college, a boy brazenly told me he hated all red hair because it always looked like clown hair. While I admit, in Florida I do have a somewhat striking resemblance to Ronald McDonald, I had always been proud to be redheaded, but this boy had made me feel ashamed of it. In fact, he told me that my hair was the exact same shade as an orangutan. And when I fact-checked his statement against my set of Encyclopedia Britannica’s, he was indeed correct. Now when I first saw Dr. Wood up close, I immediately began to suspect that under the white façade was a glimmering mane of red curly locks.
A few months ago I emailed Springfield and asked for a meeting with Dr. Wood. I mentioned I was with the PreacherGirls2.0 which I’m pretty sure was confused in Springfield with the much more professional and eloquent PreacherGirls (The Original), and we were miraculously granted admittance to the highest court in our fellowship for one whole hour.
PG’s2.0 were SO nervous. We were going to meet with THE WOOD and several of the executive presbyters. What would we do? What would we say? Could we all get matching outfits in time? Needless to say we were SO nervous when we showed up to headquarters in Springfield. I am not gonna lie, I needed two sets of dress shields that day. Sitting awkwardly in his waiting room area while he did important world business, we made seventh grade jokes, took selfies (of course), and tried to reverse the direction of moisture away from our palms and back into our cottonmouths.
What I learned from Dr. Wood that day is that when you’re super cool, don’t horde all the cookies. Bring in the goofy pre-adolescent seventh graders and share generously. It makes them feel like they are important. It validates them. It takes the pressure off. It engenders them to you for life. It puts everyone at ease. What a gift. What a priceless gift of acceptance and generosity. And, I’m not gonna lie, Dr. Wood enjoys a good cookie, so much so that I felt comfortable enough to take a few home in my pocket book.
You would be super hard pressed to find Dr. Wood in anything but a dapper tailored suit and tie on most days, but there have been moments when I was quite surprised to see him in what was either a Hawaiian type button down or an African type short dashiki shirt. Our Superintendent is a trendsetter with a dry sense of humor. He has his own sense of style, and he is fearless (pun intended) in its expression. He isn’t trying to be anyone but himself. He is confident in who he is. He doesn’t do it to be garish, or make a political statement, and he doesn’t do it all the time. He wears what’s appropriate for every occasion so as not to offend, but he’s an individual, with an occasional expression of spice (Ginger-ly done of course). It makes me love him even more.
What I learn from this is, you don’t have to be uptight all the time. Sure we are leaders. Sure, some of us are admired and looked up to. But we don’t have to be stodgy and uptight 24/7 just because we think that’s what a leader should look like.
“Soul salvations happened. Tears fell. Warriors were born.”
Last night I went to jail with a determination I have never had. I was there to kick down doors.
It was then that Cell 3 bowed their heads and began to pray. We prayed to the best of our abilities like Paul and Silas. We lifted the name of Jesus for all to hear. We praised God for every good thing we could think of. Women who have been beaten and imprisoned raised their voices in the dimly lit cell as one family and praised God in unison. And then God shook Cell 3. Spiritual chains began to fall off. Soul salvations happened. Tears fell. Warriors were born.
The sick girl next to me showed me her prayer request written long before our prayer. It said, “Having a really hard time right now. The Devil is trying me and I’m tired of fighting. I just want to lay it all down.”
She said through tears, “I wrote this before you talked about fighting the enemy tonight. God knew I needed to hear this.”
I told her, “God made plans for me to come tonight with this message for you. Years before you even knew you needed it HE was making provisions for your need tonight because HE loves you that much. You can’t stop fighting…not while you’re on my team.” To which she renewed her resolve and took up her Sword.
Another girl, who opened the door to Jesus for the first time last night wept. She couldn’t believe Jesus would save her. She couldn’t believe he had set her free from her past and addictions.
Y’all, this is what miracles look like. This is what it looks like for chains of despair, that dig into the deep places of souls, to fall to the cold, hard ground. This is what it looks like for captives to be set free, for legacies to be changed, for eternities to be changed. This is what it looks like when warriors take up their calling. It is beautiful.
I love you, sweet friends. And I’m grateful to call you that. You are all such a blessing to me.
For HIS Kingdom and HIS glory,
“I am merely a FedEx-type worker on HIS behalf.”
Today I dropped off an application for one of my inmates to start her life over in a different city, while we continue to work and build a refuge for women like her in her city. I also learned of another young lady who wishes to follow in her footsteps and start her life over outside as well.
And in the height of that exciting news (and back-patting), I received a text letting me know that another one of my girls was back in jail and yet another had overdosed at 29 years old leaving two babies behind without a mother, and if I am totally honest I could not even remember her face. I had to look through my files to find her name. I could only find it one time, and next to it was written a prayer request, “Please, pray for the lost.”
One moment I had been congratulating myself, and the next moment I felt like a complete failure. I failed her. If I had done more, prayed more, fasted more, spoken more passionately. If our home were up and running. If I had done more to raise the funds we need. I could have done more to save her, I thought.
I wanted desperately to wallow in the defeat of her death and simultaneously blame myself for being so prideful a moment earlier. Guilt and condemnation had my number. BUT, I kept hearing a voice inside that I feel certain must be Jesus saying, “You are not a Savior. This is not about you. This story is not yours. These lives are not yours. The gift you offer is not yours. They are Mine alone. The success is not yours and neither is the failure. MY Grace will NEVER depend on your performance.”
I do not have hope to give. My job is to deliver HIS hope. I do not have the ability to save. All I have is a finger that can point to a Savior. My words have no power, no authority, no life in them without; they are HIS. HE alone is the gift-giver, she alone can receive the gift.
My heart aches not just for her loss and her children, but for the ultimate rejection of HIM.
For those of you who think missionaries and pastors are heroes, and for those of us who believe ourselves to be; we are not. I am not. You and I are just the messengers.