by Eddie Moody, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
Grace and Hope in Memphis
“Could you come back next week?”
So began the post-convention meeting with city officials in Memphis Thursday morning after the convention. This was only my second such meeting; the first was in Cincinnati as an observer. During this meeting, we considered what went well and what didn’t. It involved discussions such as the reverb in the convention hall, used for the first time during our convention. Other meetings addressed hotel challenges, security issues, and outstanding bills. The overall feedback was “Your people were so kind,” and rather than celebrating our departure, they wished we could stick around.
People need grace. The city was encouraged by the grace extended to them and their staff when things didn’t work so well. They were amazed by how patient and respectful our people were. One official noted how often we greeted workers—making it clear these workers mattered. You can learn much about a person’s character by how they treat people who serve them (food servers, housekeepers, security officers). Another official noted how Free Will Baptists threw away their own trash. Everyone was especially taken aback by the well-mannered, well-behaved youth. Truth and Peace stood out with their backpacks and were often referenced.
People are watching! A hotel general manager described a “wonderful and graceful couple” he met. After waiting with them for their Uber™ driver to arrive early one morning, he observed how rudely the driver treated the couple, refusing to take them to the airport. Embarrassed and upset by this, he confessed, “I could not let them leave with this image of our city.” He took the couple to the airport himself, and though embarrassed by the situation, he felt blessed to spend more time with this “special couple.”
We heard similar comments throughout the week. One worker told Dr. Danny Baer the gracious way our people treated workers in the convention center was sadly different than their usual encounters.
During the last meeting with city officials, we discussed the many challenges. In a way, this was expected. The city filled more hotel rooms than any time prior to COVID-19. As the meeting ended, one of the officials shared she has a very ill loved one. She asked if we would pray with her. Ryan Lewis, convention manager, asked Derek Altom, Vertical Three director, to pray. Derek took the woman’s hand and prayed aloud for the situation. When he finished, she tearfully thanked him. I don’t think she'd have asked us to pray if she had not seen the testimony of our people.
There is hope. As I drove away from Memphis, my mind went back to the first meeting of the day. One city leader described how difficult the last year and a half had been for him and his staff. He told us the convention had been refreshing to his workers. Then he teared up and confessed, “I have been very discouraged about the trajectory of our country, after all the unrest in our nation and our difficulty finding workers. I’m 60, and sometimes I wonder if people in this generation will take care of me in 20 years?” Then, he added, “I was especially encouraged by all the youth I have seen here. I tell you; it has given
Hope! And the man did not attend a single service or seminar. Who could have known graciousness to food service workers, patience with bellhops, desk workers, and maintenance staff could have such an impact? But it did. It appears we left Memphis a little better than we found it.
Well done, Free Will Baptists!
About the columnist: Better Together is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Eddie Moody, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life and ministry. Have a suggested topic or question? Contact Eddie: firstname.lastname@example.org.