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October-November 2021

Celebrating 100 Issues of ONE Magazine


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Molded for His Purpose

By Eric K. Thomsen


When Elizabeth Hodges began driving her father Ronald Creech to associational meetings when she turned 16, she had no idea those long Carolina miles were preparing her to be director of Women Nationally Active for Christ someday. She was just excited to drive while her dad snored (loudly) in the passenger’s seat.

“I loved those trips,” she recalls. “I remember going to one meeting in the mountains where people were shouting and waving. The preacher began jumping the pews, and when he went by, he hit me on the head with the Bible. It scared me to death! Daddy just laughed and told me people worship differently. That moment prepared me for international travel, where worship is so different and yet comes from a pure heart.”

This treasured memory is but a single instance in an endless string of ways God molded Elizabeth for His purpose. And “growing up Creech” as she describes her childhood, proved to be the perfect setting to learn these important lessons.


Life at the Creech House

Elizabeth’s quiet, reserved, and happy-in-the-background mother taught her to be meticulous, compassionate, and the importance of writing personal notes and letters. “She had a remarkable memory,” Elizabeth recalls. “Names, addresses, phone numbers—she could pull them all off the top of her head. I did not inherit that memory.”

In contrast to her quiet mother, Ronald Creech was “like a bull in a china shop—outgoing and fun.” He genuinely loved people, all types of people. “Daddy was known for surprising Mom with uninvited guests,” Elizabeth notes with a smile. “We never knew who it would be, sometimes people he picked up on the side of the road—total strangers. He was a magnet for unusual people, some a ‘few fries short of a Happy Meal.’ One thought he was a lawyer and always dressed in a three-piece suit. Another wore watches all the way up her forearm. But Daddy loved and ministered to them all. And along the way, he taught me to love all people.”


Her mother reinforced the importance of loving everyone, including special needs individuals, fostered by caring for Lois, Elizabeth’s special needs sister, who had the brain function of an 18-month-old infant. “When Lois was with us, people always stared. Mom quietly explained to us that Lois was different, but she was just as God made her.”

She recalls the agony her parents experienced when they made the excruciating decision to place Lois in a lifelong nursing care facility. “Mom told me that choice was worse than if Lois had died. But she and Dad knew it was the best thing for Lois and her long-term health.” Not expected to live past age 19, Lois lived 65 happy years before her death not long before this article was published.

Elizabeth also learned to write cards and letters from her mother. “She used to send Aerograms (cheap airmail, basically) to every missionary on the field. She taught me to write to my grandparents and church members, to send thank you notes, birthday cards, and so much more.”
Throughout her life, in each new role, Elizabeth has continued to put great emphasis on written cards. “Today, I even make the cards I send,” she says with a smile. “People say Millennials would rather get a text. Not true! When you take time to write a card, people know you went out of your way to let them know you care. It is a lost art that needs to be revived.”

The cards and letters from the Creech house built strong relationships with missionaries. “All the missionaries wanted to stay at our house, because Mom knew how to cook and make people feel welcome. Pop Willey used to take off his socks and show us his missing toes. Gross! I will never forget that he liked cantaloupe and vanilla ice cream for breakfast. We always loved for missionaries to visit because Mom bought ‘missionary cookies,’ peanut butter wafers and fudge stripe cookies. It was the only time we got them.”


Business and Leadership Lessons

From her dad, Elizabeth learned the importance of church and denominational business and working with others. “Daddy was able to differentiate between an issue and a person. He would argue with Wade Jernigan at the convention until they were blue in the face. Then, they would leave business and take their families out to lunch. To this day, the Jernigan girls are some of my dearest friends. Even when people hurt him, Dad never held it against them.”

When traveling to denominational meetings, her dad intentionally found the pastor of the smallest, least known church and made a big deal of him. “He told us kids God doesn’t call everybody to a place of notoriety, but faithfulness is honored, no matter where one serves.”

Leadership did not prove easy in the Creech home, however. Elizabeth points to a difficult time in the early 1960s, when her father became a key figure in a painful denominational schism, resulting in a public trial that went all the way to the North Carolina Supreme Court. “The night before the trial, denominational leaders gathered at our house. Leroy Forlines, Robert Picirilli, Billy Melvin, L.C. Johnson, Paul Ketteman—all the big names were there. They knelt around Dad in the living room floor and prayed for hours. We kids were supposed to be in bed, but we sat at the top of the stairs and listened, at least until we got caught.”

Elizabeth notes her parents were never quite the same after the trial.


Starting a New Phase

Elizabeth never thought about the many lessons learned “growing up Creech” until college, when she suddenly realized being a Creech made a difference. “My professors and administration all knew my parents, and I realized I knew many denominational leaders because they had visited our home.

Today, Elizabeth realizes the weight of these lessons, both good and bad, that prepared her for leadership, and how many doors opened to her because of the influence of her parents.


The life lessons continued after she met Eddie Hodges, and she and the Swainsboro, Georgia, native quickly began “one of those Bible College romances.” The couple soon married and began ministry life together, Eddie as a pastor, Elizabeth as a teacher. Elizabeth’s deep respect for her husband of almost 45 years is obvious. She chuckles: “Eddie had no clue about what it meant to marry a Creech, but he soon learned! It only took one convention.” She describes Eddie as a man of strong faith, a “prayer warrior, content to serve smaller, lesser-known churches because those people needed a pastor, just like the big churches.”


Life as a pastor’s wife and teacher proved fulfilling, though exhausting, to Elizabeth. She settled happily into the routine of church, home, children, family, and classroom. She had no idea that through the decades, God was continuing to prepare her for another important work. The preparation suddenly became clear May 29, 2010, when the WNAC board chair called to tell her she had been selected as the nominee to become the sixth director of WNAC. Suddenly God’s lifetime mosaic of preparation began to form a beautiful picture.


Putting It All Together

Her childhood home and personal relationships with missionaries helped her understand the need for the denomination to respect, support, and care for missionaries and their children. WNAC provided the perfect opportunity to fulfill this role.

Her mother’s quiet efficiency taught her to organize and facilitate activities. The small staff in the WNAC office required all her time management, leadership, and organizational skills.

The thousands of cards and letters written throughout her life reminded her of the importance of making personal connections with women in churches across the denomination, and her years as a pastor’s wife helped her understand the women she would lead.

Curriculum writing and lesson planning as a teacher prepared her for magazine deadlines and planning, and educational associations and committees taught her organizational management.

Her outgoing dad taught her to love everybody, no matter how quirky—crucial for a director, because Free Will Baptists are different in every region of the country, and even more so internationally.


While Elizabeth does not think she could have done the job earlier in life because of her roles as mother and caregiver, she reflects, “God’s timing was simply perfect; I brought everything I learned through all those years of preparation into this role.”

And, she is glad for the preparation, because accepting the unexpected opportunity proved a difficult choice and an even more difficult role. “When the WNAC opportunity came up, Eddie had peace about it before I did,” She recalls. “He completely accepted the changes it meant for us, and my work as a pastor’s wife.”

Elizabeth doesn’t think people understand the reality of being a denominational director. “They only see us on the road, speaking, traveling. They don’t understand the pressure goes with you; you never get away. If it hadn’t been for Eddie, I would have left the job years ago. But he reminded me time and again God was not done with me yet.”


Looking Back and Moving Forward

The work at WNAC may have been difficult, but it was fruitful. During 11 years at WNAC, Elizabeth saw the ministry reach significant milestones: becoming a national department once again (after breaking away from the National Association in 1939); groundbreaking collaboration between agencies; building new bridges to Free Will Baptist women; and expanding ministry for a broader international outreach; Shine! Conferences for teen girls; Flourish ladies’ events; and, most recently, the introduction of multilingual resources. “It has been hard work to start these initiatives,” she notes, “and I look forward to seeing my successor take them to the next level.”

What will she miss the most? “That one’s easy,” she replies with a smile. “The relationships with Free Will Baptist women, national office personnel, other national directors, and churches across the denomination.”

When asked to share the one thing she would say to the denomination as she reaches her final weeks in office, Elizabeth doesn’t mince words:

Over the years, FWB ladies have supported missions, projects, and many other things well through WNAC, but they have not always seen the need to support the WNAC office itself. We have tackled the resulting financial challenges by streamlining the staff and operations, but unless this mindset changes, the office is in trouble. The women must support this ministry. Yes, we receive The Together Way funds, but no department can operate from that alone. It is my fervent prayer the next director will not fight the financial battles I have faced.

Maybe that’s another lesson Elizabeth learned “growing up Creech.” She puts it to you straight!

About the Author: Eric K. Thomsen has been managing editor of ONE Magazine since 2005. Email:


The Elizabeth Hodges Files: Elizabeth C. Hodges, Ed.S., CMP


B.S. Bible and Elementary Education
Welch College
Nashville, Tennessee
May 1976

M.Ed. Early Childhood Education (K-4)
Georgia Southern College
Statesboro, Georgia
May 1980

Ed.S. Administration and Supervision
Tennessee State University
Nashville, Tennessee
December 2006

CMP (Certified Meeting Planer)
November 2013


Liberty Christian School
Durham, North Carolina
Elementary teacher

Appling County Schools
Fourth District Elementary
Surrency, Georgia
Elementary teacher

Coffee County Schools
Satilla Elementary
Douglas, Georgia
Elementary teacher

Stay-at-home mother of three;
Part-time interim teacher;
GED and adult reading teacher

College Heights Christian Academy
Gallatin, Tennessee
Elementary teacher,
Academic Coordinator
Elementary Principal

Sumner County Schools
Gallatin, Tennessee
Elementary Teacher

WNAC Director


Association of Christian Schools
ACSI student events coordinator (1995-2006)
ACSI accreditation coordinator (1995-2006)
ACSI Accreditation Commissioner for the Southeast (1997- 2006)
   chairman of CHCA’s steering committee
   served on three on-site visiting teams
   chaired eight on-site visiting teams

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Accreditation coordinator (2003-2006)

Member of ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)

Empire’s Who’s Who: Empowering Executives and Professionals (2005)
Manchester’s Who’s Who (2005)
Marquis Who’s Who of American Women (2006)


©2021 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists