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An insult — and a challenge — led minister to serve children in need

MARIETTA, Ga. — An insult leveled against David Tant more than 40 years ago set the minister and his wife, Flora, on a path to serve dozens of mothers and children in need.

In the late 1960s, the grandson of renowned Texas evangelist J.D. Tant planned to preach at a gospel meeting in Waycross, Ga. Before the meeting, another preacher in the Atlanta area disparaged him on a radio program, claiming that Tant was opposed to helping widows and orphans and that his church “would let a child injured in a bicycle accident lie in the street and bleed to death before they would use the church phone to call an ambulance,” Tant recalled.

Tant spoke to the minister and explained that his congregation, a conservative, non-institutional Church of Christ, did not endorse the practice of congregations supporting para-church organizations, including children’s homes. 

That didn’t mean, however, that his church was calloused to the plight of orphans, Tant insisted.

Among the families helped by the Tants are Woody and Valerie McClendon, whose adopted son, Jake, is a medical school student. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

The other preacher challenged Tant to prove that he loved orphans. He would contact a juvenile court judge and tell him to give Tant a call about helping him find homes for children in need. Two weeks later, Tant got the call. True to his word, he and his wife began working to find homes for children in Georgia’s foster care system. In the decades that followed, they helped about 80 children find new homes — and hosted about 50 pregnant young women in their own home.

One couple blessed by the Tants’ service is Woody and Valerie McClendon, members of the Mountain View Church of Christ in Cumming, Ga. The Tants helped the McClendons adopt their first son, Jake. In the 1990s, the Tants were known for working with mothers in the foster care system, Valerie McClendon said, “so those of us who were looking to adopt would call David and Flora to let them know we were interested in being on their waiting list.”

Jake McClendon, now 24, is a student at Lincoln Memorial University’s medical school in Harrogate, Tenn. The McClendons adopted another son, Nicolas, and daughters Alex and Micaela. 

The Tant family’s help has been invaluable, Valerie McClendon said.

“In the Lord’s church we hear a lot about what we can’t do and then feel justified in doing nothing,” she said. “David and Flora understood these convictions did not excuse them from this responsibility.” The couple has servant hearts, she added, “sacrificing their own time, resources, emotions to help so many people in each and every situation.”

David Tant said that he is continuing the example set by his grandparents, who “took in young people, as my father did and as we’ve done and as some of our children have done. So it’s continuing for four generations now.”

In March, David and Flora Tant received the 2015 Friend to Youth Award from Florida College, a Temple Terrace, Fla., school associated with non-institutional Churches of Christ. The college’s president, Buddy Payne, said that the couple’s “passion for young people, their Lord and his church has touched countless lives.”

David Tant thanks God for the opportunity to serve — “all because a liberal preacher called my bluff,” he said. “How many children were blessed because of what he did?”
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