‘I’m a dealer, but I don’t gamble’
LAS VEGAS — I hit the jackpot on a recent…
When I arrived at McCarran International Airport, I was prepared to take a taxicab to the Texas Station Gambling Hall and Hotel, where visiting church members were staying.
Instead, I saw two men in baggage claim holding a “West Coast Preachers Forum” sign.
These smiling brothers in Christ — Owen Gilliam and Richard Garlington — were waiting with a van to drive Omari French, minister of the Uptown Church of Christ in San Francisco, and me to the hotel.
When I checked in at the hotel, the clerk handed me a basket of fruit, snacks and bottled water with a note from sister Glenda Gay.
“We are glad you are here to share in this Spiritual adventure with us,” the note said.
One of the brothers I was blessed to meet at the forum was Marshall Steward, a minister in Barstow, Calif.
Steward serves a congregation formed by the recent merger of a black church and a white one.
“We are working together as God would have us work together,” said Steward, acknowledging that challenges remain. “When you let God in, God can work miracles in your life.”
Traditionally, the West Coast forum primarily involves black church leaders.
However, North Las Vegas minister Leo G. Gay reached out to all — regardless of race — and included speakers from predominantly white congregations.
Among those speakers was Cory Long, director of development for New Mexico Christian Children’s Home in Portales.
Unfamiliar with the West Coast forum, Long contacted Gay after seeing an advertisement for the event in the Chronicle. Long wanted to set up a booth, but Gay invited him to speak on ministering to broken families.
Fred and Dorothy Shambaugh, members of the Studebaker Road Church of Christ in Long Beach, Calif., also came after reading about the forum in the Chronicle.
At lunch one day, I met Herbert Nash, an elder of the 38th Street Church of Christ in San Diego.
Nash, 81, said he attended the first West Coast forum in San Francisco in 1964 and “just about every once since.”
“I love the work of the Lord,” he told me. “It’s what really brings you back.”
At a closing-night banquet, I enjoyed sitting next to Graylon A. Freeman, minister of the 13th Street Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. I first met Freeman when I visited the 13th Street church last year.
On the other side of me was John Coes, an associate minister of the Simpson Street Church of Christ in Atlanta. Coes shared that, God willing, Simpson Street minister Andrew J. Hairston will celebrate 50 years in that same pulpit in December.
What a remarkable milestone!
I have an e-mail list that I use to seek ideas and feedback. I met two people on that list for the first time: Raymond Coats Sr., minister of the Rio Vista Church of Christ in California, and Willie Hubbard Jr., minister of the District Heights Church of Christ in Maryland.
I know what James 2 says about showing partiality, but I can’t resist mentioning two of my favorite people at the forum: Carolyn Washington, who oversaw the North Las Vegas church’s forum transportation committee, and Muffin Anderson, a member of the Southside Church of Christ in Seattle.
Washington is a regular Chronicle reader. Anderson was not familiar with the Chronicle, but I corrected that!
When you meet devoted servants such as these, it’s impossible not to recognize their deep love and compassion for the Lord.
What a blessing to experience a little heaven on Earth. Even with this column, I am omitting people whose names God wrote on my heart.
Forget Sin City.
Saint City is more like it.
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