Tag Archives: California

These people see and hear more than most

Two years ago I got a strange phone call. It was Russ Rankin, then president of Baptist Communicators Association, a 60-year-old organization comprised of individuals who narrate the story of what Southern Baptists do to carry out the Great Commission worldwide.


Russ wanted to know if I would serve as the awards chair-elect for 2013 and the awards chair for 2014. The call was strange because though I have been a member of the organization sporadically for a number of years—I had never attended its annual workshop.

My networking with most of the individuals in BCA had been through Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings and the now defunct Baptist Press Collegiate Journalism Conference that involved an average of 15-20 of our state Baptist colleges and their advisors, some of whom are BCA members.

Nonetheless, after consultation with my supervisor at my former job, I agreed to take on the responsibility. It was my pleasure to observe at the BCA workshop in Little Rock, and then jump in these past several months to recruit judges, record evaluations, create certificates, select award trophies, create a slide show, plan an awards room, plan an awards banquet—and celebrate the giftedness of our Baptist communicators.

This past week at the workshop at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Asheville, N.C., a verse shared during a devotional time caught my attention. In Luke, there is an account of Jesus sending out the 70 to be ahead of Him and prepare the people for His coming. He talks about “unrepentant towns” and when the 70 return He tells them to rejoice “their names are written in heaven.” Jesus tell them not to belabor over their power and the authority He gave to them.

After praising His Father, Jesus rejoices in the Holy Spirit about what has happened and then turns to His disciples and says “privately”: “The eyes that see the things you see are blessed! For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things you see yet didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear yet didn’t hear them.”

What an incredible description of how blessed we are as Baptist communicators!

Indeed as we hear and tell and see and show through a variety of mediums ranging from state Baptist newspapers to denominational magazines, from social media campaigns to unique websites and more, we are blessed. I was doubly blessed this past year as awards chair for BCA to see and hear what our members submitted to be judged as their very finest work. Some of it I had seen and celebrated in the course of following Baptist work—and some of it was brand new to me and I marveled at the stories. I wept as I watched the videos and read the words that will forever burn in my heart. The images have already imprinted themselves on a page in my mind’s eye.

If you are a Baptist communicator, or you supervise those who are involved in this important labor of sharing what Baptists do to extend God’s Kingdom here on earth, to be involved in Great Commission work—then please consider membership in BCA if you are not already.

This year’s program was loosely themed, “With Purpose,” and as I thought about that—I was struck by the fact that our purpose never changes. We strive always to be about bringing glory to God.

The contest over which I had responsibility is designed to recognize the best work, and yet, through a rigorous evaluation process by teams of excellent, professional judges, our members are also given helpful evaluation for each piece they submit.

They also receive the encouragement and feedback from their peers that keeps them connected in a way that many who are from very small shops and operations may not otherwise receive.

For some, the BCA contest seems overrun by the larger ministry entities whose members outnumber the smaller organizations, but in fact, it’s a beautiful thing to see healthy competition. Many of our members have swapped ministry positions through the years in answer to God’s calling and the organization facilitates this by providing networking opportunities for building relationships and showcasing skillsets.

If there is an elephant in the room about BCA, it has been the way in which people are truly focused on the task of communication and don’t seem to waver from it. State Baptist papers, the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, GuideStone, Golden Gate Seminary, and several of our state Baptist colleges were represented this year at the conference, as were freelance writers and graphic designers and others.

Although the leadership changes on an annual basis, the fellowship and networking stays the same—and withstands what may be a pendulum swing of various program items and speakers based on a particular leader’s choice. At Little Rock and Asheville, I found the speakers and mission activities resonated with my own views on many levels and I am looking forward to more of the same in San Francisco next year and in Oklahoma in 2016 at the Falls Creek Conference Center.

As Southern Baptists move forcefully ahead into the 21st Century, my challenge is that communicators will be bold in telling the story of how God is at work in the hearts and minds of those who seek to extend His Kingdom.

And ultimately, they tell the same old story, of Jesus and His love.

To find out more about Baptist Communicators Association, go to http://baptistcommunicators.org/




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My top 10 for 2009

1. Baby Madelyn’s dedication on May 22 in Kansas City, Kansas. In May, John Belinda and I traveled to Kansas City for Madelyn’s dedication at Nall Avenue Baptist Church. It was a moving moment to hear my son, Jonathon, sing a special in honor of the day. Photos and video: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=22945&id=1022619344&op=84#/photo.php?pid=437035&id=1022619344


2. July “Staycation” in Jacksonville with Belinda and Jonathon and his family who came from Kansas. Had a great time celebrating Madelyn’s first birthday and playing with Joey and Madelyn and attending the wedding of Anna Sander, Melissa’s best friend, where I took dozens of photos. It gave me a chance to brush up on wedding photos using the new camera John gave me last year for Christmas! It’s always a joy to take pictures of and for family and friends. http://www.facebook.com/jonihannigan?ref=profile#/album.php?aid=28006&id=1022619344&op=60

3. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and lunch in Central Park at Loeb’s Boathouse. Both were never expected, never anticipated. Our entire trip was a last minute plan concocted when John realized we could use reward points for our hotel stay and found a great price on airline tickets. So we packed Belinda along—and off we went. A dream come true!


4. Seeing the neighborhood where my mother grew up in New York City, even if it was from the window of a subway car. Windows at Macy’s. Carriage Ride in Central Park. More highlights of our trip to New York which made my top ten list a dream come true this year. In fact, we saw so many things and did so much in New York, it could have eclipsed the rest, but in all fairness, my year was so full, I decided to give just two points to New York.

http://www.facebook.com/photos.php?&id=1022619344&s=18&hash=7f5a7153c489514aac2a5ceeb51f4ec2#/photo.php?pid=827296&id=1022619344 http://www.facebook.com/photos.php?&id=1022619344&s=18&hash=7f5a7153c489514aac2a5ceeb51f4ec2#/photo.php?pid=833707&id=1022619344

5. My trip to California for my 30th class reunion. Taking my aunts to lunch in Pasadena. http://www.facebook.com/photos.php?id=1022619344#/photo.php?pid=719658&id=1022619344 Going to a football game at Arcadia High School. http://www.facebook.com/photos.php?id=1022619344#/photo.php?pid=721773&id=1022619344&fbid=1230601318150 Attending my class reunion with John who flew out for a couple of days. http://www.facebook.com/photos.php?&id=1022619344&s=18&hash=7f5a7153c489514aac2a5ceeb51f4ec2#/photo.php?pid=724333&id=1022619344. With a little planning, I was able to accomplish quite a bit in my 8 day trip to California, where I grew up. I had not been back in 10 years. One of my first priorities was to take all of my aunts, my mother’s sisters to lunch. In two batches, all but one was able to attend. I was so thankful. I had a great time of sharing and learning about what was going on in their lives. I was grateful to stay with my Aunt Agnes with whom I’ve shared many memories. The last few days were wonderful, just driving around Southern California with her and my Aunt Phyllis, catching up.

6. Peru, Indiana in October for Brian Hannigan’s wedding to Kerry. Catching up with John’s brother’s family always means a good time. Jonathon and Melissa, Joey and Madelyn joined us from Kansas and so all our family was together. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=33718&id=1022619344&op=42#/photo.php?pid=669166&id=1022619344

7. In September, I participated in a 5K Run for their Lives in Jacksonville with Belinda. There is no way I would have made it without her. I walked over two bridges and it took me a long while and I was HOT, but I made it. Belinda was just released in September to begin running again after nearly nine months of not being able to run after she was rear-ended and her car totaled in an accident in which she had spinal injuries. I am so entirely grateful for her health and for her company and her encouragement. She is a blessing to me, over and again, as is each and every precious member of my family. http://www.facebook.com/photos.php?&id=1022619344&s=18&hash=7f5a7153c489514aac2a5ceeb51f4ec2#/album.php?aid=35550&id=1022619344&op=36

8. Miami in August for a relative’s first birthday. Saw Aunt Lily and Aunt Nancy and the rest of the gang and had a great time catching up. It’s so important to connect with family. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=33718&id=1022619344&op=42#/photo.php?pid=603764&id=1022619344

9. Super Bowl in Tampa. One of the highlights of my job this year was to interview and photograph athletes and coaches during media day and at other events prior to the Super Bowl and then to interview Tony Dungy the night before the Super Bowl. Though there are many stories that were my “favorites” to work on throughout the year, the experience of working with a gifted photojournalist like Bob Carey, who is president of the National Press Photographer’s Association and a dedicated Baptist Press colleague and friend, was an unexpected bonus. http://www.bobcareyphoto.com

10. Covering the Fireproof Conference in Daytona Beach in March. A marriage conference, when one is married, is an interesting thing to cover. I learned a lot and wrote a lot. Also relaxed just a bit on the beach with my husband of 28, now 29, years! http://www.facebook.com/album.php?page=2&aid=19727&op=96&id=1022619344#/photo.php?pid=373202&id=1022619344&fbid=1115435479076

11. Oops, I can’t believe I didn’t add this. I would be remiss to not say I have enjoyed all of the golf outings. TPC Sawgrass for the Player’s. TPC Summerlin and TPC Las Vegas and Eastlake Country Club and all of those snazzy places Belinda takes us. It has been fun to see men hitting around little balls. … No really, it has been a GREAT time walking those courses and hanging out with my daughter and husband and watching them enjoy and getting some exercise! And the FOOD, well, the food is excellent at those clubhouses! Thanks to Belinda and the great work she does.

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New York City — looking back, and forward

New York City was not good to my mother. I never knew that until recently though. Growing up I heard of the beauty of Central Park, the elaborate window displays at Macy’s at Christmas time, and the “fun” times my mother and aunts had operating dumb waiters in their tenement building and stringing clothes lines—and kids—between buildings.

Mother in New York City

Mother in New York City

Some stories were exaggerated, for sure, but what didn’t emerge, or what were just snippets of a darker side, I later recalled from stories my grandmother and aunts told or picked up from reading through packets of letters and papers my mother begin sending me as an adult.

There was the story of my mother getting lost and not being found for hours after suffering from amnesia in the Big Apple. Then the one about her being hit on the head with an iron pipe by neighborhood hoodlums. One very vivid one of her being shoved down the stairs by a racist middle school teacher who said she was lippy.

Put into the context of learning that my mother at six had, like many of her generation, suffered polio and spent time in an “iron lung” and been nursed back to health was enough cause me to pause with sympathy – but then there was more.

Indeed, I learned that as my mother was on the verge of being a teenager, a younger sister succumbed to one of the other illnesses that claimed many in those days. Little Betty, 7, died of diptheria.

And that wasn’t all. The final act that drove my Cuban-born grandfather and large family to drive across the country with  a car full of children headed west to California – was the shooting death of my mother’s older half-brother, Sergio.

At 12, I heard it was mother who had stood alone at the doorway of her family’s home to hear the news from a New York City detective that her beloved 21-year-old brother was “accidentally” shot dead (in the back) by a plain clothes detective who “thought” he was stealing a television. She went into shock and didn’t speak for days. As it turned out, the city of New York after a trial settled with my grandparents and the detective lost his job. Sergio was helping a family move.

Years later, it seems, New York City was not much kinder.

Indeed, though I’ve seen a picture of my mother and father (who was also originally from New York City) posing in front of Central Park’s Tavern on the Green, the memory is eclipsed by what I know must have been the horror of being in one of the largest cities in the world with a child.

I can imagine my mother just wanted to go home by that time—to where her family fled when New York was cruel the first time around.

Abandoned in an apartment with an eviction notice on the door with a one-year-old and no food to fend for herself while her husband lived it up on the other side of town with a wealthy woman—my mother had little choice but to finally leave—again.

My mother had good reason to not want ever to be in New York City (though she never really expressed this) and yet I’ve always wanted to go there. Now more than ever, perhaps to somehow make it right again.

I had the opportunity at Thanksgiving and it seemed that nearly every memory I made, I also thought a quick: “This is for you, mother.”

We stayed on the 42nd floor of a hotel on Times Square overlooking 7th Avenue all the way up to Central Park. We could literally see and hear the entire Macy’s Parade coming all the way down the street. It was surreal.

My 27-year-old daughter, Belinda, the explorer and navigator, was a joy to watch and follow. As we boarded subways, traversed streets, and checked out dozens (!) of Starbucks for hot chocolate – I marveled at how much my mother would have enjoyed her at this age. I am proud of Belinda for the both of us.

My husband, John, comfortably stashed away at the New York City Public Library for some of our time, was busy studying our roots. Since both of our families are from there and they have great records—he was busy gathering information.

For a week we enjoyed the city where my mother was born and grew up.

We had Thankgiving lunch in Central Park at the Boathouse. It was glorious to see rowboats out on the lake and walk through the park.

Thanksgiving Dinner at Loab’s Boathouse in Central Park

Belinda and I took in the Metropolitan Art Museum and the Frick Collection the following day. She urged me to walk the 42 blocks from our hotel. I complained the entire way—but the reward of walking up Madison Avenue was rich. We saw Mama Mia.

We took in more sights the next few days—Grant’s Tomb, Columbia University, and Central Park, again. Macy’s and FAO Schwarz. We watched the Gators play on the large screens at the ESPN Zone and visited the USS Intrepid, walking through Hell’s Kitchen. We enjoyed the Rockettes’ Christmas show. We ate authentic New York cheesecake and pizza and shopped briefly in China Town. We met up with an old friend and browsed the shops in Greenwich Village and dined at an Italian restaurant, an Irish pub and Cuban cafe. We ate at Carnegie Deli. We saw the majestic St. John the Divine Cathedral, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and the Flatiron Building.

The soles of my feet hurt so bad I asked Belinda to rub them one night. But my heart felt good when we passed the neighborhood my mother grew up in when riding the subway on Sunday morning. Looking out at the tenement buildings just off the George Washington Bridge, I thought about what it must have been like growing up there.

She had happy memories, for sure. They were mostly centered around playing with her sisters and enjoying the community of living among people she loved.

And of the city there were memories, too. Else I would never have heard of the elaborate window displays or the majesty of Central Park—the wooden escalator at Macy’s. I remember her talking of those places with a shining in her eyes—a wonder.

And my eyes were filling as I slowly trod past those same windows and rode up the very escalator – trying to snap off a few pictures, navigating the crowds – thinking about mother.

She would have enjoyed our trip. Dios te bendiga Madre. Descanse en paz.

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Thinking about Mother today

My mother (left), June Johnson, in the 70's, and her sister, Agnes Grohs.Glancing around the guest bedroom in my aunt’s wonderfully appointed home, I think this morning of how my mother would have adored this room.

A doll-sized round wicker table holding a gleaming silver serving tray with crystal-footed goblets is dwarfed by lightly-striped curtains, which cascade to the floor. A playful, childlike porcelain doll with a pouty face occupies a velvet rocker and ottoman—drawing a spotlight—next to which a wooden vintage stroller sits.

It’s both a child’s and woman’s haven.

Just inside the spacious room with its dark wooden floors and light sunrise walls, an elegant 5-drawer ladies dressing table with a gracious beveled mirror beckons. A comfortable damask covered stool awaits a ladies attention where she can pick up either of the hand-held silver mirrors there.

A wonderful carved antique dresser on the other side of the room holds a heavy bronze sculpture of cupid holding high a lighted torch and a Westminister mantel clock.

A four-poster bed, covered in rose and pale sienna with touches of sage and maroon promises a good night’s sleep—but that’s after a soak in my aunt’s jacuzzi tub in the attached guest bathroom.

Mother would have been in her element. You see, she adored dolls, she loved antiques, and like most women—including me—she craved a little pampering.

This morning as I flipped on the switch in my aunt’s room and my eyes lit on an oil painting someone did of her—the long dark hair nestled at her shoulders, her big, dark eyes, and even the serious look on her face, couldn’t but remind me of her sister—my mom.

My mother died seven years ago today. It’s the first time since then I’ve had the privilege of spending the day with one of her six surviving sisters.

Nothing will ever replace the hole in my heart that was left when she went. Knowing she is in Heaven gives me peace and a certainty that God is sovereign and He is in control and that there is order in the universe.

Nothing, however, will take away “missing.” I miss my mother’s smile, her laugh, her touch. I even miss her annoying ways. I miss her unconditional love. I miss her memories, her peculiarities, her stories. I miss her very being, her fiber, her vibrancy, her love.

And, on occasion, I am blessed with others who knew her even longer than I did. Like my Aunt Agnes, Aunt Nancy, Aunt Phyllis, Aunt Gloria, Aunt Margie, and Aunt Mary. And seeing them brings comfort.

So today, in Southern California, I’m going to think about my mother and how it was here, in California, that she met a woman in a laundromat, who shared with her Bill Bright’s “Four Spiritual Laws” and how the Holy Spirit used that little book to usher her into the Kingdom. I’m going to think about the fact that no matter how much I miss her—I will see her again.

One day in Heaven. And what a day that will be.

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