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April 23 is set aside on our calendars and across our country as Administrative Professionals Day. Years ago it started out as Secretary’s Day and the name has morphed and shaped into other things more representative of what these wonderful people do. It is a day out of that entire week of days for a special recognition to be given to the support staff of organizations that do so much incredible work so well to keep organizations up to speed, informed, and in place. In our churches across the state there are hundreds of these fantastic people serving the Lord, caring for the church, helping pastors and staff members to be at their best and overall day-by-day making a difference in peoples’ lives. The name changes over the years have been interesting as people try to change a title to raise the level of importance. Here in the Baptist Building and in some of our churches they refer to their folks as Ministry Assistants. That’s a good thought because it is a reality, but I would simply point out that whatever you call them, it ought to be positive and it ought to be respectful of the enormous work they do and the efficiency with which they do it and the great spirit that they have in carrying out the task.
I could not even begin to think about doing the work they do. I would hate to think about having to do my job without their help. It would be impossible. In the Executive Director’s office here at the Convention, a transition has taken place over these last few months as Brenda Box concluded her ministry at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board of 35 years and 3 months. She was the Executive Assistant to Dr. Earl Kelly, Dr. Bill Causey, and for 15 years while I have been here. She received a higher calling and an even greater work to leave her responsibilities here and focus on some needs that were calling her at home and church and personally, including the grand task of grandmothering. Following her as my Ministry Assistant is Maria Teel. She comes to the Convention after serving over 10 years with Blue Mountain College and she is doing a magnificent job in this transition.
Through my years as a pastor and the years here at the Convention I would be so limited and probably most of the time just stymied without the help of incredible secretaries and ministry assistants. But it’s not just a personal thing, it’s really a Kingdom thing because many of our churches recognize the wonderful service and the incredible work these ladies and a few men in these positions do. They are so valuable. I remember once as I had moved to a new church to begin a pastorate I was at the church on Saturday morning putting some books in the shelves and trying to get my office straightened up. We had just moved in. The phone rang. I picked up the receiver and said the name of the church. The person on the other end asked if the church secretary was there. I said, “No, this is Saturday and she’s off on Saturday.” The caller asked for a particular staff member. I said, “No, I’m sorry he’s not here either.” The caller named one other person and I said, “I’m sorry. He’s not here either.” To which the caller said, “Well, is there anybody there that knows anything?” To which I answered, “I don’t think so. I’m the only person here. I am the new pastor beginning tomorrow and I do not know anything.” I hate to confess, but that was the condition I was in most of the time. But not these incredible, gifted people. They know times and places, people, connections, families and faces. They know where things are and how to get things done. They indeed are assistants beyond any description that might be given.
Here in Mississippi and in our Baptist churches there are people across our state that fill these amazing roles day after day. One lady that may have served a church longer than anyone is Ms. D’Alice Ledingham. For 55 years Ms. D has been at the task there at Griffith Memorial Baptist Church. What did she do all these years? Oh, a thousand things – most of which are not in a job description. For instance, she served on several committees including the Hospitality Committee, Flower Committee and Lord’s Supper Committee. She served as the church historian, church treasurer, kitchen worker during Vacation Bible School and as the directory assistance operator for church members. She served as the Sunday School secretary, a youth worker, and a missions volunteer. She knows where every book, letter and manual is stored.
Can you imagine the hundreds of thousands of times Ms. D answered the phone at the church office? Can you imagine the mental and emotional flexibility that is required to work with ten different pastors and numerous music ministers and youth ministers over that period of time? Can you even think about processing all of the things that are involved in a death and preparations for a funeral and the contacts that need to be made and getting information out? Or, preparation for a wedding, to say nothing of the day to day, week to week, Sunday by Sunday preparation for services, publication of bulletins and letters and help to get things set up for this banquet or that luncheon or this class meeting. If someone would call Griffith Memorial Baptist Church and ask if there is anyone there that knows anything, if she was there, she knew everything. Ms. D, our hats are off to you and our hearts reach out to you in thanksgiving and praise and appreciation for being one of the fine professional assistants in our Mississippi Baptist churches. You have honored the Lord. You have blessed His church. You have been wonderful to the pastors and you have blessed my life.
What can you do to bless one of these professional assistants’ lives? Well, if you know one of these folks, take time to do something. Call them and thank them. Write a note. Give them some flowers. Buy some candy. Give them a gift card. Bake a cake or some cookies or a pie. Let them know you are praying for them. Help them get a half a day off. Do something. You will not only be a blessing, you will be blessed.