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Panel: Work together
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Panelists (from left) Dr. Joyce Glaise, Minister Daniel Willson, Dr. Lewis Waller and Pastor David Gilleran spoke Monday at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Symposium at Agape Bible Christian Fellowship in Martinsville. Lealice Hagwood (at podium) moderated the event. (Bulletin photo by Ben R. Williams)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Churches, parents and communities must work together for the betterment of all, according to panelists who spoke Monday at Agape Bible Christian Fellowship.

The panelists were gathered at the church for a symposium in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However, rather than discussing King, the panelists discussed community issues.

About 75 people attended the event.

Lealice Hagwood, who moderated the symposium, said that “instead of just meeting on this day to commemorate Dr. King, we hope to actually become proactive as he did in the community to make it a better place.”

Before the noon symposium, three classes were held at the church to discuss three community topics: education, finance and family. Participants in the classes wrote down their questions and concerns on each topic, and the information was passed on to the panelists, who commented on the issues during the symposium.

The four panelists included Dr. Joyce Glaise, professor at Virginia State University and former member of Danville City Council; Pastor David Gilleran, pastor at Hope Presbyterian Church and an Army chaplain; Dr. Lewis Waller, professor at North Carolina A&T University and pastor at Fresh Start Ministries; and Minister Daniel Willson, associate minister at First Baptist Church in Martinsville who is pursuing a master of theology degree at Duke Divinity School.

Glaise stressed the need for mentors in the community to help set children on the right educational track.

“We need to be involved in the classroom and working with our children,” she said. “As parents, we need to love our children and nurture them. As teachers, we should love our students.”

Willson said that too often, churches seem to have a tendency to “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to educational programs, rather than investigating existing educational programs and seeing how the church can help develop them further.

Gilleran said that in author Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Covey stresses the importance of interdependence — working together to solve problems — over independently solving problems.

“What can we do as a whole and not a fragmented group?” Gilleran asked. “Many of the problems are too big for just one group. They have to be worked on together. And not every congregation has the skill set for a particular problem, but there may be something else where they can help.”

Waller stressed that churches need to come together, regardless of denomination, to help improve education.

“Yes, we do have problems in our churches that we’re not on the same page,” Waller said. “At the end of the day, we’re all God’s people, doing God’s work.”

According to Waller, families need to focus on saving money for their children’s college expenses, or if that is not possible, teaching their children the importance of their education and finances.

“Once they get out of college,” Waller said, “most of our kids have a debt of about $80,000 to $100,000. Even though they get a job after they graduate from college, they spend most of their time trying to pay that debt off.”

Gilleran said many children fall in love with the idea of going to a big-name college while they’re in high school, but it sometimes is better to at least start their post-high school career at a more affordable, smaller school.

“’The borrower is a slave to the lender,’” Gilleran said, quoting Proverbs. “That’s true across the board, but especially when we’re talking about kids going off to college. They come out, maybe with no job or no prospects of a job, and $100,000 worth of debt. That’s not right. Whatever we can do to mitigate that circumstance, that’s what we ought to be doing. It’s never too late to start.”

“Where there’s achievement, there’s money to find in education,” Willson said. “That has to do with the parents, and it has to do with the children. Recognize the giftedness of these young kids, their God-given abilities, and seek to allow them to flourish. If you have a curious child who asks you a million questions, you may not have the energy or patience for it, but find ways that you can satisfy their curiosity and celebrate that curiosity.”

Glaise said support must be tempered by discipline. Additionally, she said, if adult figures are largely absent in a child’s life, “take them to the Boys and Girls Club so they can have a mentor.”

“As parents, we need to take ownership” of our responsibilities to our children, Waller said. “A lot of parents don’t know their children. We’ve got to do things differently to engage parents to become better parents. That’s the key to everything.”

According to Gilleran, Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” once said that “the greatest thing a father can do for his children is love their mother,” and that generational cycles of dysfunctional family structures must be broken.

“Our family structures are crumbling,” Gilleran said, “and for those who think that being raised by grandparents is a new phenomena, that’s not true.”

Added Willson, “Children learn how to relate to one another and how to love one another through the marriages they see. They learn about fathering through the fathers that they see. And they learn about how to be a Christian through a church.”


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