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“From Homeless to Hopeful: The Story of Overcoming Through Generosity”

 

At a time when most teens are planning their future and looking forward to college, Paul Carter was hoping and praying he and his mother would have shelter and food. For Carter, his teen years were anything except carefree and fun; he found himself working and balancing class work at one of the top magnet high schools in the nation, Loveless Academy, located in Montgomery, Alabama. Loveless Academy is ranked No.34 in the nation among high schools and No.1 in Alabama. It boasts a graduation rate of 95 percent according to U.S. News. When asked how he was able to excel in academics when life was a daily struggle, Carter credits his “faith and ability to look towards a future hope.”

Asking Carter to expound on that time in his life brings back memories that are hard for him to express in some respects.  “I was around 19 and 20 years old when I experienced homelessness” says Carter.

When asked what infused him with hope and the desire to continue in success when things were hard, he says, “I focused on God a majority of the time.  I also looked to when I could leave my situation.  I was given support where I could and, then, would go on my own when the time was right,” he said.

“I also met people along my journey that encouraged me,” he continued. “Those people were peers and older adult or parental figures that shared words of wisdom, spare time, or acts of kindness with me.  These things kept me going.”

Carter credited a local pastor who worked part time with him at Circuit City, for helping him stay focused on his studies.

Carter, was able to maintain focus while in a competitive academic environment with a tough home situation plaguing him. “Doing well in school gave me a sense of achievement for many years,” Carter said. “In 5th grade, I was sent to Space Camp for achieving good grades.  This gift from my teacher ingrained in me that I could change my circumstances for the better by getting good grades, so that never wavered.”

The kindness of a teacher caused Carter to see hope in his hard situation. “Additionally, school helped to take my mind off of what troubled me away from school,” he added.

After graduating from Loveless Academy, Carter attended Miles College, in Birmingham, Alabama, on a Pell Financial Grant scholarship until he ran out of money.  “I received a scholarship from Delta Sigma Theta during my third semester at Miles.  My financial aid would not have covered my tuition at the time, but a professor, who was also one of my mentors, submitted my application and I was awarded the scholarship,” he explained. I am grateful to that professor and the sorority because I did not have another option at the time.”

Carter spent two years at Miles College before transferring to Auburn University in Montgomery. However, he attributes a lot of his personal growth to his time spent at Miles College.

Carter received a partial scholarship to complete his studies in information systems with a focus in systems development at AUM. After graduating from AUM, Carter graduated: summa cum laude, and received numerous honors, including, a leadership award, AUM ambassador honors, and a School of Business award.

He also received a standing ovation from the audience and a speech from the dean of the School of Business at AUM concerning his academic achievements during his enrollment at AUM.

 

pauls-graduation-from-college
Carter’s AUM graduation

 

Carter had come a long way from the hopelessness and homelessness earlier in his life to find stability through determination and the generosity of others who recognized and help cultivate his potential.

“Do not let your lack of possessions or stable housing determine your self-worth or hinder your willingness to engage relationships with others,” he said.

The fear and shame of homelessness can make someone to shy away from personal interaction with others. Carter says that “it’s not impossible to overcome that shame, but it will take work.”

“There are people out there who are willing to help, but you may have to let go of the potential shame from homelessness to invite them in,” he said.

“Regardless of having a physical home, your heart has a home within it.  It may not be easy to evict hurt, shame, and bitterness, but hope will be a much better resident in your heart if you let it stay there.”

 

 

 

 

“Women Entrepreneurs Who Cultivate Fertile Ground.”

For JeFreda Brown, owner and CEO of Goshen Business Group, LLC, being an African American woman in business is a dream come true. “As a child, around 7 years old, I prayed and asked God to help make me a successful business owner,” she said.

But owning a business for Brown is not the end goal. She wants to educate, motivate, and inspire women of all backgrounds to take control of both their financial and vocational future. As a small business owner, Brown typifies an under-represented segment in the business world; minority women. According to recent statistics, women are starting and owning businesses at an increasing rate.

Motivations to own a business vary, but for Brown, her dream started during her childhood. The importance of being a woman entrepreneur developed when she began to notice that the women in her family did not fully walk in their gifts and talents.

“Being a business owner is important because it shows that as women we are able to do things,” she said. “The playing field isn’t fair. We have to fight harder and do more to get ahead. It’s not hard for us because we fight anyways as women.”

Family members saw a young budding entrepreneur and business-minded woman in the making from the onset. As the oldest child and grandchild in both sides of her family, Brown says she felt a natural obligation to help everyone around her. Often younger and older family members would ask her to help with deciphering difficult to understand mail and business documents.

“They would say that they received an important document in the mail, for example, and would ask me to help them understand what it said and what was needed,” she explained.

But being in that position often left Brown feeling “trapped.”  It was difficult to leave home because of her close family ties. Eventually, she moved away from her hometown in Mississippi after completing her bachelor’s degree in math at Mississippi State University. Ultimately, Brown moved to Birmingham, Alabama where she now resides and runs her thriving business.

Brown relishes the freedom that entrepreneurship affords her. These freedoms include being able to schedule clients to her liking and to branch into other areas while using the full gamut of her God-given talents.

“I am not confined and I do not have anyone looking over my shoulder micro-managing me,” she said. “Most importantly, no one decides when and if I receive a raise or promotion.”

For Brown, leaving her full time job to start her own business was one of her biggest challenges.

“I stepped out on faith and left my job in 2011,” she explained. That was the same year deadly tornadoes devastated several areas in Alabama.

“The tornadoes that hit did economic damages and small businesses suffered. I used all of my retirement savings to keep afloat! It was hard to get out of that hole,” she said.

Eventually, she did get out of the hole and moved forward. In 2014, Brown was led to change the direction of her business again when she says God prompted her to “trust Him” completely.

“Whenever I learn something, it is meant for me to share it with others and not for me to keep to myself,” Brown said.

One lesson she desires to pass on to other women concerns giving. Her former hair stylist once shared a life truth that has resonated with her ever since.

“Stop planting seeds in unfertile ground,” Brown said, quoting her stylist’s statement.  This was a much needed revelation for Ms. Brown and was a breakthrough moment for her in her personal and business life. Brown quickly took this advice and stopped granting requests to borrow money made by people in her life.

Among other things, Brown is now often called upon as a guest speaker to teach other women on finances and to stand as an example of a woman CEO and business owner.       (Brown teaching)

Brown has been pleasantly surprised by the direction her business and influence has taken. “I never thought of myself as a motivational speaker.  I was just giving people knowledge concerning businesses and finances,” Brown said.

 

 

I5 Church Welcomes Pastor and Gospel Singer Tye Tribbett for Fuel Night.

There was a large amount of excitement in the atmosphere as members of i5 Church hosted their monthly Fuel Night on February 2, 2017. Fuel Night is a once-a-month experience for the church and interested guests to attend and connect with other believers. Fuel Nights aligns with one of i5’s goals of connecting the community with the church. I5 is a missions focused ministry that seeks to serve the community in practical ways.

This month’s event hosted Grammy nominated and Stellar Award winning gospel artist Tyrone “Tye” Tribbett as the guest Pastor and speaker for the evening. Pastor Tye is known in the gospel music industry for his unique musical style. His current album, “Greater Than” is a phenomenal addition to the gospel genre. Tye Tribbet additionally is launching a church plant in Orlando, FL, called LiVe Church, https://www.livechurchorlando.com/about-us/ , along with his wife Shante. They anticipate the full launch of LiVe Church in the spring of 2017.

Pastor Jimmy excitedly posted “It’s on up in here tonight at Fuel Night!” to describe the atmosphere at Fuel night on his social media page. This event is one of many planned Fuel nights for 2017. I5 church is located in Odenton, Maryland and seeks to unite believers across racial and economical boarders. i5 Church is led by Pastors Jimmy and Irene Rollins, his wife, after inheriting the ministry from Pastor Jimmy’s parents.

Sophie, a congregant, attended the service alone, but “reserved the ticket as soon as it was announced”. She was excited to attend due to her familiarity with Pastor Tye’s music and ministry. Max, also a congregant, noted that “i5’s Fuel Night event quickly sold out through Eventbrite…I feel blessed to have gotten one.”  This event was free, however, to make sure everyone was able to get a seat, the event required an RSVP and ticket. “We are crazy excited to have @bowtyetrib as our special guest…” Pastor Jimmy posted on his Instagram account in January leading up to this event.

Emily, who is originally from Florida and joined i5’s team because “Pastor Jimmy’s heart is pure for the people that he leads” took time to explain her love for the ministry of i5. Her admiration for the ministry included events, such as Fuel Night, that invited church members and community members to join together for a night of worship.

While waiting for the doors to open, a few excited attendees explained that i5 “is welcoming and friendly church that hosts a lot of great events.” two ladies waiting for Fuel Night to commence explained what led them to join i5 Church; they both agreed that the church was “genuine in its concern for people”. I asked one of the ladies to further explain and she replied that “The people at i5 do not make anyone feel unwelcome” and that “This is a church where you can come as you are for real and be treated the same as anyone else.

Fuel Night hosted a packed house and did not disappoint its audience.

 

Ana’s Interview

Ana’s interview by Kimberly Carter

I met Ana in 2012 at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL, as I commenced my journey through Highlands College and Point University. Ana had already completed her studies at Highlands College and proved to be a valuable connection point while I completed my studies. Upon graduating from Highlands College, Ana stepped into the role as the site director over Point University in Birmingham, AL, which is in partnership with Highlands College through Church of the Highlands. Ana serves in several capacities including: published author, blogger, speaker, women’s advocate, site director, wife, mother, caretaker, daughter, friend, and so much more. Ana’s blog, “Bringing Forth Virtue”,  http://bringingforthvirtue.blogspot.com/ served as an inspiration for me to start writing and blogging because her example encouraged me to start my writing activities. Ana is a humble servant of God who desires to assist whomever she can as they seek to make a positive impact for God’s Kingdom.

Our interview was conducted at Panera Bread. Once Ana and I settled into our booth, I asked her to tell me about her background. She informed me that originally, she came from Jackson, MS, where she and her husband Jamil both grew up. Ana and Jamil attended middle and high school together. Ana continued, “We’ve been in Birmingham I believe since 2001, where we transitioned to Birmingham from Huntsville, AL. I connected with Point University while at Church of the Highlands; I was attending Highlands College and they (Highlands College) were beginning a partnership with Point University and I was able to have an opportunity to work as their college site director and I have been there about four to five years now and it has been really exciting.”  I have always admired Ana’s ability to effectively manage the endeavors that contribute to her complex and rewarding schedule.

As Ana and I continued the conversation, I inquired about her start into ministry and her childhood influences.  She attested to her grandmother’s example: “I grew up, my grandmother has always worked in full time ministry and has been a pastor and a leader in that capacity.” Intrigued, I further inquired about her grandmother’s church tradition and Ana replied, “Baptist.” I grew up in the Baptist Faith, and I exclaimed, “Your grandmother was a pastor in the Baptist church!?” We exchanged chuckles and I apologized for not maintaining a professional demeanor. Ana continued, “You know, even now, she still does, she still works in the church, even now. And so, I grew up around it, never thought that or desired, necessarily, to be in ministry or working in ministry full time.” Ana shared with me how she realized that she may be called to serve in ministry: “…as I began self-discovery when I was in college, I started feeling a little pull or tug that maybe my purpose or calling has something to do with ministry, but I wasn’t really interested then. But, I did, I had an encounter with God, after praying for months about my purpose and what I’m here on Earth to do, um, the first year that me and my husband were married, I had an encounter with God, that, yep, I’m supposed to be in full time ministry. But I am still scared to death and still…”

Ana’s leadership capacities are impressive since she successfully raises two daughters, one having particular needs, manages her own career, and manages to fully support Jamil’s quickly growing career. Ana shared that she is “supporting my husband’s roles as well as mentoring, meeting with staff, mentoring staff and other pastor’s wives.” My next inquiry was about the management of her life and Ana said that, “I am always praying to God about having divine order. Once I had a mentor tell me it’s not that you’re trying to balance, it’s that you’re trying to have divine order in life.” I took notes and realized that Ana had shared the key to her life in a nutshell. “So my relationship with God is first; everything is going to crumble if I don’t have a healthy relationship with him and spending time with God daily, um and weekly and making that a priority.”

I concluded the interview with an inquiry into Ana’s future plans. She shared that, “In the future what I would really like to do is have the opportunity to mentor on bigger platform, to speak, to maybe travel and speak both inside and outside the U.S. to different women. Maybe write and publish several books.” Ana is well on her way to achieving that goal having already authored a book “Bringing Forth Virtue”, which is available on Amazon. Ana continually serves as a mentor to many and an example on how ministry can look for women in the twenty-first century.

Kimberly’s Introduction

My name is Kimberly L. Carter and I am in the Master’s of Divinity program at Regent University. I will graduate from the program this year in May. I have enjoyed the program more than I had anticipated and am considering continuing my education, if financially possible.

My husband (with me in the picture) and I are originally from Birmingham, AL. Paul and I have been married for six and a half years. We sold our house and moved to Maryland in 2015 for a job offer that my husband accepted with a small company in Baltimore. It has been one of the best decisions that we have made as a married couple. It has not been an easy journey, but it has been rewarding for Paul and I both individually and as a couple. We both have family back home in Alabama that we miss.

I am excited about taking Multiplatform Writing, but I am also intimidated by it. I am taking this course because I feel that technology’s reach has influenced every field will continue to do so. As someone in ministry, seeking the lost for Christ, I need to be willing to seek the lost through various social media outlets. In order to do this, I must understand the nature of writing to an audience across these various platforms. Further shaping my idea concerning the need to become skilled in this area was taking the Cyber Theology course last semester. Understanding  that God is everywhere, including cyber space, should cause the church(myself included) to rethink its approach in the twenty-first century. If the church is not willing to rethink approaches to reaching the lost through social media and internet outlets, we will miss “the ripe harvest”. The church, by not restructuring to include a “cyber theology” also risks becoming antiquated and extinct.

My personal hobbies include writing, reading, and shopping. I love people, but I also equally love time alone to reflect. I am interested in learning how to re-finish furniture. Perhaps I will purse this as a hobby in the near future. I also love to travel and would love to be able to travel more in the near future.