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Mother draws upon faith inherited from her mother

BRANDON, Fla. (BP)–Karen Green looks to the example set by her mother and grandmothers as she encourages fellow ministers’ wives at First Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., where her husband, Tommy Green, is pastor.

“It’s important that all of us wives stay connected,” Green told the Florida Baptist Witness newspaper.

To stay united as a ministry team, Green plans annual retreats for the wives, like a recent trip to Chattanooga, Tenn., to attend a Beth Moore conference. And she and fellow staff wife Cindy Dowdy select books for the 10-member group to study together. Their cohesiveness helps the ministry team and the church, she said.

“I talk and I let them talk,” she said. “It helps us all.”

Her maternal grandmother, Roxie Wesson, read her large print Bible with a magnifying glass and knelt to pray beside her bed at 97, Green said.

“I have been so fortunate to have women like my mother and grandmothers who are such positive influences on my life, and there have been women in each church we served who demonstrated their faith to me,” she said.

Green said she also learned hospitality from her “foremothers.” Most often, Green entertains the ministry team wives at her Brandon home. She often welcomes the deacons and their wives, and, most recently, all the church secretaries.

“I used to worry about having everything perfect, but God said I had to get over that,” she said. “Now I have an open home and an open heart here, and I think that ministers to people.”

Married almost 29 years, Tommy Green and Karen Bailey began dating as teenagers after his great aunt served as matchmaker for the couple. They attended rival high schools in the Lexington and Greenhill communities in north Alabama. Three years older than Karen, Tommy had to wait for Karen to ask her parents’ permission to go out with him. The Greens and the Baileys knew each other, so permission was granted.

They dated four years, during which Tommy Green attended the University of North Alabama in nearby Florence and began wrestling with God’s call to the ministry.

“I knew he was dealing with God’s call, and he was talking to me about it,” Karen said. “I think pastors’ wives are called with their husbands, so I had to decide too.”

The couple married August 17, 1979, and moved to Birmingham to attend Samford University. When Tommy graduated in 1981, Karen was pregnant with their son John.

When John was six weeks old, the couple moved to New Orleans for Tommy to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The family soon moved to Kentwood, La., where Tommy pastored Chesbrough Baptist Church and commuted four days a week to school. Phillip was born in 1982. As Tommy began work on his Ph.D., he accepted the pastorate of Franklin Creek Baptist Church in Pascagoula, Miss., and Matthew was born there in 1985.

“I had a baby in every state we lived in,” Karen said with a chuckle.

As her sons started school, so did Green. She followed her parents’ careers as educators by becoming a para-professional, a teacher’s aid in a kindergarten class in the boys’ elementary school in Buford, Ga., where her husband was pastor of First Baptist Church.

“Buford is where the Mall of Georgia is now,” she said of her home for nine years. “It is probably good that it was not there when I was.”

When the family moved to Brandon in 1996, they picked a high school for the boys before they chose a house. In that decision, they relied heavily on the advice of the late Ron Frost, former principal of Durant High School and a former member of First Baptist Church. While her sons were students there, Green ran the computer lab then moved to work in the media center.

“I love the school atmosphere, and I loved being where the boys were,” she said. “I could stay really involved.”

Her sons, all graduates of Durant High School, have moved on to careers. John, married to Katherine, is pastor of Eagle Heights Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, Ky., while he works on a Ph.D. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Phillip, a graduate of the University of South Florida, works for a marketing firm in Tampa; and Matthew is finishing EMT training in Brandon.

Frost’s wife, Sandra, became principal of a new elementary school, and she persuaded Green to work there as a data processor. Since 2005, when she quit work, Green has been “able to do more at church and at home.”

In 2005, James Smith, executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, asked Green’s permission to nominate her to the newspaper’s board of directors. Elected to the board by the Florida Baptist State Convention, she serves on the finance committee and a newly-formed strategic planning task force to comprehensively study challenges and opportunities for the publication.

“I have teased Jim that he must have found out that I was not going back to work, and asked me [to serve] just at the right time,” she said.

Even while she was working outside her home, she was involved in the choir at First Baptist, watching her boys sitting by themselves in church and controlling them with “the evil eye” from the choir loft, she said. She recently agreed to become choir president.

“They needed somebody to be an encourager,” she said. “I was a cheerleader in high school, and I can be a cheerleader for the choir.”

She also is involved in the women’s Bible study, media library and Vacation Bible School at First Baptist in addition to her role as pastor’s wife. Green is involved with the Florida Ministers’ Wives, and she spoke about hospitality during last year’s luncheon, although she said public speaking is “way out of my comfort zone.”

“The Lord gives me opportunities, though, and I do it,” she said.

Sunday May 11, is the centennial celebration of the first Mother’s Day held May 10, 1908 in Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1914, the holiday became an official national celebration when President Woodrow Wilson designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Carolyn Nichols is a newswriter for the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.

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