Saturday, April 9, 2016

PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER EXPEDITION!

This photo shows the "Business District" of the tiny community of Plains, Georgia, the home of Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States of America ( www.plainsgeorgia.com ).  I had the opportunity to visit the town this past spring, on a road trip between Arkansas and Florida. 

Upon driving into town, as a complete newcomer, the first thing that caught me eye, after passing the business district, was this well-kept homesite, and a Jimmy Carter "campaign" sign in the front yard.  The sign says "Jimmy Carter for Cancer Survivor", and refers to his announcement in August , 2015, that he had melanoma in his brain and liver.

The Carter family has a very long history in Plains, Georgia, and the sign on this building downtown is a reminder that many of these buildings were associated with the Carter family peanut farm and commissary.
Years ago, I had heard from acquaintances that work in the tourism industry, that visiting families and individuals could go to the Sunday School class in Plains, Georgia, that was regularly taught by the former President.  At the time, I thought that I would very much like to do that, but deemed it very unlikely that I could ever be in their geographic vicinity, on the day that President Carter would be teaching there.  It was not until I was watching the NBC television news, in August 2015, and I saw the video of him announcing to that Sunday School class that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer, that I was reminded of my long-held desire to be a part of his class someday.  Since I was going to be driving through Georgia in the spring of 2016, I started searching the Internet to find out if, and how, I could attend his Sunday School class.  This led me to the website of the church where he teaches, which is pictured above.  It is called Maranatha Baptist Church, and its website is www.mbcplains.org  .  The word maranatha has several translations, but the front of the Plains church bulletin uses the translation,  "Come, Lord", I Corinthians 16:22 .

I could not believe my eyes when I  read on the website that President Carter was scheduled to be teaching in Plains, Georgia, on the very day I would be driving through the area!  Likewise, I had to pinch myself, (and take lots of photos to document the event!) that I actually found myself sitting in the Sunday School class taught by President Jimmy Carter, on March 27, 2016!  As you can see from this photo where President Carter is standing in front of the pulpit, I was about five rows back from the front.  The rows in front of me were mostly those that are reserved for the regular members of the small congregation, so I felt very blessed to get to be this close!

President Carter spoke of how Jesus helped the poor and the sick, and how his philanthropic organization , The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia ( www.cartercenter.org ) tries to do the same.  He spoke at length about the guinea worm eradication program in undeveloped countries.  (My son, who is an MD and who  listened to the CD version of the Carter teaching, later told me the story of how he had learned in Medical School that some medial historians think it is the guinea worm that is the origin of the symbol for the U.S. Air Force Medical Corp.  It is based on the treatment of letting the guinea worm slowly wind itself around a stick, placed next to the blister on the skin where the worm is exiting the victims body.  This way the worm can be slowly "inched" out, without breaking off, leaving parts of it still inside the patient's body.  I read that Dr.  Donald R Hopkins---who's in charge of the Carter Center's campaign to eliminate guinea worm disease---believes the "creature" on the medical symbol is based on the guinea worm, rather than a snake, since winding a guinea worm on a stick was an actual medical practice among the Greeks and Persians.)

I had read on the church website that the Carters would allow photos to be taken with them, BUT ONLY, for those visitors who not only came to his Sunday School lesson, but also stayed the additional hour, to participate in the main worship service with all the congregation.  I had no problem with that stipulation, since a Sunday School class, followed by a one hour worship service, is my normal Sunday morning schedule in my home church in Arkansas.  And so, my prayers were answered, and I was able to have my photo taken with President Jimmy Carter, and First Lady Rosalynn Carter!  (photo above)  I think one of the reasons that Jimmy and Rosalynn have such big smiles on their faces, is because their daughter Amy (who is now 45) was worshipping with them on this particular Sunday, perhaps because it was Easter Sunday.  I have a big smile on my face because I was SO THANKFUL to be there, especially since it was my birthday---March 27!
Lest you think that anyone can just walk into this church and have your photo taken with the Carters, let me assure you, that is not the case!  In fact, the searches conducted by the Secret Service of folks (shown in photo below) entering the church, is the visual aid I am using for one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verses that says, "You know my folly O God; my guilt is not hidden from you."  Psalm 69:5  Likewise,  I learned from going through this thorough security screening, that nothing I had, was hidden from the Secret Service!
The visitors lined up to go into the church, in the order they had arrived in the parking lot hours earlier.  My friend and I arrived before daylight, and had to be directed into the appropriate space, by men equipped with flashlights, and bomb-sniffing dogs.  Each car was given a number as it arrived.  This was helpful, because it meant we did not have to stand outside for several hours before going through the secret service line.  Rather, we could wait in our cars.  Even though the church is locked up when folks first start arriving, it may be a comfort to know that there is a "port-a-potty" behind the church, for anyone who feels the urge to release their morning coffee!


I speculated that the church is located on the site of a former large pecan orchard, as several rows of the nut-bearing tree are adjacent to the church.  About the time, the thought crossed my mind of how cool it would be to have a basket of pecans gathered from the grounds of Jimmy Carter's church, I saw a sign saying it was against the law to gather pecans from this particular site---oh, well.....
The life of Jimmy Carter's wife is tied just as strongly as his own, to the little town of Plains.  She was born in Plains in 1927, and the house in this photo is where she grew up.  This is a very modest beginning for a woman who went on to become the First Lady of the United States of America, 1977-1981, as well as the First Lady of Georgia, 1971-1975!

The metal marker in this garden showcases it as part of the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail .  The First Lady started this trail, when she learned about environmental issues that were causing the numbers  of monarch butterflies to decline.  The trail, and the educational resources that it includes, has grown beyond Plains, Georgia, to include locations in Japan, Canada, and numerous states in the USA.  It incorporates both public gardens and private gardens, as well as private gardens.  For more information on how you can become one of the designated gardens to promote butterflies, visit www.jimmycarter.info/butterfly-trail/overview/
I wanted to get a photo of me in front of the church, as a reminder of this was my most memorable Easter Sunday/Birthday of the 21st century!  President Jimmy Carter's caricature sketches  usually emphasized his big, toothy smile.  Well, you can be sure that this experience gave me "Miles of big, toothy smiles"!  Tricia