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Two weeks ago I was honored to receive the 2017 Frankie Huff Granger Distinguished Mentor Award from Baptist Women in Ministry. After receiving the award, I shared some brief words with the audience:
“Awards like this one do not happen in a vacuum. They have multiple stories. When Pam [Pam Durso, BWIM executive director] told me about this award, two words came to mind: Thanks and believe. I am thankful for those who have believed in me and have taken the time from their busy schedule to invest in me. Those mentors who have guided me in my personal, ministerial and professional life, without them I would not be here. In fact, I continue to depend on their advice, trust and love to keep going.
“Then, I am thankful for the many people who have believed in me, and have asked me for advice: my mentees. I have been privileged by their trust, and amazed that somehow they see me as a wise person who can contribute something good to their lives.
“These opportunities to be a mentee and a mentor have been moments of blessings that under God’s grace have allowed us to grow and to be better people.”
After thanking Pam Durso and the Baptist Women in Ministry leadership team for the award, as well as those who pray daily, promote tirelessly and give generously to support the cause of women in ministry, I concluded by sharing:
“All of us, together — mentors, mentees, leaders, workers and donors — form a chain that is getting stronger and stronger, and hopefully with the power of the Holy Spirit will become unbreakable. So, I stand here, so thankful that I am a part of this chain of support, trust and love. Thanks for believing in me! To God be the glory!”
Right after the event, this unbreakable chain became larger for me as an unfamiliar gentleman came to congratulate me. He introduced himself as Franklin Granger, the son of Frankie Huff Granger, and he presented me with a card and a book.
He expressed that after last year’s award ceremony, 2016 award recipient Ka’thy Gore Chappell, asked him to tell her about his mom. After that experience, he decided to prepare a special book to be given to future awardees so that they could get to know more about the woman for whom the award is named. I was delighted to receive the card and the book, and eager to know more about Frankie Huff Granger.
The book is composed of Frankie’s biography, pictures and quotations from some of her mentees. As soon as I started to read Frankie’s story, I felt a sense of connection with her. She was a mother, an educator and a woman in ministry, too. After being a stay-at-home mom, she served as a part-time kindergarten teacher in her church in South Carolina. Her experiences in the field of education eventually led her to become the church’s minister of education, a position that was uncommon for women, and which she held until her retirement in 1991.
As a minister of education, Frankie joined different educational associations where she was one of the few women members. According to the words of her mentees, she became a pioneer in her field, a role model for many women and men, and a sign of hope and encouragement for future generations of women in ministry.
Certainly, the Distinguished Mentor Award became more meaningful to me after connecting with Frankie’s life, and the unbreakable chain that I described above became more robust and wide.
As I considered all this, I thought: every day there is an opportunity to grow this unbreakable chain. How do we do this? Investing in each other as a gift of love, first to God and then to one another.
Any person who has been a mentor or a mentee knows that a mentorship relationship is a gift that makes us better people because it involves sacred moments of trust, belief, generosity and empowerment.
It is a gift of trust because the mentee trusts that the mentor will provide words of wisdom, discernment and guidance. On the other hand, the mentor trusts that the investment of his/her time, knowledge and experience will produce abundant fruit in the life of the mentee, and beyond. Furthermore, it is a gift of trust as mentor and mentee share openly and vulnerably about their struggles, hopes and dreams for the future.
It is a gift of belief because both mentor and mentee believe in each other, and that together, under God’s blessings, somehow they can bring God’s reign closer as they make this world a better place.
It is a gift of generosity because a good mentor knows that she/he must share his/her time, knowledge and experience. For me, it is at this point where the chain, under God’s blessing and the power of the Holy Spirit, becomes timeless, constant and unbreakable. Often mentees return to ask me: How can I pay you back? Would you accept a gift or an invitation to dinner? Usually I reply by thanking them for the offer and by expressing that I want something else. I go on to say something like this: “The best way to repay me is by helping someone else. I truly believe that one day you will become a very successful minister/professional person, and that someone will come, perhaps confused or hurting, to ask you for advice. Invest lovingly and generously in that person, and then ask them to do the same. This is how you will pay me back, and please stay in touch.”
It is a gift of empowerment because through these interactions mentees become empowered to be all that they can be, mentors feel empowered to believe that they have something good and helpful to share, and all are empowered to continue making this world a better place.
To be a mentor requires a “horizonal” outlook. Molly T. Marshall, recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Mentor Award, describes that horizonal means “to look beyond the present horizon for what comes next.”
This horizonal outlook calls for a good mentor to see beyond his/her time and space, to something greater than him/herself. It is an invitation to leap into an unknown horizon that is being formed, miraculously, by a chain of good, productive, fruitful actions that are cultivated in generosity and trust, and nurtured to fruition by the loving providence of our Triune God.
A mentoring opportunity may show up in one brief conversation, multiple encounters, or a lifelong relationship. It may be formal or informal. Regardless of the length or format, it must be embraced as a gift where the possibility of transformation is mutually given and received.
As these hopeful encounters are actualized, we are positively transformed, the world becomes a better place, and God’s reign and its values come closer to earth. May we be generously open, as Frankie Huff Granger was, to do our part in making the unbreakable chain stronger and wider. Amen!