The first time I met Bishop WC Martin, I was taken in by the look in his kind eyes. Although we are physically close in height, it felt like he towered over me with his life experience and heart for foster children. We couldn't look more different. He is a black Southern Preacher old enough to be my grandfather. I'm a white, thirty-something mother of three and social worker. He is boisterous and I'm a little more reserved. He's been a guest on Oprah, 48 hours, and other national media venues. My media exposure has been mostly local. He doesn't seem to worry about what people think of him. I tend to second-guess myself more than is probably healthy.
He shook my hand warmly and introduced himself, leaning in to catch my name. He and I were both keynote speakers at a conference last Spring. After his address I passed him on my way to the podium. We had a minute to talk and I couldn't resist asking if he had any last-minute tips for me before I took the stage. When he speaks, people listen. He looked me in the eye and said, "I'm just a poor country boy from the backroads of Texas. I speak from my heart. You do the same and you will be fine." I took the stage and finished my address to the sound of resounding applause. "Good work, my friend," he said as we walked out together.
Bishop Martin and I crossed paths again last week. He was in Cincinnati to address pastors and other church leaders in our area with the goal of motivating them to get involved with foster care and adoption. Midway through his passionate speech he stopped, took a deep breath and said, "Everyone one of you in here has a responsibility for a child lost in the system." He talked of passing the buck, closing our eyes and turning away from children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents. Enough is enough.
This is exactly the message church leaders needed to hear and I was thrilled to have someone like Bishop Martin deliver it. To read John Johnston's Cincinnati Enquirer article about Bishop Martin's address, click here. It is a great piece and really captures the message.
Bishop Martin and I autographed our books (mine is Invisible Kids) for the attendees. After the crowd was gone, we packed up and headed out the door. He was returning to his home in Possum Trot, TX and I was on my way to guest lecture at a university. As we parted ways, I found myself wondering when we would cross paths again, and I hoped it would be soon.
To catch a glimpse of this great man and his life's work, please visit http://www.bcministry.org/ or check out his book, Small Town Big Miracle.
To learn more about the Coalition of Care and the 28 churches coming together around the needs of foster care, please visit http://www.coalitionofcare.org/.