Happy Birthday to My Pastor Who Is Not Slowing Down at 71
When it comes to celebrating birthdays, one fun fact about my pastor, Overseer Sandra D. Carter, is that hers is a month-long festivity. She turned 71 on July 11, and our church, Vision of Breath with Life Ministries in Columbus, OH, had a steak and seafood dinner in her honor, dressing up in our Sunday best. Although she is designated as a senior citizen by our cultural standards, Carter is abundantly youthful in spirit. One of her favorite pastimes is driving her Can-Am Spyder motorcycle on the suburban streets of Columbus' Blacklick township. She is truly living her best life according to Ecclesiastes 3:22, which says that there is nothing better than for us to enjoy our "work," translated in Hebrew as "activities," because we do not know what "shall be" after we are gone.
I took some time this month to talk with Carter about her reflections on her life. Usually, we consider birthdays that end in a zero or a five as milestones, so I wanted to know how she viewed 71. "The most remarkable thing for me is being alive at this moment and letting God use me," she said. "I am blessed to be getting a better understanding of God's Word and teaching it to others. I am especially excited to talk with people about their lives and what they want to do in the future."
As she ministers through the COVID-19 pandemic, Carter has been giving a lot of thought to the future while witnessing the fears and insecurities that have caused many people to almost lose hope. She faced a serious health scare of her own last November when she came down with pneumonia, which caused her to be hospitalized for three days. COVID-19 cases were rising in Columbus during this time, and even though Carter was very weak and severely dehydrated, she did not contract the virus. "I am so thankful that I was not on a ventilator," she says. "Some of my friends were not as fortunate, as I lost several to COVID who were pastors, elders and bishops." Carter's hospitalization came five months after the release of her first book, "Identity Crisis: Reclaiming the Authority of our Spirit through God," distributed by True Perspective Publishing House. She had planned to design several Bible study lessons around her book's core theme of how believers can live victoriously when they fully understand who they are in Christ through the Holy Spirit and why they were created. The forced shutdown from the pandemic put these plans on hold, but now Carter is focused on these teachings with a detailed emphasis on the mind, soul and spirit. "Your mind, soul and spirit are very important to God," Carter explains, "and 3 John 2 states that 'Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.' The Bible tells us that we must renew our minds, and God places a primary focus on our souls. If you are not prospering in your soul, Scripture teaches that you are poor in every other area of your life. So, if you are not feeding your mind and soul the right information, you can be destroyed."
The clash of the feelings within the soul is something Carter is particularly passionate about teaching as many people continue to struggle with anxiety and frustration while the pandemic rages on. She is also deeply concerned about Columbus' inner-city youth, who are battling mental illness, drugs, and the influence of gang violence. Community outreach is one of the major components of her vision to help young people as she is in the last stages of building her church in the Livingston East area. After many years of ministry, to finally build an edifice in her 70s is a special blessing. "I am excited because people in the neighborhood where I and my members are going need great emotional support," Carter says. "Through everything that people in this community have endured within the past year, whether it is the loss of a job or a family member due to COVID, I want them to know in the midst of it all that God is the real thing, and He loves them. He still has the power to change their lives."
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University's Lima campus. Email her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JjSmojc. To find out more about Jessica Johnson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate, Inc.