According to the National Park Service
, “Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday School several times during the year. This creates an unique situation for visitors who want to experience meeting Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. The church congregation welcomes any and all visitors to worship with them.”
Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga. posts a schedule
of the dates when Carter will be teaching Sunday School. So far for 2010, Carter has taught two classes and plans to teach five more in the upcoming months. One of those dates was August 15.
On the evening of August 14, a Facebook post from Shae Windham read, “I am heading to Plains, Ga. in the morning to hear President Jimmy Carter teach Sunday School. I'm so excited.”
DigitalJournal.com asked Windham if she would describe what motivated her to drive 100 miles to hear Carter teach and share what she experienced during Carter’s Sunday School class. Windham replied in a Facebook note.
I had known for a while that President Carter taught Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist in Plains, Georgia and that everyone was welcome. I kept telling myself that one day I was going to drive over to see an American President and a good man, but it wasn't until last week when I read Pres. Carter's book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, that I stopped saying someday.
Simon & Schuster, the publisher of “Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis,” describes
Carter’s book in this way:
President Jimmy Carter offers a passionate defense of separation of church and state. He warns that fundamentalists are deliberately blurring the lines between politics and religion.
As a believing Christian, Carter takes on issues that are under fierce debate -- women's rights, terrorism, homosexuality, civil liberties, abortion, the death penalty, science and religion, environmental degradation, nuclear arsenals, preemptive war, and America's global image.
Windham said, “In his book I found all the strength of character and ideas that I have been waiting desperately to hear from my elected leaders right now, but I also found something that I really had forgotten I was looking for. I found the understanding and acceptance that I had hoped I would find in a pastor one day. I had given up on both. But his book filled up my cup and I wanted to see and hear it for myself."
Windham got up early Sunday morning, August 15, and drove almost 100 miles “down country roads” to reach her destination of Plains, the home of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter and Maranatha Baptist Church.
As the church points out, visitors can expect
tight security when they arrive for one of Carter’s classes. “The U. S. Secret Service provides constant security for President and Mrs. Carter. All persons entering the church building are subject to search. You may bring in your camera and purse, but leave any scissors, pocketknives, or other metal objects in your car,” states Maranatha Baptist Church.
When she arrived, Windham said there was a Secret Service Agent in the drive accompanied by a German Sheppard. Windham said the Secret Service Agent “very kindly lets you know he is a going to take the dog around your car before you park. When I got there at 8:30 there were already around 20 people in line waiting for the Secret Service to check their bags and person. A very nice man went through my purse and another ran a metal detector across my body.”
After being seated in the center of the third row, Windham said a woman named “Mrs. Jane” greeted the group of 50 and told them what to expect. Appearing a bit upset that the group was not larger, “Mrs. Jane told us that there have been times when 800 people filled the sanctuary,” said Windham.
Around 10 a.m., Mrs. Jane led the group in prayer “and when she said ‘Amen’ and we opened our eyes there he was with a big Carter grin,” Windham said.
Before beginning his lesson, Carter, 85, asked folks where they were from. Windham said, "Mainly the South was represented but there were some from Ohio, California, and Illinois.”
Windham wrote about Carter’s Sunday School lesson, saying:
The lesson that day was on Jacob's conflict with Laban and the President discussed the conflict we see in the world from families and churches to the government and up to war. He talked about how conflict can be resolved in different ways but that Peace and not war is the way of Jesus. Jesus is the Prince of Peace not War.
“The President's class lasted about 45 minutes and then there was a 10 minute break before the Sunday Sermon,” Windham said. She said the young pastor delivered “an uplifting sermon," and she later “wondered what it must be like to preach to a President.”
Accompanied by their Secret Service detail, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter slipped out of the church during the Benediction and made their way outside to a spot where photographs are taken.
According to Maranatha Baptist Church, “President and Mrs. Carter, depending on their schedule, remain long enough after worship time for each visitor or group to have a photo taken with them. We have persons who will gladly use your camera for a picture.”
Windham said, "It was really something special to stand beside and touch a man who has such goodness in his heart. I don't care what your politics are you cannot deny this man is a servant to his people and those people include everyone on this planet. It was a lovely day."
Former Pres. Carter will be teaching Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist Church on the following dates: August 22 & 29, September 12 & 26, and October 10. Maranatha Baptist Church is located at 148 Hwy. 45 North in Plains, Georgia. For more information, call 229-824-7896.