Albany, Georgia, is known for many things. At times, those have been good and positive. At other times, we’ve been in the spotlight because of the negative.
On the positive, we are home to a great Marine Corps Logistics Base. We are home to several major companies. We are the home of Patti LaBelle, Ray Charles, Ray Stephens and others. Our neighboring town, Leesburg, is home to Buster Posey, Phillip Phillips, and Luke Bryan. We are also the home of Sherwood Pictures, which has produced four award-winning films that have been translated into at least fifteen languages, shown in over 75 countries, and been instrumental in bringing thousands of people to Christ and seeing many homes restored.
The Negative and a Response
We were one of the only places where Martin Luther King, Jr. failed in his cry for Civil Rights. Today we have a Civil Rights Museum that stands as a testimony that right can prevail, even in the face of narrow-minded bigots. By the way, no city in America is immune from idiots. Narrow-minded people live everywhere. It takes a visionary to see beyond them to what can be and should be.
I talked to a lady one time who was appalled by the prejudice of the South. She thought we were so backwards because of prejudice. I asked her, “How many people of color live in your town?” She said she didn’t know of any. I told her, “It’s easy to not be prejudiced if everyone is just like you…” Prejudice is a sin, even if people don’t admit they have it. Her prejudice was that she thought people in the South were worse than she was, and it produced great, arrogant pride in her heart.
We had a 500-year flood in the 1990s that devastated this community. Thousands were affected. Some have never recovered. We weren’t ready for it, yet we have rebuilt. People from all across this nation, mostly believers, came and gave their time to clear out debris, clean out homes, and help us rebuild our lives.
When I moved to Albany, it was the crime and murder capital of America. Now it’s not. We still have senseless killings and crime. We are plagued by gangs, drugs, and poverty. But we have men and women who put their lives on the line every day in our sheriff and police departments. These underpaid, unheralded heroes need to be appreciated. By the way, in every town, parish, city, and metro area there are all of these elements. The difference is that in a big city you can move far enough away from the “undesirables” that you actually think they aren’t in your city.
We’ve lost factories and many manufacturing jobs. We have a serious problem with our schools. We are the fourth poorest city in America. We are now, according to a recent study, the second saddest city in America.
But, we are not without hope. Many local churches are involved in ministries to address these needs. Many are working diligently to bring industry and businesses to Albany. We haven’t turned the corner, but it doesn’t mean we can’t.
The hope for our city is Christ. If we have revival, we will see a dramatically different community. There will be great joy where there was great sorrow. There will be reconciliation where there was prejudice. There will be peace where there is strife. God can do more in five minutes than all the government agencies and boards can do in a lifetime.
In the midst of this community that is seemingly under a dark cloud, there stand beacons of hope. Sherwood Baptist is one—not the only one, but it is one. Our sister church, Mount Zion, is influencing the community in positive and significant ways.
At Sherwood, we are developing ministries at the old Coke Plant, a 60,000-square-foot facility given to us. We host Bible studies, cooperate with Samaritan’s Purse, work on cars for widows and singles, and are establishing a disaster relief ministry there.
We have established an 82-acre sports and recreation park called Legacy Park for our community. Thousands use it every week. Over 70% of them are not members of our church.
We have a long way to go, but this is home. This is where we live. As Leesburg native and American Idol, Phillip Phillips, sings, “I’m gonna make this place your home.” Terri and I have made this place our home for over 23 years. We raised our girls here. We had numerous opportunities to leave, but we love it. It’s not perfect. There are things we wish were different. But there is no greener grass; it’s just astroturf or concrete painted green.
Every place you go has the same problems. Man is a sinner in need of a Savior. Until a person meets Christ, they will be sad. The need of our community and yours is for an encounter with the living God that calls us to rejoice. My suggestion is to quit reading surveys and start being a Good Samaritan.
Then, wherever you live, it will be a better place.
(copyright Michael Catt, All Rights Reserved)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.