The past two weeks I’ve been in my hometown, Albany, Georgia, and today marked the 96th anniversary of my late father’s birth.

Most fittingly, I spent the morning in Plains, Georgia — a 45-minute drive from Albany — at the Maranatha Baptist Church; the home church of President Jimmy Carter and Former First Lady Rosalynn. The elegant country brick church sits in an old growth of pecan trees. 

By some miracle my friend Flora and I were up before the crack of dawn and on the road by 5 AM arriving at the church by 6 AM to park in the dark and wait to lineup. By 8:30 we had passed through The Secret Service “wanding” and joined over 320 others (a few church members, mostly visitors) in the sanctuary for President Carter’s Sunday school class. It was well worth the trip.

“We must look for opportunities to share what we have with others.”  — President Carter

The pastor, Brandon Patterson from Nashville, Tennessee, is only 23 years old. His sermon (Ruth 2:4-23) urged us to “become partners with God in this blessing business”.

President Carter spoke briefly and with heartbreaking sincerity about how we should try to have peace with North Korea; then moved on to his lesson: Giving & Serving (Romans 15:25-23), two things the Carters know much about.

“Take a look at yourself this morning and ask: what can my gifts accomplish? Why was I created?”                                           

He wanted to know if our lives were filled with joy, peace, happiness and purpose? Do we have peace? If not, it’s our fault. Starting right now we must ask; “What kind of person do I want to be?” Who is it up to? Nobody but ourselves. 

I was awestruck, sitting in the pews of the beautiful humble sanctuary with soft green walls, facing a beautiful hardwood cross carved by President Carter and placing my offering in a wooden collection plate he also carved (and signed on the bottom with his initials: JC).

This was a beautiful way to honor the birth of my father, Silas Jones, who grew up a few miles south of Plains in Putney, Georgia.

 I agree with my friend Flora Devine: who kept saying throughout  our drive back: “President Carter is a national treasure.”