On a gray Tuesday morning in March, in the sanctuary of Loudon Avenue Christian Church in Roanoke, Va., 10 people sit scattered among the pews, intently listening to the Rev. William Lee D’78. Visitors from a Baptist church in Richmond, they want to find out how Lee and his Disciples of Christ congregation did it—how they built a health care ministry that is transforming lives throughout some of the poorest neighborhoods in Roanoke.
For the next 45 minutes, in a talk that’s part sermon, part political primer, Lee briefs them about the various health and wellness programs Loudon Avenue has created:
If they want to start a similar program at their own church—particularly if they want to start a clinic—it’s going to require a lot of hard work, Lee warns the folks from Richmond.
“You’ve got to have somebody with energy and passion,” he says. “If you’re not willing to do the sweating and grunting and praying and crying, then don’t do it.”
Underscoring the point, Lee asks a question that leaves his listeners shifting in their seats, laughing nervously.
“Who in this organization is willing to die for this cause?” he asks. “Who here is willing to die to make this happen?”
As the visitors steal glances at one another, you can almost see the thought balloons floating above their heads, all with the same question: “Is he for real?”
“We’re in the season of Lent,” Lee adds. “It says in the Bible, from this time forward the Son of Man must suffer and be betrayed. Remember, when Jesus says ‘Pick up your cross and follow me,’ the last place you follow Him is to a blood-stained cross.”
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