It’s really hard for me to believe this, but next month marks 50 years since my high school graduation (boy, I must have been a young graduate?)! Yet, I still remember that evening. We marched into the auditorium of Hinton High School (Hinton, W.Va.) to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, 166 strong in our black and white gowns.

The auditorium was filled to capacity (and hot, not being air conditioned). The four honor graduates spoke about “faith” and the valedictorian’s speech centered on “Faith in God”; his first words were from Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.” (Yes, it was a public high school and yes, we talked about God. 1970 was before the perpetuation of the “hoax” that has become “separation of church and state”!)

Then we were off to “real life”, many to college, some to the military, others to jobs and some to marriage and family. Many of us kept in touch through the years and we’ve seen some classmates “succeed”, others have great difficulty, and too many have died. But that graduation evening was a momentous and important event.

The latter months for the class of 2020 have been anything but “normal”. Senioritis gave way to coronavirus; senior “sneak” day lasted three months; final classwork, term papers and exams were done “online” and proms and other events were canceled.

I will readily admit that I cannot enter into the feelings and thoughts of the members of this year’s graduating class. It was far too easy for some “officials” to cancel graduation ceremonies or quickly opt for “informal” virtual graduations. We’ve had our time; it doesn’t matter about these “kids”?!?! I’m so glad that our local decision makers have backed up and given thought to the faculties, parents and most importantly the students and will have more personal and “special” ceremonies.

But while I can’t really write to the emotions of this graduating class, today I call on someone who can. Emily Hofmann is a member of the Class of 2020. Emily is an honor graduate of East Central Independent High School of San Antonio, Texas, and will soon be attending the U.S. Air Force Academy with her older sister. (Emily’s grandparents, Lois and Roger Hofmann, live here in Conway.) I was privileged to be able to read Emily’s graduation speech and I think she so very eloquently and sensitively captures the feelings of her co-graduates around the nation. Here is a portion of that speech (used by permission):

“To say that we, the Class of 2020, have had an unusual senior year would be a severe understatement. Never in a million years would we have imagined that the week before spring break would be the last days of our senior year…That our sports and fine arts that week would be the last we would ever participate in…That those were some of the last times we would eat lunch with our friends in high school…That the remainder of our classes would take place behind a screen…That we would never get to sign each other’s yearbooks or hug our teachers ‘goodbye’.

“We didn’t get any closure. This chapter of our lives came to an abrupt end, without warning.

“I know all of you have experienced similar emotions. What wouldn’t you give to have just one more day of high school to soak it all in before venturing out into the next phase of your life? The sound of the bells, Mr. Bell’s dress code announcements, the rush of adrenaline you get when there’s going to be a tardy round-up and you have 23 seconds left to get to the main building from South Campus, the sound of people banging on the exit door of the Math/Science building to get to the stairs faster…

“However, maybe it was a good thing that none of us knew those would be our lasts. Instead of dwelling on our impending separation from high school, our friends, our teachers, our coaches and sponsors, we got to enjoy normal last days of high school. Our final memories are raw – they are what an average day for the last four years has looked like for us…

“None of us expected our senior year to be cut short. And yet, even though it may feel frustrating, we must remember the journey that brought us here. We have had three and three-quarter’s years of forming friendships, learning about the society we live in, becoming who we are. This pandemic could have started in August and cost us our entire senior year, but it didn’t. The majority of our senior year was still beautifully normal…

“While I am saddened at the time we lost together and the memories we couldn’t make, I will always treasure the memories I do have…memories that would not exist without all of you…”

Well said, Emily. None of us who were not a part of this class could have expressed it more clearly or better!

So, Class of 2020, what have we learned and where do we go from here? I few words from one who graduated in the Class of 1970:

Practically, take nothing for granted; there is really no normal. There is nothing physical that can’t change in a minute, an hour, or a day. Every day of life and health is a gift from God; every time you breathe, every time your heart beats, it’s because God allowed it. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow!

Remember that we don’t “know it all”. With all our great scientific and medical knowledge and breakthroughs, with our amazing technology etc. our world was “brought to its knees” by a virus we can’t see with the naked eye.

Don’t forget that the freedoms we hold dear can quickly and all too easily be taken away. Other nations learned that lesson the hard way and live in political “slavery”. Be diligent to be good, informed and wise citizens to maintain the Constitutional freedoms we enjoy today!

Make memories with family and friends. Keep in touch, physically. Yes, email, texting, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook are nice; but they do not take the place of face to face talking, laughing, enjoying family and friends!

What would I say to you spiritually? Remember, God is still in charge; always has been, always will be. He is sovereign over everything and everyone.

Make it your life’s priority to build and deepen your relationship with God. The first step is salvation; accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. You don’t deserve this; you cannot earn this; you cannot purchase this. Salvation is a free gift of God, obtained by the death of Christ on the cross for you; and accepting that and entering God’s family is a step of faith brought about only because of His grace!

Then make it a daily discipline (24/7) of following God; get into His Word; stay in prayer. Follow God. Understand and believe that He created you and has a perfect will for your life. Only if you follow Him and stick to the path He has for you will you find joy, peace, contentment and success in life.

I wish these last few months had been different for you. But they weren’t and I can’t change that. I hope you learned the lessons God intended and my thoughts and prayers will be with you as you leave this phase of life and go into the next one!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“For I know the thoughts (plans) that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall you call on Me, and you shall go and pray to Me and I will hear you. And you shall seek Me, and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Memorial Day Tribute

A Memorial Day tribute to those “who gave all”: In Flanders Fields …

“In Flanders fields the poppies grow between the crosses, row on row, that mark our place; and in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly scarce heard amid the guns below.

“We are the Dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow; loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields.

“Take up our quarrel with the foe; to you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.”

(Written 1915 by Canadian Army Doctor Major John McCrae after close friends were killed in a World War I battle in the Flanders area of Europe.)

Another “Giant” Gone Home

Every human who has lived or will ever live is created uniquely by the hand and will of God. Each person is crafted with the abilities and gifts and personality to do what God has intended. Sadly, many never come to the place of recognizing Jesus and Savior and Lord and never accomplish the plan God created them for.

Ravi Zacharias was born on March 26, 1946, in India. His religious upbringing was mixed and, in his own words, he became atheistic. His goal was to play cricket and to that end he admits he gave up on his schooling and other potentials. At age 17 he realized he would not become a professional cricketeer and tried to commit suicide.

While in his hospital room, he was visited by a man who gave him a red Gideon New Testament and read to him from John 14. Verse 19, Jesus’ words, “…because I live, ye shall live also” grabbed his heart and God healed his body. Ravi gave His heart and soul to Christ and began a search for and lifelong defense of truth, the absolute truth of God and God’s Word.

Ravi’s family immigrated to Canada and Ravi got formal Bible training and ultimately became one of the world’s foremost Christian apologists, traveling the world over, speaking truth and winning stubborn hearts to the Savior.

Ravi developed his own ministry organization and a radio broadcast “Let My People Think”, sharing that the truths of God and His Word are not just suppositions but actually defensible truths. He spoke in churches, crusades and colleges and universities all over the world. He was also a prolific author, known for understandable writing. And his humble spirit allowed him to speak truth to even the most dedicated agnostic or “atheist”.

On May 19, the Lord took Ravi home after a short, but difficult battle with cancer, a battle that Ravi won when he experienced the ultimate healing in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Let’s be in prayer for Ravi’s wife Margie and children Sara, Nathan and Naomi and extended family. And let’s each of us, who know Jesus as Savior and Lord, step up our witness and defense of the faith; we have big shoes to fill.

“I have fought the good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith…” (II Timothy 4:7)

To read more, you can go to the website www.rzim.org and there are tributes on many Christian websites as well as YouTube.

Cancellations, Postponements and Reopening

As South Carolina and especially Horry County begin to “reopen”, we will see churches and organizations trying to get back to some degree of normalcy in services and ministries. As your church or house of worship, faith-based organization etc. starts to function “person-to-person” again, let Church Talk know and we’ll share that with the community.

But let’s continue to monitor cancellations and postponements so we’ll all be “on the same page” and “in the right place at the right time”!

Special Prayer and Thanksgiving

Let us continue to be in daily and constant prayer to the only One who can end this time of panic and Who is still on the Throne. Pray to God for healing for those afflicted by the COVID-19 virus; pray for protection for those as yet unaffected; and pray for peace and comfort for families who have lost loved one.

Let us continue to pray for wisdom and rational thought for our political leaders at all levels: national, state and local.

And let’s continue to offer thanks and pray for guidance and protection for all our health-care workers, our first responders (paramedics, fire men/women, police officers).

Remember, God hears and answers prayers!

Helping the Helpers

As we continue through this worldwide “emergency”, needs seem to be multiplying. There are many economic problems from those out of work; there are medical needs for the ones coming down with COVID plus the other “normal” diseases and physical problems; there are emotional needs of loneliness and depression; and there are nutrition needs as many in our area (and around the world) are hungry.

I was always taught, growing up, that all God ever promised His children was “enough”, and if we have more than enough, it’s probably so we can help others. It’s time for all of us to assess our “enough” and to open our pantries, checkbooks, and our hearts to help meet the needs of others.

There are a lot of groups that are trying to do that: the Salvation Army, Help4Kids, the Red Cross, CAP, The Shepherd’s Table, many local churches and so on. The Waccamaw Community Foundation collects “gifts” and distributes them to a number of charities. And we need to remember groups like Coastline Women’s Center, A Father’s Place and Bethesda Home for Single Mothers, who go beyond the physical to assist the spiritual and others needs of our people. If you look, you can find someone to help. Let’s all open our eyes and hearts to friends, neighbors and strangers and be the hand and feet of God to the needy.

CEF Golf Tournament

Child Evangelism Fellowship of the Greater Pee Dee is moving forward with the 11th Annual Golf Tournament to support our Good News Clubs. The tournament will be held June 6 at the Tradition Golf Club, 1027 Willbrook Road in Pawleys Island. Tee time is 8:30 a.m. (and breakfast and lunch are provided).

More than half of the elementary schools in Horry, Georgetown and Marion counties host Good News Clubs each year with more than 2,000 children attending and hearing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You can help via this special event.

Please share this news with your friends; sign up your foursome now (the tournament is expected to fill up quickly). If you don’t play golf, you can still be a sponsor or donate a prize. Phone (843) 365-4233 or go to the website: www.cefgpd.org. And everyone can pray for CEF, the Good News Clubs and this fund-raising event!

Trip of A Lifetime

Wayne and Joy Brown are taking the “trip of a lifetime” and are inviting you to accompany them. This trip to the Holy Land and Germany, will include the magnificent and world-famous Oberammergau Passion Play (put on every ten years since the early 1600’s). The trip will start July 23 and conclude Aug. 3.

This trip is all inclusive: air transportation from JFK (New York), breakfast and dinner daily, first class hotels, ground transportation, all entrance fees, taxes, tips and gratuities. It is truly going to be a “trip of a lifetime”.

To receive a descriptive brochure with complete itinerary and additional information, call or text the Browns at (843) 796-0397; you may email to Wayne@WayneandJoyBrown.com. Or request in writing at: Wayne and Joy Brown, PO Box 70777, Myrtle Beach SC 29572.

Conway, Loris, Aynor and Western Horry

■ Tilly Swamp Survivors of Suicide, a new faith-based support group for those having lost someone to suicide, meets the first and third Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the church: 4619 S.C. 90. Phone (803) 566-0702.

■ St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 3449 S.C. 65, will distribute food on the second and fourth Fridays of each month from 11 a.m. until all food has been distributed.

■ Loris First United Methodist Church, 3507 Broad St., has a Blessing Box in the church and it is available each Friday from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. This box contains nonperishable food items and individuals in need are encouraged to come to the church at those times. Also, if you would like to donate items, please place them in the box.

■ Dogwood Hill Baptist Church, 1040 Mt. Zion Road in Loris, has a food pantry on the third Saturday of each month from 8 a.m.-10 a.m.

■ Salem Baptist Church, 4008 Salem Road in Aynor, opens its Food Bank on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 9 a.m.-noon. The mission: “We serve Christ when we serve people.”

Myrtle Beach/The Coast

■ Myrtle Beach Christian Church, 1226 Burcale Road, invites you to a Classic Car Show and Arts Bazaar Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. There will be lunch and the event is kid friendly. All events are outdoors and there is a connecting link on the church website: myrtlebeachchristianchurch.com.

Phone (843) 236-1121 or e-mail christianchurchmb@gmail.com.

■ Enjoy pizza and music by Brother Day Kelly (http://brotherday-music.com/) at Old Chicago Pizza, 2859 US 17 Business, Garden City Friday from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. This is a fundraiser event for Help4Kids. Don’t miss it!

■ St. Philip Lutheran Preschool is currently registering students for the 2020-21 school year for the 2, 3 and 4-year-old classes. Come join the fun! Contact the director, Jenn Loeswick at stphilipppreschoolmb@gmail.com or look us up on Facebook: St. Philip Preschool-Myrtle Beach. The preschool is located at 6200 N. Kings Highway. Call (843) 449-4322 and we’ll get back to you.

■ The New Beginnings drive-thru food distribution will be held June 20 from 10 a.m.-noon at the Church of the Resurrection, 8901 U.S. 16 Bypass in Surfside Beach. Phone (843) 215-4500.

■ Low Country Food Bank and Faith Outreach Ministries sponsor Drive-Thru Food Distributions at the Myrtle Beach Bowl, 101 Philip Gray Drive. Future dates include July 10, Nov. 6 and Dec. 4.

■ Horry Friends Monthly Meetings, formerly known at Five Rivers Friends, has offered unprogrammed, silent Quaker worship in our area for more than three decades. Now meeting virtually, Horry Friends welcome new attenders and visiting Friends. Contact clerk Grace Gifford at (843) 365-6654.

■ Mt. Olive Church, 1108 Carver St., invites you to a 14-week Strengthening Families Program, each Tuesday through June 9 at 6 p.m. Phone (803) 791-5513 or email thodge@growinghomesse.com.

■ St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 542 Cypress Ave. in Murrells Inlet, have a Life Chain every first Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on U.S. Business 17 near the church driveway. You are invited to participate in this event. (Bring a chair if not able to stand for the hour.) Contact Joanne Bennett at (614) 313-8425 or e-mail Joanne.bennett55@ gmail.com.

■ Temple Emanu-EL by the Sea, 65th Ave. North and N. Kings Highway, invites you to Friday night service at 7:30 p.m. (Kosher Oneg), Shabbat Service at 10 a.m. (Kosher Kiddush).

Sunday School, 9:30 a.m.-noon,

On Wednesdays: Advanced Hebrew 12:45 p.m.-1:45 p.m., Adult Education, 2 p.m.-3 p.m.; Conversion, 3 p.m.-4 p.m.; Hebrew School, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

Current Second Nature Project: we are collecting items for New Directions of Horry County that provides shelter and meals for those in need. Please bring paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, diapers), bath towels, laundry soap, toothpaste and brushes, and cleaning supplies. We are continuing to collect new packages of children’s underwear and socks. Bring your donations to the Rosen Center and place in the basket provided by the front door. All Mitzvoth greatly appreciated! Questions? Contact Karen Osborne at (843) 446-1060.

Steffi Nathan Scholarship Fund for Jewish Students (awarded each semester): applications in Temple Office.

Youth 12-16, the Jewish Historical Society of SC has a contest just for you: create an essay or media piece on the topic: My South Carolina Jewish History. Phone (843) 953-4930 or go to the website jhssc.org/contest.

■ Don’t miss the 12th Annual Ground Zero Dragon Boat Festival has been rescheduled for Sept. 19. Sign up your team today.

■ Myrtle Beach Christian Church, 1226 Burcale Road, opens its Thrift Store each week, Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. You are encouraged to come out and browse and buy and, in so doing, you’ll be supporting this community outreach. Phone (843) 236-1121.

■ Temple Shalom, 4023 Belle Terre Blvd., invites you to Shabbat services each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Phone (843) 903-6634 or go online to templeshalommyrtlebeach.net.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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