One From The Heart
I first met Gloria Gardner in the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program several years ago. She was and is a tall, strikingly beautiful African-American woman who commands an immediate second look. She and I became friends and have stayed so for the intervening years. The more I came to know her, the more I became an admirer.
Q: How long have you been in Bluffton? You seem to know everybody.
A: I was born here. The building I was born in is still standing on Calhoun Street. I am one of six children and I am related to pretty much everybody. That's how it was in Bluffton then. My Grandma knew all of the genealogy and who was what relative to everyone else. Every time someone came to visit, she would say, "This is your cousin!"
Q: You have had a unique faith journey. Could you share a highlight?
A: When I was little, we all went to church. There was no option. We went to the Campbell Chapel AME. My Auntie Beck would always make me sing. I knew I had no voice, but I did it out of obedience. It was not long before I began to love to sing. My solo was "The Old Rugged Cross." I knew all the words and everything, but I really could not sing very well. I prayed and prayed for God to give me a singing voice, and you know what? He did. I am 44 now and I sing in church choirs, in the theater, and have performed numerous times. People tell me I have a great voice. That was an answered prayer, and I have had many more.
"I always knew that trials and suffering made you strong, but I always wondered why I had to go through so much in my life. Finally, I opened my ears and listened. God said to me that I needed to tell it and I knew it was my time."
Q: Has your faith ever really been tested?
A: Yes, I have had a severe test of my belief in the Lord. From the age of five until I was almost 12, I was the victim of molestation by a relative. I never told until years later. I began having emotional flashbacks when I was in my thirties and away at school. Finally after I graduated and came home to Bluffton, I had the courage to tell my mother. We cried and cried together.
Q: Oh, Gloria, it must be very difficult for you to share this now and in a womens' magazine.
A: No, it is not. God has helped me to forgive and put that behind me. I talk about it now for two very good reasons. One is to show that true forgiveness is an absolute possibility and that even people who hurt us are created by God. The second reason is that perhaps some other little girl will have the courage to speak if she comes to know my story. I believe you should go to church with the expectation of change. If you don't forgive, you will be right where that person has left you. You will never go on.
Q: Gloria, I know you have had a "call" to ministry. Will you share something about that?
A: I always knew that trials and suffering made you strong, but I always wondered why I had to go through so much in my life. Finally, I opened my ears and listened. God said to me that I needed to tell it and I knew it was my time. I have been preaching in churches now since 2006. I will finish at Rhema Bible College by the end of 2009. I will have a bachelor's degree in theology. I was ordained in the W. O. R. D. Ministries Sunday, June 23.
Q: Please give us some words of wisdom about how you have kept strength and faith throughout your life.
A: You can't see the wind, but you know it is there because you see the trees blow. You can't see God, but you know he is there because he answers your prayers.
What a joy to spend time with Gloria. Her faith shines like a beacon.