A lifetime of service

Published 12:28 am Sunday, March 15, 2009

Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a series of stories about our community’s unsung heroes.

The Rev. Elijah Good tells his congregation at the World’s Church of the Living God about service.

“Serve God. Serve one another,” Good says calmly and with conviction. And Good is a man that practices what he preaches. “I’m real interested in the people and the people’s welfare.”

The church will celebrate its 32nd anniversary on March 29, and Good, 75, has been there from the beginning, helping people and teaching them how to help themselves. The anniversary theme is, appropriately, “Labor of Love.”

The list of projects Good has undertaken reads like a timeline of Chilton County’s history for the past 30 years: founding board of the YMCA, Project GEAR, Emergency Center Board, Red Cross Advisory Board, E.M. Henry Headstart program, NAACP, Civitan, and the Department of Health and Human Resources.

Community members often call the church when in need, and Good pays their bills or has their vehicles filled with gasoline.

“He’ll give the clothes off his back,” says Mildred Johnson, Good’s daughter and the church secretary. “He’s been a blessing to us as a father.”

When Hurricane Katrina displaced thousands, Good instructed his adopted daughter, Elizabeth Huntley, to go around to local hotels and seek people that might need help.

‘Wherefore I perceive that [there is] nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that [is] his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?’

Many were fed at the church, and five families found shelter and employment because of the effort of Good and the church.

Life instruction is also an important part of Good’s teachings. Greg DeJarnett, who grew up in the West End community and now serves as the principal at Chilton County High School and on the Clanton City Council, said Good was and is a role model for many.

“That kind of example maintains a sense of balance. His example has been a balancing force,” DeJarnett said. “When people look out in the community, they don’t just see the bad.

“As a community leader and as a school official, we appreciate people like Mr. Good and his wife for doing a great job raising children, supporting the community and inspiring young people.”

Huntley’s story provides another example of Good’s character. Huntley professed her faith as an 8-year-old living with her grandmother because her mother had committed suicide and her father was frequently in jail.

When Huntley’s grandmother suffered a fatal illness, Huntley had nowhere to turn to except out-of-town relatives. Or so she thought.

“Dad simply said, ‘Come and live out here with me and your mother.’ Just like that, God gave me the mother and father that I never had,” Huntley says. “I do not know what my life would be without my mom and dad.”

Huntley, an attorney at Birmingham-based Lightfoot, Franklin and White that lives in Clanton, now has followed Good’s example of serving others.

In 1977, Good came to the county from Chattanooga, Tenn., with nothing other than an Oldsmobile and his faith. His ministry was an extension of Bishop W.C. Hunter’s church, but Good was very much on his own.

“Bishop Hunter didn’t give me a peanut,” Good says. “It was a dark time. First, I couldn’t find anywhere to live so I drove back and forth. Other religions are afraid of you, what you’re teaching. I was an outsider for many years. I told people I was going to start a church in West End, and people said, ‘They’re going to kill you.’ I said, ‘Well, I guess I’m gonna have to die.’”

Fortunately for Good and the many people he has helped, Good suffered no bodily harm—there were many threatening telephone calls—because of his efforts to build a church.

And build it he has. More than 100 people regularly attend services, which are held at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and noon on Sundays. A bus picks up those that need a ride.

The church is packed “so good,” says Good’s wife of 51 years, Ruth, that Good plans to see the construction of a new facility just down the road on 2 1/2 acres the church has purchased. There will be a 1,000-seat sanctuary, a gym and a pool.

“We’ve come a long way,” Good says. “I can just see it clearly. But it’s not about us. It’s about God.”

After 32 years in the county and with a growing congregation and the possibility of a new church, Good admits he’s had to slow down some and give up his involvement in so many groups.

“There’s just so much that one person can do,” Good says. He has, after all, tested the limit in a lifetime of dedication to service that has been passed from Hunter to Good and now from Good to those that have been through the church.