A Small Organization with a Big Heart
By Lee Carroll
One seldom knows all the reasons he or she volunteers to serve with a non-profit organization. But after thinking about it, I believe that my core reason for serving with Central Outreach & Advocacy Center is that it helps me fulfill my vocation. Let me explain.
I grew up in South Mississippi in the dark days before desegregation, in the days when racial and economic discrimination was accepted as simply “the way things are.” As I neared adulthood, two powerful forces somehow converged in my life to challenge that world view. First, following an extended period of discernment, I concluded that my calling in life was to serve as an ordained minister of the church of Jesus Christ. And second, the civil rights movement drove me to come to terms with sharp discrepancies between the teachings of my society about race and class, and the teachings of the Scriptures and my theological tradition. In the end, I concluded that racial reconciliation and economic justice are core to God’s mission in the world, and that I wanted to be a part of that mission. Now, as I look back upon my many years as a Presbyterian pastor and theological educator, I know of few things that have brought me more satisfaction than pursuing that part of my vocation.
Central Outreach & Advocacy Center has offered me an amazing context in which to practice that vocation because Central OAC serves those who are homeless. No other people in our community are more likely to be the victims of racial prejudice or economic injustice than those who are homeless. No other people are more likely to suffer from shameful attitudes and public policies that are obstacles to overcoming their plight.
I think of Central OAC as “a small organization with a great big heart.” A big heart for those struggling to find freedom from the shackles of homelessness. A big heart for helping people rediscover dignity in their lives. A big heart for standing with the poor in seeking public policies that can improve their lives.
So why do I serve on the Board of Central Outreach & Advocacy Center? Because the “big heart” of Central OAC seems to me to be akin to the heart of God. Because it brings a sense of integrity to my life. Because I believe that God is at work in and through this dedicated company of colleagues who seek justice and equality for all.
R. Leon (Lee) Carroll, Jr. is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is Associate Professor Emeritus of Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA where he taught from 1983-2009. Prior to that, he served as a pastor with Presbyterian congregations in Memphis TN, Louisville, KY and Charleston WV. He is married to Betty Wilby Carroll, and both are natives of Laurel MS. They have two grown children and three grandchildren. Lee is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi (B.S.) and Columbia Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He has served for numerous terms on the Board of the Central Outreach and Advocacy Center and was Board Chair from 2010 to 2015. He is also a previous board chair of Our House in Decatur GA; the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center in Berea KY; and the Urban Training Organization of Atlanta.