SMITHFIELD - Sometimes coincidences are really mind boggling, as Brad Oliver learned when his uncle, the Rev. John Oliver, who serves as pastor of the Mount Moriah Baptist Church between Smithfield and Bloomingdale, came to visit his family in Indiana.
"Uncle John" had mentioned he would like to get a movement together to unleash the faith of people who were not aware it was within themselves.
Brad, a quite busy man, just happened to have a few days open. His crowded schedule included his standing with the Indiana Professional Standards Advisory Board; Indiana State Board of Education, where he represented Indiana's 6th Congressional District; consultant to the Association of Christian Schools International in Colorado Springs; and Democratic Republic of the Congo trainer for teachers and school leaders. He also had public service duties such as serving as the vice chairman for Indiana Right to Life, board president of Rebuilding Our Communities and board president of the First Choice for Women, a faith-based crisis pregnancy center in Muncie, Ind. This is in addition to being an educator and public servant.
Daryle Griffin is CEO of the Brightway Center near Smithfield, where a crowd of more than 160 people stood ready to be used for a such a purpose.
John got back to his nephew and showed him a brochure from Brightway, with the picture of Kara "Cobby" Bright, owner of the farm that was donated for the Brightway facility, on the cover. Brad was heard to exclaim, "I knew this man. He was my coach and physical education teacher when I went to school at Buckeye Central in Dillonvale."
He lived with his parents in the Adena area and when the life of his dad ended, Brad was unconsolable. Bright stepped in and tried to help but it would take time and another location before he confronted and conquered his problems and with guidance from above.
When the family moved to West Virginia, there was someone who saw his suffering and taking his anger out on the world, and asked a question that would be a turning point in his life. When told that his outlook and his "God hates me" attitude were distressing to those around him and himself, a Christian camp counselor asked "How's that working for you?"
"Maybe God was saying that I was dead - a mess inside, but I would be amazed with what he could do with that mess and changed me. And I am amazed at the change."
Now, Brad is an ordained minister who speaks to churches and educational leaders at state, national and international levels on topics such as transformational leadership, culture and dealing with change.
Referring to the Community Leadership Conference "Unleashed" that was planned for Brightway Center, Brad said, "God had to be putting this together. He laid the plans and Griffin took care of the promotion of materials. "Uncle John was the ground attack and Daryle was the air attack for the event," he said.
"I felt like I knew him all my life. He was so willing to help us. It was not about Brightway, not about Mount Moriah, not about Indiana Wesleyan University. It was about God." he said in referring to Griffin. "I don't know what God had in store for this conference but I have been so blessed."
"It exceeded our imaginations. We had over 120 in attendance - visitors were from Steubenville, Martins Ferry, Wheeling, Bellaire, Moorefield, Cadiz, Dillonvale, Smithfield and other areas," John said.
The program was in three sessions and Brad spoke with passion and enthusiasm for discovering personal fulfillment in life through God in the first session.
He talked about two types of people: Transactional people who are task oriented, destined to be a good teacher. They are focused on information, know who they are and circumstances of life shape the view of their world and understanding of God; and transformational people who think to themselves, "Why am I here? What is my purpose?"
In relationships he said there are four types of relationships: "Artificial and superficial, where you tell someone your problems, they shake your hand and say 'That's too bad' and go on their way; beneficial and sacrificial, where it's more like a 'you have my back and I have yours attitude.' If you are not in fellowship with yourself, you are not making a difference to anybody," he said.
"God moved me to get beyond church buildings. In thinking of my nephew to bring things together for a conference he could have said no. He just happened to be free that weekend. Brightway just happended to be free and Brad just happened to meet Daryle Griffin, a friend to Kara Bright, who was a friend to my nephew years back. There is something here bigger than me and I know that it is God. He opened doors for me," John said.