This article is the final installment of an ongoing series exploring the rich spiritual soil that can be found in Griffin and Spalding County.
On Wednesday February 26, Christians around the world will enter into the season of Lent, a six-week journey toward the cross of Christ. It is a journey of self-reflection, confession, and repentance. The ashes on their head will symbolize one more step in a lifetime of conversion – of being conformed in mind, heart, and body to be more like Jesus.
In addition, it is a journey towards the great mercy of God. As the book of Lamentations reminds us: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.”
The Reverend Grady Caldwell is no stranger to the mercy of God. In fact, it is the very thing that animates him and gets him out of bed every morning. Rev. Caldwell grew up in Albany, GA. As a young man, he went to church and heard all the stories about Jesus and the twelve disciples. But, he admits, these stories never fully took hold of his heart.
By his own admission, he took great pride in himself. A star athlete and popular kid, he was full of self-confidence until his promising career and family were derailed by drug addiction.
“The drug addiction broke me,” Rev. Caldwell said. “I suffered every negative consequence you could think of short of death. I lost everything – my career, my marriage, my children.”
It was here that Rev. Caldwell fell into the loving arms and mercy of God. It was here that the stories he had heard as a child became a transforming reality in his life.
God used his wife, Kathleen, to be one the primary messengers of grace and mercy. After seven years of separation, they were able to rebuild their marriage. After spending time in prison and wandering far and wide, God opened a door for Caldwell to enter the ministry.
Caldwell moved to Griffin and started having conversations about a new church in September of 2007. God gave them a name and New Mercy Baptist Church was officially launched in June of 2008. The stories of their building and ministries are nothing short of miraculous.
In just ten years, New Mercy has become a beacon of hope for hurting people in Spalding County. Willing to go where people are and get down in the mess with them, they are an example of the incarnational ministry of Jesus – the Eternal one who, as Eugene Peterson puts it, “became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
When asked about the message that summed up his ministry, Rev. Caldwell said, “God has saved us all from something. Too many of us don’t want to share that and, as a result, we hide our past. God brought us out to use us to help others find freedom and mercy. My hope is to help others speak up and not be afraid to testify to what God has done.”