Dolphus Weary returns for Caulkins Lecture Series

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

After eight years, Dr. Dolphus Weary will return to Corban as the featured speaker for the Richard L. Caulkins Lecture Series, February 4-6. The theme of his visit is “Building Bridges of Reconciliation.”

Weary will speak in Chapel on Monday morning, February 4, on “Building Bridges of Reconciliation with God, with ourselves, and with our families.” Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m. his topic will be “Building Bridges of Reconciliation with people who look like us and with the poor.”  Wednesday chapel’s message will be “Building Bridges of Reconciliation with those who are racially different from us.” All three sessions will be held in the Psalm Performing Arts Center.

“I’m very excited for my students to benefit from his expertise and wisdom, from the courageous way he’s lived his life,” said Dr. Jim Hills, professor of humanities, who knew Weary when he taught at Los Angeles Baptist College and Weary was a student.

Weary’s book, I Ain’t Comin’ Back, has been required reading for Corban students in the course, “American Thought and Culture,” ever since Weary’s first lecture series back in the spring of 2000. 

Weary grew up amidst poverty and racism in rural Mississippi during the sixties. He lived with the threat of lynchings and had close friends who were beaten by the police for no reason. His family was cheated in sharecropping by landowners.  His dream was to leave Mississippi and never go back.  He left Mississippi to attend Los Angeles Baptist College on a basketball scholarship in 1969.  But I Ain’t Comin’ Back tells the story of how God called him and used him to bring needed social, economic and spiritual changes to the very community of his worst memories.

Hills remembers him as handsome, articulate, charismatic, an outstanding basketball player, and a good student. He and his wife Bonnie invited Weary into their home on many occasions. Weary once told him that the gesture of hospitality was courageous, seeing that Weary and his hometown friend, Jimmie Walker, were the only black students on campus at the time. Hills, however, viewed Weary as the courageous one when he began to talk about returning to Mississippi in hopes of making things better.

In Weary’s own words, “I came back, not because I thought I could change the situation, but I believed God could—and that He would if I’d be faithful to help the people He brought my way.  I concentrated on what I could do instead of what I couldn’t do. As a result, God has used me to bring forth impossible dreams and ripples of hope.”

Hills is convinced Weary could have become very wealthy had he stayed in the Los Angeles area, as some encouraged him to do. Hills adds, “I’m glad he didn’t listen to that advice!”

Weary returned to Mississippi in 1971 to work with Mendenhall Ministries, a multi-faceted Christian community development ministry. Together, they established programs and services that helped take people from grinding poverty to purpose, productivity, and a meaningful relationship with Christ. Mendenhall Ministries was named by then-President George H. W. Bush as the 541st Daily Point of Light for engaging people and resources in solving serious social problems.

In 1997, Weary became involved with Mission Mississippi, a racial reconciliation movement that encourages unity in the body of Christ across racial and denominational lines. He is now their Executive Director, also serving on the national boards of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Wheaton College Board of Visitors, and World Vision. He serves on several other boards of directors and advisory boards, including Belhaven College, the Community Foundation of Great Jackson Grants Committee, Catholic Charities, Mississippi Faith Based Coalition, Greater Jackson Arts Council, Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi Families for Kids (Chairman), the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference, and the WAPT-TV 16 African American Advisory Board.

Weary graduated from Los Angeles Baptist College and Los Angeles Baptist Seminary, as well as the University of Southern Mississippi. In 1973 he was ordained to the ministry, and in 1997 received a Doctor of Ministry from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. In 2007 he was honored by Waynesburg College in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania with a Doctorate of Humane Letters.

Weary and his wife, Rosie, have three children:  Daneta, who lives in Natchez, Mississippi; Ryan, who is a student at Belhaven College; and Reggie, who went home to be with the Lord in June 2004. Rosie will accompany Weary for the Lecture Series visit to Corban.

Dr. Bob Mathisen, chair of the history department, was struck by Weary’s “compelling” message and “loving heart” from the first visit. Looking forward to the coming lecture series, he said, “You know it’s a message from the Lord that you need to hear.”

The Richard L. Caulkins Lecture Series is made possible by the contributions of friends and supporters of the College. Dr. Weary’s visit is funded, in part, by a gift from Paul Richter of State Farm Insurance.

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