Meridian Star


January 22, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

MERIDIAN — A story about

your mayor

    The following is an excerpt from a sermon I was honored to deliver at Governor Phil Bryant’s prayer breakfast on Tuesday, January 10, 2012. The sermon’s message coincided with Governor Bryant’s inaugural theme of “Rising Together."

    When my family moved to Meridian in August of 2004, we met several of our neighbors in Colonial Acres. We seemed to hit it off with one particular couple. He was and is an attorney and at the time she was the director of the Key Chapter of the American Red Cross.

    In September Hurricane Ivan swept across east Mississippi. I got my first observation of Cheri Barry in action. It was only a foretaste of things to come. Ivan gave us the chance to work closely as my church served as a shelter.

    Only God would know what lie ahead.

    Following Ivan, we held training sessions in our church. I watched as she began to train people in our community. I used to go by her office from time to time and hear how the Red Cross in Meridian responded to families whose houses burned in the middle of the night.

    Cheri would often go by herself many nights to be source of comfort and help to the victims of disaster and heartache. Then, on August 29, 2005 a lady called Katrina came calling, and every other town in Mississippi that was far enough away from her fury, people fled for safety.

    None of us were fully prepared. But Cheri was one of the most courageous witnesses in our city.

    Preparation paid off. She opened shelters in as many places as possible. Our church and our sister Church Central UMC soon filled up with hundreds of people, but I would look up at noon or midnight and there was Cheri in a pick up or her car.

    She would ask, "What do you need? How many more can you serve? Take my credit card and go buy it."

    I don't know if she got any sleep for the week that passed. I do know that as the days lingered she endured criticism and distain from folk who were frustrated dismayed and ornery. She would not back down. Her strength came from two places, her wonderful husband Rick and the grace and power of God. She led our community along with the churches to a great moment of service to God.

    Several months after Katrina I was in their home one evening and she said to me, "Some people want me to consider running for Mayor. I have been thinking and praying about it. Our city is in dire straits, almost on the brink of financial disaster. What do you think?”

    I answered, “It is what is on your heart, and if you can see a new vision for Meridian then I think you know what you must do."

    She won the election, and for the past two years she has looked over the valley and she has seen some of the dry bones rise and take on a new vision. Can these dry bones live? When we rise on God’s word of truth and conviction these bones can come to life.

    Meridian is blessed to have a mayor with the heart and vision of Cheri Barry. I thank her for her commitment and devotion to Meridian. I am grateful for the beacon of leadership she shines for the city.

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