NASHVILLE, Tenn. –– Steve Lathrop of Aiken and John Gaither of Eutawville were commission as men’s ministry specialists by the General Commission on United Methodist Men. They were both commissioned in absentia during the March 3-6 meeting of the National Association of Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men. Herman Lightsey of Irmo was certified as a specialist in 2010
Lathrop travels through Oklahoma, Florida, Pennsylvania and South Carolina
Lathrop began his spiritual journey in an Evangelical United Brethren Church in Oklahoma City where he became active in the youth fellowship.
After his 1960 enlistment in the Air Force he became active in EUB churches wherever he was stationed. He retired from the Air Force in 1980 and became a manger and trainer with Lockheed Martin in Orlando, Fla., where he became active in St. Luke’s UMC.
After retiring from his second career in 2002, he spent one year in Pennsylvania caring for his father-in-law. When he returned to Orlando he became active in Habit builds.
In 2006, he moved to Aiken and joined St. John’s UMC where he works with other retirees, building wheel-chair ramps. He also teaches a Sunday school class, leads a prayer support group for missionaries in Milan, Italy, and serves as president of UM Men.
Gaither called by a hawk
When asked about his faith history, Gaither said when he was a “cultural Christian,” who had a “Damascus experience” while riding a motorcycle to work.
“From nowhere a red-tailed hawk crashed into the side of my motorcycle,” said Gaither. “I tried, but I could not dislodge it while riding, so I had to stop and get off. I then laid the hawk down on the side of the road in the grass. As I did this, the hawk said –– not audibly –– but more as a realization, ‘I died for you.’ I believed that the hawk had possibly prevented me from trouble a little further down the road by making me stop. I didn’t realize who had actually come before me until a few days later.
When the realization hit me and the message was imbued on my heart, my life changed forever.
“From that point in time onward,” said Gaither, “my progression in faith and relationship with Jesus has done nothing but increase at a dramatic pace." Gather now serves as president of the Orangeburg area of UM Men, teaches a Bible study group and a Sunday school class, serves as Sunday school superintendent, lay leader, and he is active in the Christian Motorcycle Association.
Lightsey previously certified specialist
Lightsey said his faith journey started when his fifth grade teacher invited him to attend her Baptist Church Sunday school class. After marrying a Lutheran, they were invited to attend a Methodist Church, the denomination to which they have belonged since 1972.
“In 1973, a group of older men started mentoring me,” said Lightsey, “and I got involved in the United Methodist Men’s group. He was soon elected chair of the Administrative Board, the youngest person to occupy that post.
Lightsey who serves as deputy director and CEO of the South Carolina State Accident Fund, helped establish two UM Men’s groups at Ashland UMC.
A certified lay speaker, he currently serves as president of the Columbia District UM Men and teaches an adult Sunday school class. He also facilitates Disciple Bible studies.
Ready to serve South Carolina churches
After engaging in classroom training, interactive web-based education and after making a commitment to ongoing spiritual growth, these specialists now offer training, resources and programs to enable congregations to reach men outside their faith communities and help men within their churches to grow spiritually.
These specialists do not replace district or conference leaders; they are resource partners with and for them.
Dale Sherrin of Lancaster serves as president of South Carolina United Methodist Men and L.W. Smith of Columbia is president of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of United Methodist Men