Beliefnet
Inspiration Report

J. Reed/Flickr.com

J. Reed/Flickr.com

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport lost power for about 11 hours forcing more than 1,000 flight cancellations, crippling the world’s busiest airport and leaving loads of weary passengers delayed and frustrated.

Chick-fil-A, which is famously known for closing on Sundays, broke tradition by providing meals to thousands of stranded travelers both in and outside the airport while power was restored.

“The mayor called about 10 p.m. and asked for assistance,” a spokesman for Chick-fil-A confirmed in a statement. “We immediately mobilized staff and team members who live and work near the airport, and they began making sandwiches and delivering them to the EOC (emergency operations center). City and airport official then distributed more than 5,000 sandwiches to passengers who were stranded due to the power outage.”

But it wasn’t just airport officials who were delivering food. In a tweet posted by the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy arrived at the airport to pass out chicken sandwiches alongside airport and city officials.

The local government confirmed that Chick-fil-A meals would also be provided to passengers who were staying at the Georgia International Convention Center, which opened its door to stranded travelers following the power outage.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed later thanked Chick-fi-A for its assistance, confirming that 2,000 meals had already been handed out to hungry travelers as of 11:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Travelers were also appreciative of this effort, and fans of the restaurant took to Twitter to commend the chain.

Matt Walsh tweeted: “I propose that Chick-fil-A and Southwest team up and hold a conference to teach all other companies how to do customer service. They’re the only ones who’ve figured it out.”

Seed of Abraham tweeted: “This is why we love our @ChickfilA and God continues to bless them. They are a servant and good steward to their patrons.”

Yves Saint Florient tweeted: “Shoutout to @ChickfilA for providing free food for those strandest at the #ATLAirport. And they are closed on Sundays…”

The Associated Press added that Dunkin’ Donuts was also giving away doughnuts to grounded travelers at the Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

Chick-fil-A restaurants are normally closed on Sundays, with the chain explaining that Truett Cathy, the company’s founder and father of CEO Dan Cathy, made the decision so he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they so choose. These values have remained in place even after Truett Cathy’s passing and is one of the many reasons people love and support the restaurant.

The chain is so strict about this rule, that when they announced in August that they would be opening a location at the Atlanta Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, they confirmed that they would not be open on Sundays – which is when the Falcons play most of their games. But in this instance, Chick-fil-A made an exception to their rule to help those in need.

The outage was said to be caused by an electrical fire that started in an underground facility and eventually brought down the backup power system, as well.

Stephen_Baldwin_by_Gage_SkidmoreThere is an atmosphere of fear and division in America today. People have stopped talking to each other about important issues, and the news is dominated by rage and violence. This lack of dialogue has deepened the gap further, and few people have been willing to try and reopen the lines of communication. Stephen Baldwin, however, has decided to try and bridge the divide that has opened in America. In his new show, “The Great American Pilgrimage,” Stephen Baldwin and his friend, Max Keiser, decided to restart the dialogue that has been lost in America by roadtripping across the U.S. and asking ordinary Americans a simple question: “What is America to you?” The show features conversations with everyone from a man who makes wood sculptures with a chainsaw to Hurricane Harvey victims, farmers, immigrants and a woman running for the U.S. Senate. The first season, with the pilot episode, ranges over ten states in the course of 16 half-hour episodes.

Stephen Baldwin does not so much star in “The Great American Pilgrimage” as much as work to host a conversation that has been far too neglected in recent years. “The experiment that is ‘The Great American Pilgrimage’ is this,” Stephen said. “What would happen if we went out fully intending to have some fun and host a conversation where what we do is mostly listen? So Stephen Baldwin…is just a guy hosting a conversation to the best of his ability and letting everyone say what they think America is and why.”

Stephen and Max began their journey in Venice Beach, California before moving on to Phoenix, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; and Corpus Cristi and Beaumont, Texas. At each point Stephen and Max do their best to make sure the conversation is organic and avoid using scripts. “What always allowed [the people spoken to on the show] to feel like they could speak their mind was that the conversation was organic,” Stephen said. “It wasn’t me or Max saying, ‘Did you know this?’…Unguarded, I think is a good word to describe these exchanges.” Stephen admits that the discussions have gotten uncomfortable a few times, but he says that part of the reason for the ease of dialogue is the sense of humor the show brings. Stephen described it as “crazy like a fox,” and Stephen and Max have filmed several of the conversations dressed as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

Though the first season of the show has not finished running, Stephen has already found some common ground between Americans. He described a conversation that he was disappointed did not make the final cut of the show but perfectly illustrated one way Americans can bridge the divide that has formed in the country. “This guy was talking to me,” Stephen said, “and we both made the observation that..in this particular moment, we were both just dads. It was really kind of a cool moment…and I said, ‘Right now, it doesn’t matter who we voted for. We’re both just dads who want the best for our daughters.” Stephen also found that most people believe that the dialogue needs to be reopened in America even if they are unsure of how to restart the discussion themselves. “Issues have been so polarized in certain ways by the media and the messages there of. I think we are at the tipping point where folks from all walks of life are saying ‘Hey, we can’t just keep ignoring each other. We need to find the best way forward and understand each other a little better.’”

Stephen himself feels that the dialogue in the U.S. desperately needs to be reopened in order to keep the divide from eroding America further. “I’m actually a little freaked out,” Stephen said. “I think ‘Why am I scared to walk down the street and smile at people?’ I’m half-joking and half-serious, but we better start talking, or it’s really going to get stupid in America.”

“The Great American Pilgrimage” airs at 7:30 on Sunday nights and is available on RT.com. Stephen was proud to say that the episodes had received “really good numbers” so far. “The Great American Pilgrimage” is a bit different from RT’s usual content, but Stephen seemed glad to be part of RT’s branching out.

Working with RT was a unique experience for Stephen. “I’m not dealing with a studio environment,” Stephen said, “I’m doing a news channel backed by the Russian government.” Showcasing the humor present throughout both his interview and “The Great American Pilgrimage,” Stephen laughed and declared that, “I am colluding with the Russians. It’s official!”

In addition to infusing “The Great American Pilgrimage” with his sense of humor, Stephen said that his faith has also influence his work on “The Great American Pilgrimage.” “[To have these authentic conversations] someone has to feel like you’re genuine and your motivation is real and true. My faith has blessed me with this more than anything. I really, really want to know what [other people] think. They’re connecting with that…Everywhere we go there is a fear that occurs in putting your head up and loving your neighbor…If I didn’t have my faith, I don’t think I could embark on such a pilgrimage seriously…So to try and do something this wacky, while still doing something I believe could be a blessing to a lot of folks, even if it’s just through entertainment when everything coming out of the TV is doom and gloom, it’s only by my faith that I have the strength to do that and not get discouraged myself.”

During filming, Stephen consciously tries to avoid being the stereotypical Hollywood star in his conversations. “When many of these Hollywood types come out,” Stephen said, “They tell twenty minutes of jokes to set the mood. I’m not pretending to be as intelligent as Jimmy Kimmel and so qualified to speak on certain platforms.” Again, Stephen laughed and declared, “That’s a dig! You tell them Baldwin said to say that’s a dig!”

On a more serious note, Stephen said that for the show things are going “so far so good. People really feel like this idea is timely, and they are embracing it.” He is hopeful that viewers watching “The Great American Pilgrimage” will join him on his journey across the nation and “learn something. But,” he said, “it might also have you to have a few thoughts about yourself. That’s the hope.”

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Newsmax’s list is topped by Reverend Billy Graham. The 99 year old reverend has preached the gospel to nearly 215 million people in stadiums worldwide and is credited with converting well over 3 million people. Graham opposed racial segregation in the 1950’s and worked to dismantle the black and while divide in American churches. He has also spent over five decades advising U.S. presidents on spiritual matters. Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, took second place on the list of 100 Most Influential Evangelicals. Franklin Graham forged his own ministry through Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that provides both disaster relief and the gospel to millions of people around the world.

Jerry Falwell Jr. also made Newsmax’s list. Falwell is the president of Liberty University and took the position following the death of his father, the school’s founder. Liberty University is arguably the best known Christian college in America. It is certainly the largest. Liberty boasts a student body of 92,600 people and is nearly twice the size of the second largest Christian college, Grand Canyon University.

Vice_President_Pence_Official_PortraitVice President Mike Pence and former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin took ninth and 11th place respectively. Pence is known for his creationist and pro-life values and attributes many of his political stances to his faith. Palin was John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential elections and has written several books on faith and politics. Both politicians have spoken openly about their religious beliefs.

Television and movie producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey ranked 10th on Newsmax’s list of the 100 Most Influential Evangelicals. Burnett and Downey are responsible for the History Channel’s hit miniseries “The Bible” and the 2016 remake of “Ben-Hur.” The married couple runs Lightworks Media, the faith and family division of MGM studies, and are currently working on a religious drama for Netflix titled “Messiah.”

Dr. Alveda King won a spot in the top 20 most influential evangelicals. King is a former representative of the 28th District in the Georgia House and a frequent contributor to Fox News. She is a dedicated and outspoken pro-life advocate and the director of Civil Rights for the Unborn. In addition to being a minister and activist, Dr. King is a best-selling author and a niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Hobby Lobby father-and-son team of David and Steve Green were among Newsmax’s top 25 most influential evangelicals. Hobby Lobby is known for its faith-based practices and made headlines in 2014 when the company’s suit against the federal government made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby was one of multiple companies arguing the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act infringed on religious freedom. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. Steve Green was also involved in the creation of the highly anticipated Museum of the Bible. The Museum is located just off the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and documents the narrative and history of the Bible as well as the holy book’s impact on the world.

Newsmax’s list ranked Phil Robertson 51st. Robertson is the patriarch of the Robertson family and founder Duck Commander, the company that was the subject of the hit TV show “Duck Dynasty.” Robertson is currently working on another TV show about the dangers of political correctness.

The author of 15 best-selling books, Max Lucado, also made Newsmax’s list. Lucado has written numerous books for adults and multiple children’s books including “The Crippled Lamb,” “Small Gifts in God’s Hands” and the beloved Wemmicks series. His books have been translated into 54 languages, and his influence has been noted by The New York Times, Reader’s Digest and Christianity Today.

Dozens of other well-known Christians made Newsmax’s list of the 100 Most Influential Evangelicals including Gospel singer Pat Boone and former Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Obviously, not all 100 evangelicals are listed here, but Newsmax’s full list is currently available online.

downloadThere are two types of people on Black Friday. The first type is awake and out the door before the sun ever rises. They stand in long lines with dozens of other shoppers and wait impatiently for the doors to open. They are determined to get that great deal on a new TV or Christmas gifts at a heavily discounted price. The second type of person has a very different Black Friday. They roll of out bed in the late morning and sit around in their pajamas. They know that the malls are packed and shoppers are driving like maniacs. So, this type of person eats Thanksgiving leftovers and refuses to leave the house.

For years, those were more or less the only options anyone had. A person had to either join the madness or board up the windows. In 2010, however, Church Fox created a third option: Bless Friday ®.

Bless Friday ® is a day of service projects run by a collection of churches in multiple states. This year, many of the service projects focused on helping people who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Other projects in Texas included working at a homeless shelter, filling stockings or making hot chocolate to share with local townspeople, volunteering at a soup kitchen and serving lunch to those who are addicted or disabled.

Churches across the country assisted those in their own communities. Parishioners at Seattle’s Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, for example, helped the homeless at the St. Vincent de Paul of Seattle food bank. Bless Friday ® 2017 also had at-home options. People who did not wish to brave the crowded roads and masses of shoppers could pack rice and beans for the Fuente Food Pantry or make emergency lunch kits for Kids’ Meals.

In addition to the usual Friday activities, Bless Friday ® continued on through Saturday this year. Beacon of Light Christian Center, located in an economically challenged part of Houston, hosted a food and clothing giveaway. They gave away enough food to feed at least 100 local families, and in honor of the season, one of the varieties of foods given away was turkey. Beacon of Light also gave coats to children in need.

Six years ago, Church Fox founded Bless Friday ® in Houston in an effort to change the way Americans celebrated Christmas. Fox stated, “Beginning the Christmas celebration with service changes the way you experience the season. It can be especially transformative for children to shift their focus from receiving presents to serving others.”

Christians do not have to live near an official Bless Friday ® event to participate. Soup kitchens and homeless shelters all over the country need extra volunteers, and every community has its own unique needs. The most important thing for Christians wishing to participate in Bless Friday ® is to pick an activity that honors God, gather friends and family members and start the Christmas season with humble service.