I Just Went to Sunday School with Former President Jimmy Carter

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By Christopher Rausch, MBA ‘16

Former President Jimmy Carter began his February 1st just like any other Sunday in Plains, GA -- heading to church. But for my fellow Ross Weekend MBA MAP team members and me, this Sunday would be anything but ordinary.

The purpose of our trip was to begin our semester’s capstone action-based learning project working for Habitat for Humanity based in Atlanta, GA and traveling to the Global Village and Discovery Center in Americus, GA.

As part of the trip we also decided to visit the birthplace of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to take part in Sunday School, a tradition for the last 70 years. The former president is a huge proponent of Habitat, and we thought it would be a nice opportunity to understand some of the roots of the business.

The team arrived in Atlanta and went to bed early, having to get up early the next morning to take part in Maranatha Baptist Church bible study. Getting to the church was simple. Getting through security, however, was not. We traveled through bomb sniffing dogs and armed secret service agents before finally arriving at our seats, eagerly awaiting the former president’s arrival.

When the service began, out walked a short older woman with white hair holding a microphone.

“Well if you don’t know me, my name is Miss Jane,” she said. “And you better listen up.”

Every Sunday Jimmy Carter is in town, he comes to Maranatha Baptist Church, his home parish, to lead Sunday School, and every Sunday Jimmy Carter is in town, Miss Jane lays down some ground rules.

Now, this is not the typical Sunday school where one learns about the Bible and the Bible only. Former President Carter, in a very simple and elegant way, ties readings from the Bible into both world politics and current events. The president tied readings for the week to his past, in which he worked as a nuclear scientist as part of the nuclear submarine program for the US navy.

I still remember my teammates and I looking back and forth to each other and mouthing the words “Is this real,” making sure not to make a sound, worried that Miss Jane might hear us.

As Carter spoke, and as we looked around the church, our team began to understand how one man could make an impact on not only a group of parishioners, but also on a community as a whole. One person can truly make a difference in a community. Just by lending a hand or volunteering his or her time, one person can effect major change.  

We took this idea to heart, and our project for Habitat for Humanity is all the better for it.

No one on our MAP team was alive when President Carter was in the White House, but on that day, and for those two hours, he made us feel like part of his family. And for that we are truly thankful.


Christopher Rausch is a student in the Michigan Ross Weekend MBA program. He is set to graduate in 2016.