Gage passes Heroes to LifeWay
___By Marv Knox
___ATLANTA--A "qualified stone-thrower" symbolically passed the care and nurture of hurting ministers to the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay Christian Resources in Atlanta June 14.
___Freddie Gage, a vocational evangelist who emerged from years of battling depression with a burden for suffering ministers and their wives, expressed gratitude and hope for
LifeWay's assumption of his Wounded Heroes program.
| FREDDIE GAGE speaks at the Wounded Heroes event in Atlanta.
___Gage founded Wounded Heroes in 1997 as a ministry to pastors and families who have suffered problems in their personal or professional lives. LifeWay recently assumed responsibility for the program under its LeaderCare umbrella of ministries to ministers.
___Gage entered a hospital for depression in 1978, after preaching 1,000 revivals and 3,000 high school youth rallies, he told a massive ballroom filled with ministers and their spouses.
___He described his paranoia about his treatment being discovered, for he was certain "that would be the end of my ministry."
___"If I had suffered a heart attack or cancer ..., God's people would have rallied around me," asserted Gage, who bases his ministry in Euless. "But in churches, we throw stones" at the spiritually, emotionally and mentally wounded.
___"I thought I was a qualified stone-thrower, but those stones came back to hit me in the face" during the dark days of depression, he added.
___"We are legalistic, judgmental and critical," Gage said of the church. "We do not practice what we preach regarding restoration. ... The Christian army is the only army in the world to bury its wounded."
___Gage founded Wounded Heroes to restore ministers who have been abused by churches, suffered personal failure or fallen victim to other traumas. He thanked LifeWay for taking up the cause a few months ago and said he hopes some day Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program budget will underwrite ministers' participation in the ministry.
___LifeWay presented Gage with its James T. Draper Jr. LeaderLife Award in honor of his longtime evangelistic ministry and the work he has done through Wounded Heroes.
___"I have known Freddie Gage almost 50 years," said Draper, president of LifeWay. "I doubt there's been a Southern Baptist evangelist who has spoken to more people about Jesus than Freddie Gage."
___LifeWay will "carry out Freddie's dream" by continuing the Wounded Heroes ministry, Draper said. "No one will be turned away for financial reasons" from the ministry's counseling retreats, he pledged.
___And the Wounded Heroes not only will focus on ministerial crisis but also prevention of problems and restoration of ministers, Draper added.
___James Merritt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Snellville, Ga., encouraged Southern Baptists to overcome bitterness through forgiveness.
___Bitterness saturates the mind, saddens the spirit and sickens the body, Merritt said, and can be overcome only by forgiveness that is free, full and final.
___LeaderCare will sponsor four Wounded Heroes retreats in the next year--Sept. 20-24, 1999, and Feb. 14-18, 2000, at LifeWay Conference Center at Ridgecrest, N.C., and Nov. 15-19, 1999, and April 3-7, 2000, at LifeWay's Glorieta, N.M., conference center.
___A 24-hour LeaderCare hotline has been established, staffed by trained counselors. The number is (888) 789-1911.
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