Sunday, January 1, 2012
IN THE BEGINNING: Chapter One
If favor was seen as something tangible, it had wrapped itself around Ezekiel James, Sr.
He had visited every country around the world several times over, holding discussions with leaders and influential figures wherever he went. As the founder and Senior Pastor of For The People Non-Denominational Church, he had amassed a flock that brought together individuals of all walks of life, and his services were carried on over 200 radio and television stations each day.
Billboards and commercials promoting the man and his ministry could be viewed wherever you might go. His 6'2" stature that some could interpret as intimidating was softened by his wavy grayish-black hair and deep blue eyes. There was a gentleness about him that was captured in the way he interacted with others and seemed to live his life.
People adored, respected and genuinely loved him, and it could be said that Ezekiel loved them all just as much. This had been his life for almost forty years.
He had been married for forty-three years to Elizabeth Simpson James, and they were the proud parents of fraternal twins Ezekiel and Elizabeth who recently celebrated their thirty-eighth birthdays. Normally Ezekiel wouldn't be able to focus on anything other than the task at hand, however, this night he couldn't help but reflect on how they all had gotten to this point.
His son was following in his footsteps in many ways. Having chosen Chicago as the headquarters for his ministry, Ezekiel James, Jr. was seen as a man with charm, charisma and deep conviction. Just inches shorter than his father, they shared the same blue eyes but the son chose to wear his hair in a military-style cut, enhancing his boyish good looks.
Like his father, the younger Ezekiel had found love with a fellow believer. His wife, Charlene Parker James, may have been three years his junior, however, she had proven to be wise beyond her age. The two seemed to be made for each other and had been blessed with three children, identical twins Sarah and Savannah and a handsome son named Vernon.
Life was good for them, and Ezekiel, Jr. felt as though he was walking in the calling outlined for him by his heavenly Father.
His sister Rebecca James Reynolds also believed she had found her true calling. Growing up it was obvious that she had quite a name to live up to, however, the pressure she felt was mostly self-inflicted. She was different from her brother in many ways. They shared the same drive and ambition, but early in life she knew her path would lead in a direction away from the church and into politics.
The decision to run for office and make a difference through law was accepted by her parents and supported by her brother---it was the rest of the world who seemed confused by it. Here was a strikingly beautiful woman with flowing ebony locks, her mother's glistening shimmering green eyes, pouty lips and style that would rival some of the best models in the fashion world giving up a life of ease to fight for the rights of others.
Though not seeking a role in the church like the men in her family, Elizabeth saw her work as a community organizer in Mississippi followed by her move to Arkansas and her role as a city county member as a true ministry. She was in a unique position to be one of those affecting policy and directly changing things for the common man who felt as though he was without a voice.
It was on the city council in Little Rock that she met the man who would become her husband. Jeremiah Reynolds shared her love of the people, and the eloquence in which he spoke quickly attracted her to him. Rebecca was a born leader, and she could sense that Jeremiah was someone that was ready to be shown how to lead. He knew he was capable of greatness, and challenges like being the only black on the council and a Republican on top of that were obstacles that only encouraged him more.
His was a success story that would be the model for young people around the world someday. Born to a single mother who held down two jobs to support the two of them, he saw his life as a test that he was intent on passing. Jeremiah set goals constantly, met them and pushed himself further.
While in high school, Jeremiah started to work with the Boys and Girls Club while employed part-time at an office supply shop. He was seen as approachable, and though his intelligence was obvious, it wasn't something he lorded over others. After graduation he attended a community college and became interested in law.
By the time Rebecca James ran for and was elected to her seat on the council, Jeremiah had been in office for three years. Later with her vote, he became President. The chemistry between them was explosive, and what surprised many was the aggressive way they seemed to go after each other.
The two dated less than a year before Jeremiah couldn't deny any longer how he felt about her. He proposed, knowing that being an interracial couple would have its own difficulties in the South, and the fact the woman he wanted to spend his life with was a James would only compound the scrutiny. But it was a decision he was willing to live with, believing that of all the women he had known, she was a the one designed especially for him.
Little did he know how true that actually was...