Williams 01
Rev. Charles A. "Sonny" Williams

Williams / Davis
Rotarian Kelly Davis chats with Rev. Williams

Rev. Charles 'Sonny' Williams
Showing love through 'compassion in action'

December 17, 2013

For Rev. Charles Williams, the acronym CIA is not a government agency. For Williams, pastor of 18 years tenure at Teays Valley Church of the Nazarene and affectionately known as "Sonny," CIA means "Compassion in Action."

"Compassionate action" is at the heart of the Christian gospel message for Williams.

He was the youngest of ten children raised up a hollow by a coal miner in Seth, Boone County. "I went out one morning to collect wood for the stove," he told Putnam Rotarians today.

"I looked down below and saw Mrs. Barker, my fourth grade teacher leaving two great baskets of food by the bridge for us.

"She never said anything. Did it without recognition, without anybody knowing."

Sonny Williams has been a pastor for 34 years, since he was 21. But before that he went to Charleston Barber College.

"In later years, Mrs. Barker came to my shop and I cut her hair. I always wanted to say something about the food baskets, but I felt restrained because I knew what she had done years before was something from the heart."

Today that "compassion in action" has grown into a mission shared by the churches of the Teays Valley Ministerial Association.

"There are many churches in our area which offer 'compassionate work,'" Williams told the group.

"We're not in competition," he said. "We're working together -- because the whole thing is about meeting people's needs. And that's what compassionate action is all about."

"We operate a clothing ministry at our church. We give away clothing every month. The whole downstairs of our church is turned into a clothing bank.

"People bring in clean clothing and hang it up. It's just like walking into a store. People come in and get free clothing all the time. There are about 125 to 150 families every month that come in for clothing.

"We offer free tutoring for students from kindergarten through grade 12. Sixty or seventy students a year. At one time there were eleven schools involved."

In addition to Mrs. Barker's charity, Williams learned Christian values from his mother. "She taught us: You grow where you are planted. You serve wherever you are. You love people regardless of what they say, or do or think."

Williams took part in an international mission project in 1990. "I went to Kenya, Africa," he said. "I changed from being a local visionary to a global visionary.

"I began to see things in a different picture: You see, I always thought I grew up poor. When you experience things globally, you begin to change.

"I am one of the wealthiest people on the face of the earth. I have food. I have shelter. I have family. I have friends. I have a community of believers that love each other and they work for for the cause of Christ and his kingdom.

"We built Nazarene University in Kenya, and that university today serves about 4,800 students in Nairobi.

"We visited a village in Ethiopia, about 17 hours out in the jungle, a village of 20,000 people where they have one water pipe coming up out of the ground. . . . Many places do not have water."

Williams has been a part of several mission teams to Mexico and Haiti to build child development centers. "A lot of places where you go, they don't want your religion. They want your education.

"But that's an open door for us." When a CDC is built for school, it also serves as a place for worship. "It's a place to come and worship and learn of God and Jesus Christ."

"Never overlook a child," says Williams, thinking back, perhaps, to his childhood up a hollow in Boone County. "Always look at the potential of that child, and not what he has."

"Be a 'working witness,'" he says. "That's 'Compassion in Action'" -- lessons for life from a Godly mother and from a fourth-grade teacher who practiced secret charity.

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