Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2007-09-12

In a tribute to "unsung heroes, saints of God," Samford University's Beeson Divinity School recognized two longtime Christian mentors for the enduring impact of their lives.

"We all have persons behind the scenes who helped make us who we are," explained Beeson faculty member Dr. Charles Carter, who introduced his own mentor, 104-year-old Emil Lang of Birmingham, at Beeson's Sept. 11 worship service.

Lang, who owned a radiator shop, was Carter's Sunday School teacher in 1948 at Calvary Baptist Church in the Fountain Heights area of Birmingham. It was then that the 12-year-old Carter committed to the ministry.

Their friendship continued in 1971 when Carter began his 26-year tenure as pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, where Lang was a deacon and chair of the baptistry committee.

Beeson dean Dr. Timothy George saluted his boyhood pastor, Rev. Sam D. Sharp, who was founding pastor of East 23rd Street Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Rev. Sharp, age 92, was an engineer with Tennessee Valley Authority before being saved and called to the ministry.

"Sam Sharp influenced hundreds who were inspired by him to commit to the ministry," said George who attended Sharp's church from second grade through grade six. The two have remained close friends ever since.

George, a highly respected theologian who holds a Ph.D. from Harvard Divinity School and has written scores of scholarly works, dedicated his biography of William Carey, Faithful Witness, to Sharp.

He presented his mentor with a framed print of the divinity school's A.Gerow Hodges Chapel dome, which with its "Great Cloud of Witnesses" mural depicts the likenesses of 16 prominent historical leaders of the Christian faith.

"If I had my way, we'd paint you as number 17," George said to Sharp, who was accompanied by his daughter, Pat Lowrance, and grandson, Eddie Lowrance. The younger Lowrance, minister of music and youth at Riverside Baptist Church, Chattanooga, prayed the benediction at the service.

The program was part of a semester-long series of Beeson chapel services on the theme, "Walking with the Saints."

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.