Alliance News Feed – A Slight Breeze and an Open Door

Editor’s note: Ron Morrison, C&MA Board chairman (2005–2009), remains hopeful that Black History Month will look different in the future as The Alliance continues to create and encourage opportunities for young African Americans to lead at higher levels within the C&MA. In this series of articles, four emerging African-American leaders—Jelani Pinnock, Calvin Dorsey, Reggie Screen, and Leonard Tanks—articulate the vital influence mentors and role models have had in molding them into the leaders they are today.


by Jelani Pinnock, worship pastor at Grace Church in Middleburg Heights, Ohio

Some people have passed through my life quickly like a breeze. Their time with me was short, yet still, their impact created a path for me as if clearing leaves from a sidewalk.

Then, there are others who encouraged me to lift my head and gave me great opportunity. They were like open doors.

For me, these influential people have been:

  • Rev. Dr. Orlando Rivera, former chair of the Pastoral Ministry department at Nyack College who recently passed away in a tragic accident;
  • Rev. Yeathus Johnson, Urban Consultant and Strategist for the Metro District of the C&MA; and
  • Rev. Dr. Kelvin Walker, district superintendent of the Metro District of the C&MA.

Orlando and Yeathus were my eastern and western breezes, and Kelvin was my door.

The Lord’s Will

L to R: Cliford Gresseau, Kelvin Walker, Calvin Dorsey, Dale Richardson, and Jelani Pinnock. Jelani and several of his friends have been impacted by Kelvin’s ministry and are all pastors in the C&MA or licensed workers. (Photo courtesy of the author)

In my life as an ambitious, hungry, and often overlooked person of color, representatives who share my story, my voice, and resemble me have been catalytic. They have been inspiring and hypnotizing. Yet the right person in power with just the right amount of influence and the utmost desire to “level the playing fields of corporate career positioning” is not weightier than God’s plans. No industry connection vis-à-vis a corporate network is sovereign enough to usurp the Lord’s power to accomplish His will through the lives of His servants.

The faithfulness and obedience of Orlando, Yeathus, and Kelvin kept them in place when the odds were against them. The Lord then endowed them with influence and vision to see those who needed a breeze and an open door.

Putting People in Place

At the close of my undergrad career at Nyack College, I scrambled for recommendation letters and sat in our campus chapel service stressed about my future. I wondered, Can a person like me fit in? Should I seek to “fit in” at all? My heart cried out, “God, what are You up to?”

With no opportunities materializing at the time, I began to seek help from faculty. Dr. Amy Davis-Abdallah responded to my request, saying, “Jelani, you don’t need a recommendation letter. God has already put people in place.”

In the moment, those words brought only more fear to the surface of my already boiling heart. I rejected them mentally, but like Jacob, I kept her words in my heart.

That day, I read a passage that convicted me. God’s Word reminded me of His sovereignty and faithfulness.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:1–3).

Endless Favor

In many ways, I was an apprentice to Yeathus who once said to me, “Jelani, we have a vested interest in you.”  He proved it by offering his time. From church leadership seminars to phone calls before nerve-racking interviews with church boards, Yeathus and Orlando blew through my life clearing a path for me to walk on.

I was the sum of Orlando’s scholarship and a distant understudy to Kelvin’s pastoral ministry at Nyack College. Although we did not have a personal relationship during Kelvin’s time on campus, he knew enough of me. Led by the Holy Spirit, Kelvin’s wife, Doni, mentioned me to him. Kelvin then talked about me to my current pastor and supervisor, Sam Beatty.

Kelvin’s Kingdom impact was monumental in my life, and today we share a friendship that is up close. His DNA perpetually permeated pastoral graduates long after his tenure at Nyack ended.

The selflessness of these men became the living embodiment of the power of God’s will and endless favor to sweep through the lives of His children when we trust Him. From a distance, Martin Luther King Jr. showed me that God’s power is active, but today, there are still heroes who live around the corner from us and serve in our churches.

These heroes exhaust themselves to gain God’s wisdom, sacrificing all for His understanding (Proverbs 4:7). They prepare rigorously and throw themselves into the work of Christ, (Ezekiel 7:10, 2 Timothy 2:1, 15). Yes, we were promised to encounter opposition, but even today, the Lord has secured a remnant that will continue to obey the Holy Spirit’s voice, clearing pathways and opening doors for the next generation of African-American leaders to walk through.

Source: Alliance News Feed – A Slight Breeze and an Open Door

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