Inspirational Faith Content that highlights religious leaders in Black communities, faith-based articles, inspirational quotes of the month, and a monthly faith-based poll where readers can express their thoughts.
Our Faith leader of the month of November – Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper
Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper has been a community leader in her home, Baltimore, for decades, with leadership positions in journalism, a church she founded and education.
In February 2018, she was named chairman of the board and publisher of the AFRO American Newspapers, which was founded in 1892 by her great-grandfather. She served previously as president of the company from 1987 to 1999.
In 2002, She became the founding pastor of the Freedom Temple African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in south Baltimore. She received a Doctor of Ministry degree in preaching and leadership from the United Theological Seminary in Ohio in 2006. Her bachelor’s degree in Spanish language education in 1969 is from Morgan State University and served on the university’s Board of Regents for 24 years before stepping down last June.
She also holds a master’s degrees in education, business administration and pastoral counseling. Her mother, Frances L. Murphy II, helped inspire her to be a community leader. She encouraged her to honor God, treat people the way you want to be treated and surround yourself with younger people who can keep you up to date on the latest trends and technologies.
Now it’s her turn to inspire the younger generation. She often tells her grandchildren that it’s important to give back to the community because many people need a genuine hand up or a simple word of encouragement, in order to survive and thrive. When people are healthy economically, socially and spiritually, communities are healthy.
Our Faith leader of the month of October- Pastor Wilhelmina Street
~ Embracing God’s Vision ~
As a young girl, at six years old, I was sent to attend a nearby Methodist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. However, my stepmother frequently attended a Baptist church on the other side of town, and my father declined to connect with any church. I learned he did not participate in church because he still missed my mother, who died at my birth. In addition, I heard that he was angry with God. However, while dad was distant from God and me, I found a closeness to the one I learned to be my heavenly Father at the little church, Lauraville Methodist.
My first-grade elementary school teacher was also my Vacation Bible School and Sunday School teacher. Over the next several years, she taught me scriptures and convinced me that God’s love was real and that He loved me.
The pastor helped me understand how and why Jesus died for me. I remember several times; tears flowed down my face when I heard about Jesus dying on the cross for the people of the world. The world – I knew that included ME! Whenever tears would flow, I would quickly wipe them away or try to hide them from my friends who sat on each side of me. I wondered why they were not crying too.
One Sunday morning, when I was 12 years old, I knelt at the baptismal font and was baptized. God had begun a new life in me, and I knew Lauraville Methodist significantly impacted my life. I continued to attend that church until I went away to college in Raleigh, NC, at 16 years old.
In college, I studied elementary education for the first two years but became concerned because I thought teaching a child was too big of a task for me. Believing I was not mature enough to handle the responsibility, I decided to stop schooling and work for six years. In 1979, I returned to college in South Jersey and finished my bachelor’s degree in Radio/TV at Rowan University. During those six years, the direction of my life changed with the death of my father, an ailing and terminally ill aunt whom I lived with, and a non-existent connection with the church, which I knew I needed. I thought about going home and returning to Lauraville Methodist but found out from my childhood friends that the church was closed a few years prior.
So, at 24, through a group of college friends at one of their Bible study sessions in
Philadelphia, I reaffirmed my faith in Jesus Christ, professing my acceptance of God’s grace by faith. As I contemplate my earlier years, I see that ‘prevenient grace’ was there through many of my life experiences. This same grace has influenced how God has shaped my life and inner spirit for kingdom work. God’s justifying grace reassures me that I am forgiven of my sins. Moreover, sanctifying grace will lead me to consistent holiness throughout my Christian life and walk.
My reaffirmation to God and an endeavor to right living encouraged me to spend many hours studying the Bible, meditating, and memorizing scripture. Immediately, I felt called to reach the spiritually ‘lost’ through witnessing and sharing the Gospel with family, friends, and several street evangelism teams in Philadelphia and Maryland. John 3:16 continually burned in my heart— “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. “… whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” I also shared the Word of God through teaching Sunday school and Bible study.
I acknowledged my call to ministry and mission and preached my first sermon, among many, in 1987 for young teen girls. It was the same year of preaching the first sermon that I served on an evangelism team as a leader to 40 teenagers in the Petén Jungle of Guatemala. My primary functions were to prepare and cook meals, teach Bible study, and counsel the youth. The team’s primary assignment was to build an airplane hangar and a staff house for the missionaries and teach scriptures to the 40 orphans at the mission, El Rancho de Los Niños.
In March of 1988, I married the love of my life, Tony. Since then, we have enjoyed serving God, the first love of our lives. Many times, when you see one, you see the other. Other times Tony sings in his tenor voice with our current church choir. Moreover, sometimes you see us both teaching the Word of God together. While I desire to help build godly principles in the lives of Christians, Tony finds joy in teaching the Bible’s prophetical books and how they impact our lives. Tony began singing at age three with the Little Harmonettes at St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Turners Station. At age 15, he and a childhood friend, Glen, cut a 45-record called “Talking About.” As an adult, he was a tenor voice with the Maryland State Boys’ Choir and several church choirs. Under the direction of Tony, Latter Reign A Cappella Singing Group won several awards and sang at a presidential rally for former President Barack Obama. As a published cartoonist, Tony has taught cartooning to children at a local Christian school and a church group. His cartoons have appeared in the Maryland Pet Gazette, Johns Hopkins University student publications, Sunday school classes, and people’s homes as framed gifts given to loved ones.
I graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity in 2016.
Realizing that God brought us together 34 years ago, our mission is to honor our Lord and Savior throughout the years we receive. So far, serving as Dean of Adult Education at a Pentecostal Church, as a director and acting principal at a Christian elementary school, and as a spiritual leader in the United Methodist Church, we have received rich blessings. Beginning in 2019, God has blessed me with the extraordinary opportunity to pastor at West Montgomery United Methodist. We serve a great big God in the tiny town of Dickerson, Maryland. Tony and I come as a package deal and are honored to serve.
Video of the month