All about honesty and a lot of love in this small town

All about honesty and a lot of love in this small town

If someone had told me last month, “you’re going to write an article for your local newspaper and it will make front page,” I would have never believed them. What I would have found even more difficult to believe is if they would have also said, “But your very first front page article written will be stolen and the credit given to another writer.” But the reality is both of these events are true.

On March 17th, I had lunch at a restaurant in Hanford while reading an issue of the Lemoore Times. I was approached by a young female waitress by the name of Heidi who asked what I thought about the paper. After a brief conversation, I found that she was the editor of the LT. I asked if they were looking for writers and she aptly replied, “Yes, give me your number and I will text you the information.” We exchanged information. The next day, I received a text with an email attached to which to submit my article. I wrote the article and submitted it. About two weeks later, I received a text stating, “My editor decided against using your article,” but would be willing to accept another submission. The paper assigned another story to me. I replied to the text with grateful thanks and expressed my appreciation for the opportunity to try again.

Early morning on April 4, I received a phone call from a good friend who wanted to share a wonderful article she’d read in the Lemoore Times written all about our church and she was perplexed as to who the author of the article was. She stated the name on the byline and began to read the article to me. At that point, my heart sank into my stomach as I realized it was the article I’d written and submitted to the paper just weeks prior. I was shocked and appalled. How could this have happened? Why was I told that the paper would not use my article only to find that they used it anyway? Better still, why would they then decide assign someone else’s name to my byline? I was angry and hurt. I felt deceived and manipulated. I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me and could they really have had the audacity to ask me for another article to boot? I hung up with my friend and promptly called the young woman, who had been my only contact. I got no answer but left a voicemail expressing my concern.

Nearly an hour later, I received a call from Heidi and listened to her chatter on and on about how this was a new paper and something about deadlines and mix-ups and how the writer they had credited with my byline was a good and reliable writer whom she could count on. Somewhere in between she mentioned something about compensation for my efforts and a half-hearted apology but mentioned nothing about a retraction. I then told her that I not only required a public apology and a retraction, but that I demanded it. “It isn’t good enough that you will compensate me for the article. It is important to me that I receive full credit and a public apology!” She then responded by telling me that she did not have authorization, “I would have to ask my boss if it’s okay to print a retraction.” I then alerted her that it may behoove her boss to know that what his paper did was illegal. I was told that I would receive a call back after she’d spoken to her boss.

Later on that day, I received another text from Heidi. This time stating her boss would print a retraction. I was also asked if I was going to follow through on a different assignment. Needless to say, I opted out.

I don’t know why the Lemoore Times decided to use my article and not use my name. The fact of the matter is, the reason why is inconsequential. What is consequential is the importance of honesty and integrity; the ability to acquire respect and to give respect. This experience has changed me and how I will view the world. It has given me perspective. My article was about love and the world’s great need of it. This experience above all, has proven my point to be most poignant.

The following is Denise McKendall’s original column:

Lemoore’s population is made up from various sources. Some are born here, numerous arrive via the military, while there are those who have relocated here from diverse cities around the US. This type of migration may be common for most cities. But what is not common is what some of the population has found once they have arrived here in Lemoore. In fact, if asked prior to moving here if they had been in search of something specific, the answer would most likely be a resounding no. However, there is one particular spot in Lemoore, California that happens to house a most peculiar population; Love Seekers.

In a small building on the corner of Hill Street, directly behind Leprino Foods, oddly enough called, Philadelphia, but not named for the brand of cheese, is another type of factory; a factory of love. Philadelphia Ministries, which celebrated its 5th year anniversary this month, is a church that has sprouted up and out like a lily in the Central Valley. Like a beautiful flower, people from all over have gravitated to this non-traditional church pastored by a non-traditional pastor who just happens to be an English Professor and former Family Law Attorney, Dr. Kenneth L. Slack. Pastor Kenny, as he is affectionately known by his parishioners, was called five years ago to spread what is now known by his fellow worshipers as the Love Message. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” John 13:34 as often quoted by Dr. Slack. What makes this little church unique is not necessarily its message of love but rather its ability to actualize the love it teaches.

Upon inspection of most churches you might find that a message of love is also being preached and or taught to the masses. But what many of Philly Min’s members have attested to is in finding that the love they have experienced in the past was a kind of love that was a bit disingenuous. “When someone comes in contact with you, it should be as though they have had an encounter with Christ himself as you are His representatives to the world,” says Pastor Kenny in one of his sermons. “In many cases, you may be the only representation of God’s love on your jobs, at your schools, or even while shopping in the grocery store,” he stressed.

After having spoken with several members, one thing became gleefully clear; each member shared the same “first encounter” experience. Though these people may not have had any other characteristic in common, every person asked as to why they decided to make Philadelphia Ministries their home, all answered identically. “It was the love I felt here. From the moment I walked in the door, I was greeted with love and the spirit of love here was so strong, I knew I had to make Philadelphia my home,” stated Erica Hill, a member of two years. One of the ministries’ trifectas is fellowship. “Pray, study your bible, and I can’t stress this enough, fellowship with each other,” says Pastor Kenny about the importance of togetherness. The parishioners often break bread together by attending functions such as their recent Valentine’s Day Ball. Members were encouraged to dress up in formal wear and attend a ball for a night of dinner and dancing as well as marking the occasion by having professional pictures taken by a local photographer. Families, couples, and singles were able to celebrate together on a day that traditionally focuses on love though many Americans spend that day alone.

Though Philadelphia’s membership has somewhat of a high turnover due to its large military number within the congregation, the Pastor sees this as a good thing. He feels that God’s message of love is furthered by what his traveling parishioners have learned while under his tutelage. He also knows that however many have had to leave the ministry all the more are still coming. In a society that seems to be starved of affection, Philadelphia Ministries stands as a beacon of hope for all who may be love seekers at heart.

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