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FBC Talladega member serves at top speed while battling cancercomment (0)

April 5, 2007

By Leigh Pritchett

Walter Belt White had a full day of tutoring at Talladega High School.

For about an hour, White, a retired teacher, could chat before he had to go to the school’s soccer field to pick up the two international students he is hosting this semester.

From its appearance, White’s schedule looks like that of an active 62 year old.

But what isn’t so obvious is that he is battling cancer.

Though the tendency may be to make fewer commitments during cancer treatment, White instead has quickened his pace.

He said in a recent deacons’ meeting at First Baptist Church, Talladega, in Coosa River Baptist Association that drawing closer to the Lord, keeping up the routine, making the most of every day and learning not to procrastinate are four positive things that dealing with cancer can teach a person.

"Walter Belt has not given up," said Terry Barksdale, minister of music and senior adults at First, Talladega.

White learned of his melanoma in March 2005. For quite a while, he underwent "rugged" treatment that required a week’s hospitalization each month. His treatment has been changed twice since then. Now he takes oral chemotherapy.

Since beginning treatment for cancer, White has compiled "Seven Sermons on Prayer," a book of sermons of T.M. Hamby, pastor emeritus of First, Talladega. Also, at the request of then-Samford University President Thomas Corts, White has expanded upon the master’s thesis he wrote in 1971 on J.L.M. Curry, a former president of Samford (then Howard College). In addition, White has tutored some students at Talladega High to ready them for the exit exam, continued to host international students and take them on frequent trips to see this country and made a compact disc (CD) of favorite hymns.

The CD was recorded in White’s home on Lake Robin near Munford, with Walter Rogers, former minister of music at First, Talladega, and now a member of Parker Memorial Baptist Church, Anniston, in Calhoun Baptist Association, as the engineer.

What is interesting about the CD, "By Heart," is that White hasn’t received formal piano lessons. Instead he plays "by heart." He was in the seventh grade when he first picked out "Silent Night" using one finger and his mother showed him the chords.

"I’d listen to music, then try to duplicate (it)," White said. Soon he began to add his own touch to songs.

White recorded the CD to benefit his church, which has raised more than $3,000 with it, and other churches. One church of another denomination raised $600 with White’s CD for refurbishing its organ.

White, a Samford alumnus, began his teaching career in Roanoke but spent the majority of it in the Talladega City Schools system.

Since retiring in 1997, he has taught at Gadsden State Community College’s former Talladega site and first at Central Alabama Community College’s (CACC) Childersburg campus and now at its Talladega center. Some days, White goes back and forth between tutoring at the high school and teaching at CACC.

During the past 15 years, he has hosted 34 international students from three different continents and has visited in the homes of almost half of them. Two students made professions of faith while they were his guests. Another student accepted Christ at a later time and after returning to his country, began an expansive ministry to the elderly and street children.

Rob Paul, pastor of First, Talladega, said White models the Christian faith. "He is perhaps the best example I have ever seen of someone who lives out his faith.

"Only eternity will tell the impact he has had on the lives of many young men from this community and around the world," Paul said.

White’s list of past and present service to his church and community is extensive: deacon since 1977, Royal Ambassadors (RA) and discipleship training worker, RA camp counselor, choir member for more than 30 years, church clerk now in his 31st year, Sunday School director of the adult department for the past five years, helper in a Sunday School class for people with special needs, Sunday School teacher for 12 years at Helen Keller School of Alabama in Talladega, participant in an interdenominational group that sings at health care and assisted-living facilities and member of a group that visited prisoners.

Ever the historian, he has compiled a full-length, hardback history of First, Talladega, as well as "Talladega: Pathways to the Past," a pictorial history of the city.

While serving on the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission (ABHC), White assisted with the autobiography of Earl Potts, former executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, and a compilation of letters and memoirs of Jane Ellen Gaines of Talladega, missionary to Nigeria.

"He has just lived life very full and is a giant of a person," Barksdale said. "Yet he is in the background."

Lonette Berg, executive director of the ABHC, expressed similar thoughts about White.

"Walter Belt is a gracious, giving, hardworking, dedicated servant of our Lord, Jesus Christ," she said. "He has always been willing to serve without personal recognition or reward and is a wonderful example of one who shows the love of Christ to all."

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