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The Power To BelieveIt's not what you need, It's what you Believe!
By Gwendolyn Ann Cook
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Gwendolyn Ann Cook
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThis day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20, NIV)
What you don't know will hurt you
No one is immune to error; neither is anyone immune to sin and no sin is immune to God's judgment, if we do nothing about it.
I was employed by the United States Air Force from the summer of 1981 through June of 1997, during this time I worked in several different capacities. I began working at the Aero Club as a secretary. This particular service was offered by the Air Force for Active Duty Military, Retiree's and Civil Service employees. Ground school training was provided to obtain a pilot license or if you had license and enjoyed flying as a hobby you could rent from a variety of single or multi-engine aircraft.
After working there for several months I applied for a cashier's position, which offered a higher range in pay and benefits. This position was located at the Class VIStore, for those unfamiliar with the term; Class VI refers to the Liquor Store. I knew very early in my employment that I was going to enjoy working there. I knew that this would be a great place to work because it was always busy. People would be waiting outside the door every morning before the store opened. When it came time for the doors to open people would barge in like a stampede of elephants. The customers who often patronized the store were some of the friendliest people I had ever met. Most days the same people would come in and purchase their spirit or spirits (drink of choice). Oftentimes when I would see the customers pull up in the parking lot I would run to the shelf and get their favorite spirit so that it would be at the counter when they entered the store. I became familiar with the products and was able to advertise so well that when the vendors ran specials on certain items I usually sold every case before the end of the first day.
When I was employed at the Class VI Store I was also a Believer. Occasionally when I consider my past experiences I still question how I allowed people and things to compromise my walk with the Lord. I knew that I was saved but I also knew that I was not converted or totally committed to the Lord nor was I committed to His Word. I believe that so many people go through life just being quote unquote saved, yet not truly being converted. If this was so, many would be led to change how they live but because this is not the case the lifestyles of many fall far short of their confessions.
After working close to a year I heard about a position that became available at the Enlisted Club for a Procurement Clerk. The position was also full-time and offered a much higher pay in salary, it also provided an opportunity for greater advancement in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation department within the Air Force. I applied for the position and was called in for an interview. When I arrived for the interview I noticed that there were a number of other women interested in this one position as well. As I watched them go in and come out from the interview I remember sharing with my family and friends that I would be the one selected to fill the position. Finally the manager called my name inviting me into his office for the interview. I had prepared myself extremely well and believe me, I was groomed for professionalism. I had chosen to wear a black pinstripe business suite for the occasion.
After the interview I felt very confident that I was the chosen one. A few days later I was notified by the Human Resource Office and told that I was officially selected for the position. When I arrived on my first day the manager jokingly said that the reason he selected me, "was because all the applicants were black and I happen to have the lightest complexion of them all." Believe me, this should have been a red flag of what was to come.
As I made myself knowledgeable of my new position description I found myself really enjoying it. My position description was to ensure that all purchases were made and received. In turn I was responsible for ordering all supplies including food, alcohol, furnishings and fixtures. One of the opportunities offered for advancement was the responsibility of becoming the Entertainment Director. In this position I would scout out entertainment and schedule them to perform for the club members. I remember meeting celebrities like Bob Hope, Lou Rawls, Chaka Kahn, Vanessa Williams, Ann Gillian, Loretta Lynn and Teddy Pendergrass just to name a few. Some of the events I regularly scheduled were female exotic dancers for the men and male exotic dancers for the woman. I'd bring in professionals like the Chippendales and other popular dancers who had a great following.
You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing; But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3:17, NIV)
Blind and could not see
While attempting to fit in and become comfortable with the position my health became an issue and I found myself in the hospital for several weeks. Soon after my release I immediately returned back to work without giving my body the time needed to heal.
I was pretty good at handling a multi-task position. It was exciting and I was often encouraged by membership who was quick to tell me that I was doing an excellent job in providing them with the right entertainment. Along with being employed by the Enlisted Club I was also a club member. Often I would get off from work and head down the hall to one of several bars and have a few drinks with friends and mellow out from a long days work. The position I held brought with it great popularity, everyone knew my name. I even published a monthly calendar with my picture in it that went out to several thousand members each month.
As I continued to exceed their expectations I was offered the position as Operations Manager of the Officers Club. This facility was for high ranking military and civilian personnel. The previous Manager was fired, and due to the relationship that I had previously established with the Officers and their wives, I was considered to be a good candidate for the position. I was informed that training would be made available and the Enlisted Club Manager would help with my transition into this high profile position.
Within the first six months, the Officers Club showed extremely great progress, its profit margin grew and the members were pleased. Membership began to increase with the support of several high ranking officials including a General. The popularity of the club was promoted along with its membership. In addition to managing the club I scheduled all kinds of special events and promotions. I earned a reputation for working closely with beer and alcohol vendors to help promote their product. I also hosted *MASH* parties, Crud tournaments, games like Wheel of Fortune and Bingo. I catered at least thirty special functions each month, weddings, retirements, promotions and a variety of theme parties.
The Officers Club continued to prosper and the support given by the commanders help to increase the membership. Filling the position was a sign of history in the making, in addition to being a woman I was informed that I was the first black manager the club ever employed. The membership population was probably ninety-nine percent Caucasian, because of my personality I believe it was easy for me to fit in, further more race, I thought, was never an issue.
Spending long hours at work due to the demands of the position, resulted in me neglecting my health and the diagnosis (Crohn's disease) I had received in 1982. The Officer Club was a high profiled facility; anyone who was someone would dine there. There was always something going on and through-out the year very important people would continue to visit. To mention a few I recall, President Bush Sr., President Clinton, a number of Governors and Senators and of course some of the highest ranking Generals in the Armed Forces. I especially remember when General Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who happened to have been the highest ranked African American in the Armed Forces who was recognized for his role in breaking the color barriers in both the Army and Air Force.
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. (Mark 5:25-26, NIV)
Woman with an issue of blood
Due to the attention that the Officer's Club received most work days for me was often twelve to fifteen hours at a minimum. In turn my health eventually came under attack; this brought me a visit to the hospital with an extremely low blood count. I was loosing blood with each bowel movement and during that time I was experiencing bouts of diarrhea and several sores began to form in my mouth. I sought out a gastrointestinal doctor recommended by my primary physician. I was then admitted to the hospital for blood transfusions and test. Because of the results of the test, the doctor suggested that I solicit blood from family and friends due to the concerns regarding tainted blood. One of the doctor's was concern about my body's ability to retain blood; therefore, he felt that additional blood was needed (an issue of blood).
The Base Commander at the time heard of my plight and the need for blood. Therefore, he launched a base wide blood drive on my behalf. In response to the launch several people went to the hospital in order to donate. One of the Colonel's was made aware of a life threatening disease, while attempting to donate his own blood. Because of his willingness to donate his blood for me he was able to receive treatment for his own condition. As soon as I was released from the hospital, I immediately returned to work. Although the Officers were pleased with my work ethic, my civilian supervisors were not happy with all the attention I was getting from the membership.
In light of this my supervisor overlooked me when it came to promotions and promises of increase that were made prior to me accepting the Operation Manger position. I was informed that the new Enlisted Club Manager who was less qualified and had no previous experience was given a much higher salary. I brought this to their attention, requesting an adjustment and that retro active increase be paid to me. Their decision was to do nothing; I then informed them that their decision would leave me no other recourse than to file a complaint with the (Equal Employment Office).
I filed the complaint and shortly after doing so the Officers Club hosted an event for the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force. I had an opportunity to share my concerns with his Protocol Officer. His office then spoke to the Commander of Morale, Welfare and Recreations and the adjustments were made immediately.
Soon after that incident, I was treated as an outcast by my superiors; it became apparent that this was racially motivated for I was labeled as an EEO complainer. In turn I eventually filed another complaint due to the treatment I had to endure. At this time I was so concerned about my position I began to neglect my health once again. Again I had a return visit back in the hospital, so my supervisors used this opportunity to announce the availability of my position. Upon returning to work I was told that because I did not apply for my position prior to the closing date (even though hospitalized at the time), I would have no chance of competing with the applicants who did apply.
I was informed that when the new Manager arrived I would be expected to train him prior to my termination date. Their decision left me with no other alternative but to file another EEO Complaint. I then decided to use my remaining annual leave time, rather than to stay and be humiliated by my supervisors and the incoming Manager. The time was used to prepare my discrimination case against the people who represented the United States Air Force at McGuire. I wrote several letters with the help of my best friend Phyllis Jones at the time. Phyllis was employed by the organization and she helped to keep me informed of what was being said and done.
I wrote letters to several Generals and one in particular who at the time was Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. I had the pleasure of meeting, as well as serving him during his visits to the Officers Club. As a result of these visits I became personally acquainted with him. He answered every letter and informed me that he would in fact look into my allegations. I also sought help from Senator Bill Bradley, who was very encouraging and responsive to all my calls and letters. Finally I was inspired to contact Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., the lawyer whose fame arose from the O.J. Simpson case. Mr. Cochran responded to my letter giving me guidelines to follow and when and where to respond to certain things that was time sensitive. Because of my location he expressed that he would not be able to represent me however, he stated that there would be no charge for the information given. Soon after I hired a lawyer who I thought was knowledgeable of the military procedures and discrimination cases. To my surprise, I found myself doing 90% of the work, as it related to the research and at one point I was asked to do some things that were criminal in nature. In turn I was forced to terminate his services.
And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2, KJV)
A renewed mind
I remember Phyllis saying "girl you need to read the book of Revelations, because it ain't finish until God says its finish." Everyday she would call and give me a new scripture for the day. I began studying the Word of God for myself, I knew that I believed in God and I grew up knowing that Jesus was His Son but I also knew that I didn't have a relationship with Him. I'd been going to church sporadically and getting real excited about certain messages but yet, once I left the church I was back to the same old Gwen. I purposed in my heart to make a commitment to change my way of thinking concerning the church and church people. People I knew would go to church serve in the church and still live a life disconnected from God. The same people would drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, use profanity, commit fornication and adultery. I remember my grandmother who was a Christian, she read the Bible everyday. She didn't allow drinking, smoking or cursing on her property; and you could not even play or listen to music that did not glorify God. People respected her belief and her relationship with God, she did not compromise who she was. I also remember my mother telling us kids stories about how her and her siblings would sneak and go to bars and how my grandmother would show up with a switch and beat them all the way home.
Chapter TwoYour word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, I have suffered much; preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word. (Psalm 119:105-107, NIV)
A Purpose Driven Life
I became driven to know God through the guiding power of His Word. In John 1:1-2 it reads, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." This means that Jesus Christ, God's Son, is also God. He is, in fact, the bridge between God and man. I rededicated my life to the Lord and chose to live this decision I made openly before the world. I chose not to be like some Christians who serve in the secret service kingdom or undercover.
Through His Word I learned to trust Him, with this trust came the acknowledgement and affirmation of His love and His faithfulness. I've come to understand through the reading of His Word that leaning on Him is the beginning of real wisdom, for then we come to know that we are in a relationship with Him. The book of Proverbs says that being wise is to understand that our greatest knowledge and our deepest insights are only pale shadows when compared to God's wisdom. His wisdom is far above ours; it is from His eternal and omniscient view point that He continues to guide us and make our paths straight. Ecclesiastes 7:11-13 reads, "Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. As money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this; that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor." Only through God's wisdom then are we able to comprehend and endure the trials of life that are inevitable but yet still seem to surprise us with its frustration and sometimes pain.
Excerpted from The Power To Believe by Gwendolyn Ann Cook Copyright © 2009 by Gwendolyn Ann Cook. Excerpted by permission.
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