Just a couple more days left in my 20s…a couple more posts until the end of this post series. As I’ve already set aside my father as #23 and God as #24, today’s post is really the last one in which I picked random people. And to make it fair, I put the names of a lot of people in a bucket and picked a name to write about today. It ended up being a good choice. In today’s post to The 24 To 30 feature, I’ll cover the story of Marishawn Anderson…
THE BACKGROUND. The background on me and Marishawn—or Pastor Shawn, as I call her—started on June 3, 2007. It was the first Sunday I had visited Faith Christian Fellowship during my Tokyo residency. The senior pastor—LaMont Anderson—was my immediate supervisor at Yokota Air Base and he was the one who introduced me to his wife, Marishawn. Though she was the First Lady, she went by Minister Shawn back then. She smiled at me and said “you’re AnJuan, right”. I nodded and replied with a “yes ma’am”. Inside, I was smiling because she was the first person—outside of my family members—to get my first name right on the first time they tried it. As the incorrect pronunciation of my first name is one of my biggest pet peeves, that was truly a remarkable moment. Over my first few weeks at FCF, Pastor Shawn always went out of her way to talk to me and keep me encouraged. She was the first person to pray for me when I joined the church…her being the one who did the altar call that day and all. In addition to being the very first First Lady that I actually had access to talk to personally, she was just a very warm spirit. She was always smiling and always had kind words. She certainly brightened up a lot of my days just by saying “Hey AnJuan, how you doing?” with her trademark smile and hug. When I started working sound at church in 2008, I was usually her last stop before she walked to her seat during praise and worship as she came to get her microphone. When Pastor LaMont encouraged me into taking more of an active leadership role in the church, I remember having a conversation with Pastor Shawn and we both realized that it was inevitable that I’d work with the youth of the church. Pastor Shawn was the first person in Japan to realize just how serious school and the pursuit of higher education was to me. She recognized my grinder mentality when it came to education and it was her that gave me the label of “professional student” when I revealed in a Sunday school session that I hadn’t taken a break from school since the summer before my senior year of high school. As she did for just about every other member of the church, Pastor Shawn kept in touch with everybody…even when they were on vacation. I remember in my first visit back to the States in June 2008, she called me to make sure I got to Birmingham safely and to keep me abreast of what was being covered at church in my absence. My relationship with her was always great. I think a lot of it had to do with her being the youngest First Lady I had ever met up to that point…she was probably mid-30s when we initially met. Even when I left Japan, I still called her for encouragement and counsel until I found a church home in the DC area. And when I came back to Japan for my visits, she was always one of the first people to greet me. Today, she’s one of the people I follow on Instagram, where she mixes her Southern charm and her love for fashion makes for some great #OOTD looks.
THE MOMENT OF IMPACT. When it comes to impacts with Pastor Shawn, I’m reminded of the time she reprimanded me. I was supposed to teach the youth service on a particular Sunday but I had stayed out too late in the city the night before and ended up sleeping in late. I actually caught a bit of a cold as a result. Anyway, I didn’t call to say that I was gonna be late or absent. Fortunately, one of the other instructors stepped in and the youth still got fed the Word of God. The next day, Pastor Shawn sent me an email in which she said I needed to meet with her on the following Wednesday. Me being naïve and not thinking missing that youth service assignment was a big deal, I didn’t think I was in trouble or anything. Wednesday came and when I met with her, she told me that she was disappointed in how I went about the matter. She told me that being a teacher—whether it was in a school or a church setting—was a serious responsibility and that the growth of others is impacted based on my actions. She drove her point with the mention that it was especially important to be accountable to the youth. During the whole 10-minute conversation, I think she noticed how guilty I felt about it because she didn’t allow me to leave without a smile on my face. From that point forward, though, I was always early for my assigned responsibilities at church and I even showed up to carry them out when I was sick, injured, or even when I could barely talk. I didn’t want to risk disappointing her again. Even today, I work hard to keep up with things I’m committed to because I always envision being reprimanded for it.
HOW IT GOT ME TO 30. It’s very likely that Pastor Shawn would’ve ended up being my spiritual mother had Mama Sanders not taken me under her wing. Nevertheless, Pastor Shawn certainly played a role in me getting to 30. Through her, I learned a valuable lesson in being accountable. I also grew in my relationship with Christ through a lot of the things she taught in Sunday school and in the Sunday services where she gave the sermon. Pastor Shawn…she’s the greatest First Lady ever.