Monica Stanberry Walker is no thug and neither is her nearly century-old grandmother, Millie Stanberry. Yet, both reaped soul-level benefits from the most recent T.H.U.G.S. Revival.
T.H.U.G.S. is an acronym for Trusting, Hearing, Understanding God’s Spirit. Everyone was welcome – gangsters, OGs, gang bangers, young people, the un-churched.
While the service (Oct. 28) at Pursuit of God Transformation Center in Frayser was intentional in reaching for those living “that street life,” Walker and Stanberry also took advantage of the opportunity.
“Gramps doesn’t even live in Memphis,” said Walker, using her nickname for her grandmother. “She was just up here in Memphis to celebrate her birthday. She turned 99 on Oct. 25.”
Walker heard the message of the Gospel of Jesus. Inspired by the speakers and performers, especially Memphis rapper Project Pat, who now is evangelizing, she recommitted her life to God.
Baptism was scheduled for Saturday night (Oct. 29, but Walker was ready on Friday.
“I was just remembering all that God had done for me, in spite of how I had been living, and I wanted to be baptized on Friday,” said Walker.
“And I was baptized. All day Saturday, I was real emotional, you know, like good emotional. I told Gramps I got baptized, and that’s when she said, ‘I want to be baptized again, too.’”
Stanberry, 99, was born somewhere in Mississippi. Presently, she lives in Greenwood, Mississippi.
“Mama was born in Sunflower County, I believe,” said Walker’s mother, Lizzie Stanberry. “I used to know where she was born when we were growing up, but I have forgotten now, and Mama doesn’t remember, either.”
According to Lizzie Stanberry, her mother dropped out of school in the third grade. Growing up, the family worked on a farm, but did not own their own land. The elder Stanberry married at the age of 15 to a much older man.
Walker said all day Saturday her grandmother kept saying that she wanted to be baptized again.
“My grandmother never talked about why she wanted to be baptized a second time,” said Walker. “Was it something she wanted to do before she leaves this life? Did she feel the Lord telling her to be baptized once again?
“We don’t know. She never talked about the reasons why, only that she wanted to be baptized.”
Loved ones concerned about Millie Stanberry’s health were telling her not to do it because she gets cold. The water could be chilly and uncomfortable. And though she felt a little concern about how cold the water would be, “Gramps” Stanberry was determined to go to the water.
Back in Mississippi all those years ago, baptism would take place in a muddy river or creek nearby. Walker wondered what memories her grandmother was keeping, what secrets she had not shared.
“Since my grandmother dropped out of school so young, she taught herself how to read,” Walker said. “I would tease her, trying to be funny, but that never stopped her from trying. Gramps was born in 1923, and she married in November of 1938. She was baptized the first time in 1949.”
Stanberry had 12 children. When her husband died, she was left to raise them alone. It was hard, but she did it.
“Mama made our dresses out of the 25-lb. flower sacks,” said Lizzie Stanberry. “There were flowers all around the bottom. We thought we were really dressed.”
Saturday night, Walker got “Gramps” Stanberry ready for church, but there was still hesitation. So, she didn’t get baptized that night.
“By Sunday, whatever reservations she had were gone, “said Walker.
“She was ready to go into the water. I brought a bunch of blankets and towels so she wouldn’t be cold. When we got to church and said that my grandmother wanted to be baptized, the people said, ‘No baptism today. Baptism was last night.’”
However, the Rev. Ricky Floyd, pastor of Pursuit of God Transformation Center, had promised to baptize the elder Stanberry if she made up her mind by Sunday.
“That’s just what happened,” according to Walker. “We rolled Gramps up to the pool in the wheelchair, and she didn’t want to be helped into the pool.
“Gramps said she was going to walk into the pool by herself, and she did. There were steps you had to walk up and then steps leading down into the pool. She did it by herself, and it was so emotional for everyone. It was the power of God.”
Now, “Gramps” Stanberry is satisfied after going into the water for the second time.
“We know she already loved God,” said Walker.
“When she wasn’t well, and people called on the phone to pray for her, she would let them pray, and turn around and pray for them. …
“She didn’t even get cold (during the baptism). Her soul is satisfied.”