By REID TUCKER
To get a good idea of who somebody really is, look no further than how they spend their time.
By that metric, it’s clear that Lewis and Tammy Goodman have a heart for serving other people. While the Goodmans, both longtime members of Southwide Baptist Church in DeFuniak Springs, certainly do more than their share when it comes to meeting their community’s spiritual needs, it’s the way in which they go about this that makes them stand out. Simply put, the Goodman family lives up to the Psalmist’s call to “praise the Lord’s name in song.”
“I believe that God gives each person a talent, and music is definitely our family’s gift,” Tammy said. “When you have a gift and you use it in your service to the Lord, what better blessing could you have?”
Use that gift they do indeed.
Lewis, better known to his family and many friends as Buddy, is the minister of music and students at Southwide, where he is in charge of leading worship for all church services as well building a music training ministry. He is also responsible for the discipleship of the congregation’s children and youth, a job he’s done at several churches ever since he and Tammy were married almost 30 years ago.
“I don’t call it a job, but it really is the best job in the world,” Buddy said. “It’s truly a calling. I love the Lord, I love music, and I get to lead people in it and provide for my family doing it. Plus, it’s fun. That always helps to make the time go by.”
Tammy, a fifth-grade teacher at Freeport Middle School by day, sings in the church choir and serves as an accompanist to Lewis during Southwide’s numerous musical services throughout the year. That is especially true at Christmas time, when the church puts on music-centric programs for kids and adults, sings at nearby assisted living facilities and regularly sends carolers into local neighborhoods.
“A lot of who we are as a family is really our ministry at Southwide,” she said. “We’re in such a loving, doing, outgoing church, and that is reflective of us as a family.”
Buddy and Tammy’s passion for music and working with young people is shared by their three children (even even the kids’ significant others). The Goodmans’ oldest daughter, Ashley, is a high school and middle school chorus teacher in Roanoke, Va., and their middle daughter, Rachel, works as Walton County’s recreation coordinator. Lewis, their son, is a full-time music student at the Baptist College of Florida and a music and youth intern at the First Baptist Church of Bonifay.
The Goodmans served at and attended Southwide for eight years before moving to a church in Lake City in 2006, where Buddy and Tammy continued to lead music and work with youth. They were happy with the move and, after three years there, were still in the process of selling their house in DeFuniak and buying one in Lake City, when they were invited to return to Southwide. Within the span of a week the Goodmans moved back into their old house, Tammy got a job teaching school in Walton County again and Buddy resumed his ministerial position at Southwide.
They’ll be the first to say that divine intervention played a role in how things worked out.
“God really opened a door for us to come back, and he opened it wide,” Tammy said. “We’re thankful that we’re back. We love DeFuniak. It just feels like home.”
Perhaps the Goodmans’ most visible work in the community is the Experience the Judgement program, which started as Southwide’s big yearly ministry outreach project but has become a multi-congregational event, with 11 different local churches participating in 2013. The program portrays characters from different walks of life and their respective final destinations after journeying into the afterlife following an unfortunate or unexpected tragedy. This year’s Experience the Judgement was the biggest and most successful in the program’s 12 year history, attracting more than 2,000 visitors, more than 30 of which became new Christians, Buddy said.
The program operates entirely through donations made prior to opening night, as event organizers don’t ask for donations at the door. Additionally, 125 volunteers or more volunteers helped to make the event a success. In addition to presenting the Gospel to visitors, the Judgment program, a walk-through drama Buddy has a hand in writing, tackles local issues like military deaths, alcoholism and drug abuse, which he said comes back to meeting people at their point of need.
“Our number one objective with [Experience the Judgment] is to present the plan of salvation to the people, and that means speaking to people’s needs,” he said. “We’re very serious about it. Just like everything else we do…we always keep Christ at the forefront.”
As for holiday traditions at the Goodman house, faith takes center stage, with music, of course, playing a large part as well. The kids like to stay over at their folks’ on Christmas Eve, singing, playing music and opening gifts, but a lot of what the family does revolves around church activities. For example, Southwide’s youth groups participated in the county’s Angel Tree program to raise money for needy families, prepared care baskets for elderly shut-ins in the community, and this year a group of about 20 will go on a skiing trip to North Carolina.
The Goodmans’ attitude toward Christmas is a reflection of their own personal belief, that being that Christ is at the core of what the season is all about. In a day and time when the holidays have become inundated with the hustle and bustle of modern life and the religious overtones of Christmas have been secularized and commercialized, the Goodmans believe the best way to reverse that trend is to focus on serving others as Jesus did.
“Christmas is all about giving,” Tammy said. “We love the fun side of Christmas, with the elves and Santa Claus and all that, but Christ will always be the center of Christmas.
“God gave to us and we have the privilege of being able to give back to others.”
By REID TUCKER