BYRON -- When Doyle Adams was first asked to preach at Faith Tabernacle last Sunday, he wasnt aware that Luke, Bo, Daisy and the General Lee would be holding court down the road.
He knew Cooter and Cletus werent exactly characters from the Old Testament.
Thousands of Dukes of Hazzard fans turned out for a reunion at the raceway. Restaurants were packed. Motel rooms were scarce. Gas stations ran out of unleaded and cheese crackers.
His mother, Betty, drove him 125 miles from his home in Douglas to the church on Main Street in Byron, where he was ordained as a minister 17 years ago.
Doyle is accustomed to challenges. His life runneth over with them. He has been a quadriplegic for almost 30 years. Nothing on his body moves from the neck down.
He types his sermons on a computer using a prosthetic mouth stick to move the characters on the keyboard. Sometimes it can be more like 4.5 than 45 words per minute, but patience is a virtue.
When he preaches from his wheelchair, he keeps his King James Bible on a pillow in his lap. Someone usually sits in the front pew and turns the pages for him.
If God calls a man to preach and gives him the gift to do that, then he should, Doyle said. I consider myself blessed. Even after everything that happened to me, Ive never been depressed for very long. The way I approach it is there are some things I know I cant do. I dont dwell on that. I just get out and do the things I can.
His world changed on an August afternoon in 1984 after he was paralyzed in a diving accident at a local swimming hole near Douglas. One might assume he dived into shallow water, but it didnt happen that way.
I just hit the water wrong, he said. I never hit the bottom. I didnt have a spot on my head or sand in my hair. I felt my body go numb and was face down in the water.
He was 16 years old. His friends saved him. He spent two and a half months at the hospital in Valdosta, then another two and a half months at Atlantas Shepherd Center for spinal cord rehabilitation.
At the time, it probably helped me being young, he said. I didnt understand the severity of it. I always thought I would get better. In my mind, I thought they could fix it.
He wheeled across the stage to receive his diploma at Coffee County High Schools graduation in 1985.
Five years later, he delivered his first sermon at the Shiloh House of Prayer.
In 1996, he was ordained at Faith Tabernacle by David Yancey, who lives in Macon and has pastored the non-denominational church since 1982.
Born a generation apart, the two men were brought together by the teachings of William Branham, who was considered a prophet by many Pentecostal Christians. He was one of the founders of the faith healing movement and inspired religious leaders like Oral Roberts.
In 1955, Yancey heard Branham preach a 10-day revival that drew thousands of people to Macon at old Porter Stadium and the City Auditorium. Doyle was born in 1967, two years after Branham was killed in a car accident, but was introduced to many of Branhams 1,200 sermons recorded on tape.
He now preaches about 30 church Sunday services a year across south and Middle Georgia.
A caregiver comes to his home five days a week. She takes him to the grocery store and helps him with other tasks and errands. He loves to hunt and fish, and has a special-designed rifle to go deer hunting. He also has modified equipment to go fishing.
I even get in the boat, he said. Can you believe it? Its crazy.
He knows he is not a typical preacher. And he could never be a Bible thumper, even if he had the desire to thump a Bible.
When children see me in the wheelchair, theyre either curious or scared, he said. Sometimes people dont know how to react around me. They reach to shake my hand. When they see that I cant, they are embarrassed.
Doyle never lets it bother him. He wants others to feel comfortable around him. He speaks from the heart.
Sometimes you dont have to preach a sermon, just be one.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.