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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Seminar inspires people

When it comes to living to the full potential that God gave us, it's not only the poor or homeless who can use a boost.

An outreach ministry in suburban Memphis, Tenn., is challenging the range of God's people — from welfare recipients to corporate executives — to dream big, set goals, make plans, overcome obstacles and to see problems as stepping stones.

Every Thursday a varied group — black and white, rich and poor, Christian and Jew — gathers at St. Luke Lutheran Church, Cordova, Tenn., for seminars that seem part workshop and part revival. Participants share stories, hug, clap and shout affirmations: "I'm going to the top and I can't be stopped!" "If it's to be, it's up to me!"

Presiding is Marie Draper, a 58-year-old woman with a heart as big as her smile and as wide as her dreams.

"This is a class that's all about self-help and concepts that will rebuild character as well as the physical aspects of your body, soul and mind," says Draper, who describes her work as a calling from God. "He told me I was meant to help others as a motivational speaker." Draper developed her course but couldn't afford meeting space. St. Luke put out the welcome mat.

"I see Marie's ministry as bringing out the best in us," says Duane O. Salness, St. Luke's pastor. The message about living more fully is something everybody needs to hear occasionally, but especially those who are downtrodden.

"Marie can turn lives around for people who have fallen prey to some of life's evils and who are left hopeless," said Toni Williams, a mother of two who went back to college after taking Draper's course.

"Folks taking her course," Salness says, " become energized with an ability to share with others something of a new spirit in themselves. And that has a ripple effect."


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