HED:On fire for the Lord
By John Armistead
Joe Long will graduate from Tupelo High School next week. He has worked as a trainer for the high school’s athletic teams for the past three years, and is president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. His fellow students recently elected him Mr. Tupelo High School.
Q: What do you plan to study in college?
A: I plan to major in physical therapy and ministry. Then I’d like to go to theological school.
Q: What does a trainer do for the athletic teams?
A: Basically I’m dealing with injuries. If anyone gets hurt I’m there for them. I help them out. If they sprain their ankle I tape it. If they get a cut, I bandage it up. That’s about it.
Q: How did you get interested in that?
A: My ninth grade year I was small and my parents wouldn’t let me play football and my sophomore year I talked to Coach (Bob) Monroe and he said, “I think you’d make a good trainer.” That’s how I got started.
Q: You’re president of the FCA. How did you get interested in that?
A: My ninth grade and tenth grade years I decided to join FCA and my leadership started increasing. People started noticing me as a Christian and I started going from there. I was just a quiet type Christian guy but now I’m explosive, I guess you could say. I’m really on fire for the Lord.
Q: What does being on fire for the Lord mean?
A: I’m willing to be more and more like God each and every day. I’m reading his word every day. The Bible is one book that’s not wrong. Everything in it is true. For I know God isn’t going to give us any false information. I’m seeking God each and every day.
Q: Is this a growing thing?
A: Yes sir, I’ve grown into it. My ninth and tenth grade years I believed in God, but my eleventh grade year I surrendered my life to God. Everything started working out from there. It’s a process. You’re growing closer and closer to God each and every day. You continue to do his will and read his word, and grow into it.
Q: Does being a pastor’s son have much to do with it?
A: No sir. I know a lot of people who are sons of pastors and they aren’t too focused. They’re not big on church or God. I just wanted to be different, to take a stand for what I believed in. I didn’t want to follow the crowd.
Q: What do your mother and father think about this?
A: They’re really enthused. They’re with me. They pray for me all the time. I pray with them. They really enjoy seeing me strong in my faith in Christ.
Q: Are there obstacles?
A: I have a lot of obstacles. God will never tempt us, the Bible says. I try not to let temptation even come my way. I avoid most of it. When I find myself in any particular place, I just pray. I’m so strong in my faith in God. I am never tempted really, so I don’t think I will ever fall to temptation in my life. I’m really strong in what I believe and what I stand for.
Q: What do you believe and stand for?
A: I believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, and God is going to lead us and come get us one day so we can all go to heaven if we give our life to him.
Q: What kind of minister do you want to be?
A: I want to be a youth minister. I’m really good with teen-age people. We have a youth program in our church. I’m president of it. We meet every second Saturday. We try to think of things to do in our community and try to reach out to people.
Q: What kind of things do you do for the community?
A: We mow yards. We would cook for them. Just to be there for them if they need anything. The majority are old people. Mostly those who live around our church on Spring Street.
Q: What religious activities are available at the high school?
A: Every day at the high school after 11:30 all the people who want to pray get into a circle in the middle of the courtyard and pray. It’s fine with the administrators. They know what we’re doing. And on Sunday nights at 8 o’clock we all come to the high school and pray for our school, our teachers, ourselves, and everybody at the high school. The most that we have out there is about 60. The average is 35-40 people.
Q: How often do you do this?
A: Every Sunday. It’s called the Joshua Walk.
Q: What do you all do at the Joshua Walk?
A: We just pray for our school, our teachers. We ask God to help us. Some times we go to each building we get in groups of four. Somebody goes to the math building and somebody goes to the English building and we pray there. Then we all meet back in 20 minutes and we sing and we pray.
Q: What is the response of the students to what happened in Colorado?
A: It’s been a big conversation. Most of us in our group just like know that Jesus is the answer today. It could happen at Tupelo and we just pray for everybody at our school, because we know that we have people capable of doing it probably. We just pray that it won’t happen but we know that God is going to take care of us.
Q: The students who did the shooting at Littleton appear to have been loners and may have felt rejected. Are there kids at your high school who look like they feel left out?
A: Yes sir. I try to talk to everybody just because I’m an open guy. I love everybody but most of us at the Joshua Walk know that they need somebody they can talk to. They need religion. They need somebody they can trust and depend on.
Some of them are really nice. Some people think they’re weird because they dress funny, but I talk to them. Some of them have great personalities. They’re all alone, but they just don’t believe in God.
Q: Why do you think these guys in Littleton did it?
A: They’re lost. The devil has a grip on them he won’t let go. They’re trying to find the answer in drugs and alcohol and in killing people but its not going to prove anything. Jesus is the answer.
Q: Why do some teen-agers feel so alienated?
A: People feel alienated for various reasons. There are lot of barriers.
Q: Is racial prejudice a part of this?
A: I like everybody. I don’t care what color you are, if you’re a girl or boy. God never discriminated. That’s how I am. Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman and that really opened my eyes. At our high school some people say that it’s not right for a black person to talk to a white person. Some people are really big about it, but I think most people don’t care. We all talk to each other. We all get along. We all hang out.
Q: Is there much discrimination among the young people at the high school?
A: Some. Some people care, most others don’t. Some certain groups are atheist and some of them like minorities and some don’t. There’s an atheistic group. They don’t care, but the Satanic people … I don’t think they’re too big on minorities.
Q: Is this like a recognizable group? I mean, do they actually say that they worship Satan?
A: Yes sir. Some say they worship this one tree that the world came from.
Q: You are in the last class to graduate from high school in the 20th century. What are your hopes for the next 60 or so years?
A: I would like to see the world come together no matter what color or race or gender you are. I would like to see us all unite. I would like to see people spread the word and get on fire for God.
Q: Do you think you will live in Tupelo when you finish college?
A: Oh, I love Tupelo. Yes sir.
Q: What are your hopes for Tupelo?
A: I hope that we in Tupelo could try to become more like God and place our values on God’s values and unify and all come together no matter what race you are or religion you are. We are already the hospitality state. People outside look down on Mississippi because of how we used to be, but we have a lot of nice people in Mississippi.