By Message Staff
WOODWORTH – Family and friends from around the nation paid tribute to outgoing Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director David Hankins during a special retirement banquet, Thursday, April 11.
“Our hearts are full of gratitude, gratitude to God for the blessings of this life,” Hankins told the crowd gathered at the Tall Timbers Baptist Conference Center in Woodworth. “I would be the most ungrateful person on the earth to have one complaint or one gripe about what has happened in my existence. God is so good – a great expression of that is you all.
“From the first to the last, I know it’s been good for us, every bit of it,” he continued. “I’d do it all over again. I trust it’s been good for the people we work with, our staff and our friends.”
Hankins, who officially retires June 30 from a post he has held since 2005, previously served a pair of Texas Baptist churches from 1971-85 before becoming pastor of the Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles in 1985.
Upon leaving Trinity in 1996, Hankins became vice president for convention policy with the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, and was named vice president for the Cooperative Program in 1998 to expand Southern Baptists’ involvement in supporting world missions and ministry.
He began his tenure as executive director with Louisiana Baptists on February 1, 2005.
David and Patty Hankins have been married since 1969 and have three grown sons – Andy, Eric and Adam. He and she are members of the Philadelphia Baptist Church, Horseshoe Drive, in Alexandria.
Patty Hankins told the audience she was brought to tears as she reflected on how much she loves all of those in attendance.
“I love you,” she said. “What’s more important than that is Jesus loves you; and, I’m so proud to have served with you, alongside of you. God bless you in all the great days ahead, in your life and for the Convention, for how you affect our world and our culture that need you so much. I love you and God bless you.”
LOVE & APPRECIATION
Throughout the evening, friends from around the LBC and SBC as well as members of the state and federal governments honored Hankins with video tributes, gifts and statements of appreciation.
Waylon Bailey, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Covington and president of the LBC Executive Board, said the setting of the celebration banquet – the Georgia Barnette Conference Center – was a testament to Hankins’s lasting legacy among Louisiana Baptists.
Hankins initiated construction of the facility, named after the first elected and paid Woman’s Mission-ary Union executive director/ treasurer in Louisiana, in order to have a place for large joint assemblies of Louisiana Baptists.
“Just the very fact that we’re in this building to me is a way of saying to Dr. Hankins that we appreciate his ministry and leadership through the years,” he said. “What a great place for us to meet.” Philip Robertson, pastor of the Philadelphia Baptist Church (Hankins’ home congregation) with campuses in Deville and Alexandria, voiced a prayer of Thanksgiving.
“You gave us an incredible gift when you sent Dr. Hankins and ‘Miss’ Patty to Louisiana,” Robertson said in his prayer. “We are so grateful for how You have worked through them to minister; to serve; to preach; to pray; to share the Gospel; and, to touch so many lives. Lord, only you know how many people over these past 14 years have been saved and been born again into Your Kingdom because of Dr. Hankins’ fingerprints through the ministries that he has led and worked and labored with and in and through.”
LBC President Eddie Wren presented Hankins with a certificate of special congressional recognition on behalf of U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a member of Alto Baptist Church.
Wren, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Rayville, said Hankins served as a mentor to him and countless others. He added that Deuteronomy 31:6 epitomizes Hankins’ ministry and life.
“The reason that we can stand today and say that he is a man of integrity, that he is a man of boldness, that he is a man of principle, is because he believes that verse,” Wren said. “He believes the Lord is with him wherever he goes. And he serves Him. And so he can stand and he can be bold and he can oppose something that’s wrong and not worry what anyone else thinks. And I’m so grateful for it.”
Wren also presented, as a gift from the LBC Executive Board, the title of the business car Hankins has used to travel the state during his LBC ministry.
Louisiana Sen. Gerald Long, state Senate president pro tempore, announced passage of Senate Resolution 3, recognizing Hankins’s contributions to “the success of the state of Louisiana” and “the strength of our communities,” and shared a proclamation from Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards that described Hankins as “a beacon of hope” in the state and lauded him for his “exceptional leadership as the Executive Director of the Executive Board of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.”
Augie Boto, executive vice president and general counsel for the SBC Executive Committee and most recently interim president of the national entity, said Hankins and his wife have been close friends to him and his wife, Cindy.
“You are and you have been and have always been an iconic and legendary leader in Southern Baptist life,” Boto said. “You have been a faithful and patriarchal family man. You have been a loyal and a true pastor and a great friend. And you’ve been a very fruitful servant of God. Dr. Hankins, your life has been a model of persistence, consistency, decisiveness, principle and undaunted leadership. To sum it all up, you are truly, truly unforgettable and in the very best way.”
Louisiana College President Rick Brewer announced the school will present Hankins with an honorary doctorate during commencement ceremonies, May 4, at the Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria. Louisiana Baptist Business and Information Services Director Dale Lingenfelter said he found Hankins to model integrity in every area of his life.
“I found him to be the same man behind those closed doors as he was behind your pulpits, pastors, all across the state,” Lingenfelter said. “He’s a man of great integrity and high character. It didn’t matter in our discussions whether I was talking to him about the cutest little thing my grandson had just done or whether we were talking about the biggest financial decisions we would make that year, he listened with the same great interest. He always had a wise thoughtful response and I appreciated that about him.”
Lingenfelter shared how Hankins had been serving as executive director for less than a year when in August 2005 Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, and how he saw, up close, Hankins’ keen sense of leadership during the months that followed.
“I learned that he loved and was concerned about our churches, no matter how big, no matter how small,” Lingenfelter said. “I learned how concerned he was for our staff as we were spread thin trying to meet all the many, many needs out there, and, of his concern for seizing every opportunity to share the Gospel.
“And I learned he could rally the troops,” Lingenfelter said, adding, “and that, he did.”
Kevin Roberts, regional representative of LifeWay Christian Resources, honored Hankins with a plaque of appreciation for his faithful service as executive director, and a “Legacy of Faith Collection” of books.
Eric Hankins, Hankins’ son and pastor of the First Baptist Church in Fairhope, Alabama, shared a story of how his dad displayed integrity after he lost the election for LBC president in 1993. He said in the moments following the defeat, he looked toward his dad and thought about how he had handled himself with integrity, in this situation and in life, and was overcome at that moment with a longing to be that same kind of man.
“It really became a prayer – Lord, help me to be just like him, a man of integrity,” he said. “And together we’ve watched, haven’t we, some through these 14 years of ministry, some longer into the days back at Trinity, and we’ve watched, Dad, and we’ve seen your integrity, and it’s stood the test of time. And we’ve been blessed. Congratulations. I love you and I’m going to do my very best along with my brothers and my family and the generation coming behind to take what you’ve handed to us and to hand it to as many people as we possibly can.”
Steve Horn, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Lafayette, and the LBC Presidential Search Committee nominee to succeed Hankins as LBC executive director, closed out the banquet with a prayer.
“All of us who are here tonight certainly join together in great thanksgiving to you, oh God, for allowing our lives to intersect at whatever moment it has been and whatever season of life it has been for all of us to intersect this life with Dr. David and Mrs. Patty Hankins,” he said. “We give you thanks, oh God, for indeed the relationship has been good, and we are thankful for Dr. Hankins’ ministry to us. We are thankful for all of the good things that have ben said tonight and know them to be true, and so we give thanks for his leadership. We give thanks for his theological conviction. We give thanks, oh God, for his faithfulness to endure and to run the race that you, oh God, have set before him. We are thankful for a lifetime of ministry of faithfulness unto you.”