Tony loves stories. He would say that’s because he tries to live his life imitating Jesus – the greatest storyteller of all. Tony is known for sharing inspiring and captivating stories as he preaches the Good News. God has used Tony’s stories to touch the lives of millions of people.
This month, in honor of Tony and his 86th birthday and in homage to his beloved craft, we’re launching a series called Let Me Tell You a Story. It features personal testimonies from friends and supporters who’ve been impacted by Tony. These folks want to honor Tony and, at the same time, support the vision and mission of the Campolo Center as it prepares the young church leaders. We long to hear the stories this rising generation of pastors will tell in the years to come!
Also this month, we’ve launched a special celebration effort to raise $86,000 for the Campolo Center for Ministry for Tony’s 86th birthday. Not only do Paul and Donna Floyd have a great story about Tony that we share below, they have contributed to a $43,000 matching grant to encourage others to support the $86,000 birthday celebration!
“I grew up poor with roots in both the North and the South. My mother’s family is from Ohio and my father’s family is from South Carolina. My parent’s divorced when I was four and my mother raised me and my twin sister and older brother in Lima, Ohio with summer visits to my grandparents in Cross Hill, South Carolina. We didn’t have a car or own a home. The community was a blue-collar mix of poor white people and African Americans. There was a great deal of racial tension in the late 1960s, which often came out in school.
In high school, I heard Tony Campolo speak at a stadium event at The Ohio State University. Tony’s message of the Gospel at that Thanksgiving weekend youth rally in 1972 forever changed me. Soon after committing my life to Christ I wrote to Tony, explaining how his message describing personal discipleship, social justice, and reconciliation had impacted me. To my surprise, Tony replied, thus beginning an ongoing connection that would alter the trajectory of my life.
Growing up, I was a mediocre student with no plans to pursue higher education. But Tony saw something in me and didn’t hesitate to communicate his faith in my potential. With his financial assistance and encouragement, I enrolled at Judson University, a Christian liberal arts school in Illinois. It was there that I met Donna, my wife of 44 years. After graduation, I went on to study at Bethel Seminary and William Mitchell School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota.
In the practice of law, I found a space to live out the message that Tony taught that day at OSU – the idea that “life is a mission” and that faith and social advocacy truly go hand in hand.
Over the years, Tony’s influence can be seen in the life Donna and I have built and the mission work I’ve been part of. In 1998, I visited Ukraine with a Minnesota-based Christian organization and had the opportunity to discuss the legal system with judges and lawyers. Since then, we’ve been involved in creating an ongoing ministry for disabled children, persons with HIV/AIDS and veterans in Ukraine, as well as building a youth center and year round camp. My involvement in Ukraine might look different than Tony’s work in the Dominican Republic, but his example has been a role-model of “hands on” ministry for me. Put together, my work in the legal profession and time spent on the international mission field serve to reinforce the inclusive and social justice perspective that Tony modeled so long ago.
Forty-eight years have passed since I first heard Tony speak, and my life looks different today. I have been privileged to serve as the president of two different Bar associations. I also regularly teach college and graduate students in the law and try to be an encouragement to them as Tony was for me.
I’ve never forgotten the impact Tony made on my life and I’m deeply encouraged to see the same positive impact being made today on a group of diverse young Campolo Scholars. That’s why Donna and I have chosen to lend our support to this vision, which supports students of color and those from adverse backgrounds, providing them with an opportunity for higher education and training in Christian leadership they might not have had otherwise. It doesn’t take a miracle to change a life. It takes making an intentional decision to come alongside someone in need.
We are pleased to do that through our support of the Campolo Scholarship Fund, especially at a time when we can honor Tony on his 86th birthday.”