A local pastor who founded an area Christian private school and led his congregation to lose more than 200 pounds was among 12 men and women recognized statewide by the governor Tuesday afternoon.
Lonnie Anderson Jr., a reverend at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Kokomo, received the Governor’s Award for civic leadership at the Indiana Black Expo’s 43rd Annual Summer Celebration Governor’s Reception.
“It’s an honor,” Anderson said. “I realize that every good thing that can be said about me, I realize that all the glory goes to God. I’m nothing more than an instrument for him.”
Gov. Mike Pence, in collaboration with state and community leaders, chose the recipients from nominations and celebrated their accomplishments with a ceremony at the Indiana Convention Center Tuesday.
Governor’s awards also were given in other categories including business and entrepreneurship, community service and cultural heritage.
Anderson and his congregation started a program called the 40-day journey in an effort to improve physical and spiritual health, he said.
“It’s not dieting,” Anderson said. “It’s creating a lifestyle change, spiritually and physically.”
Members laid off on fried food, soda, salt and fast food, and committed to walking 40 minutes every day.
Men were encouraged to get prostate exams and women were encouraged to get mammograms.
Through all the exercise and eating properly, the congregation collectively lost more than 200 pounds, Anderson said.
“I serve at an awesome church, and a lot of things that are going on in the community are because the people saw the vision, embraced the vision and ran with the vision,” he said.
The church also founded F.D. Reese Christian Academy four years ago, a Kokomo private school which currently serves 27 students.
The school has grown over the past few years, Anderson said, expanding to kindergarten through third grade education, growing from five students to 27 and being on the pathway to full accreditation.
“The school is designed to provide a Christian atmosphere and environment for children to excel in,” he said. “The parents are extremely happy.”
However, Anderson still forgoes all the credit.
“The key to the success that I have obtained is because God was in it,” Anderson said. “God has done some awesome and mighty things at the church. I’m excited about what he’s doing.”
The church is currently working on a project to help felons re-enter society after leaving prison.
“We want to be a resource for them to help them find jobs, get them in education and provide mentors so they can come back to society and be productive,” he said.
Mother of the Church Mary Kemper said Anderson has done a great job leading the church after her husband, Franklin, who was pastor for 40 years, passed away.
“He’s well qualified to receive whatever accolades that he could receive,” Kemper said. “I am very proud of him for receiving this award.”
She said Anderson continued to carry on some of the traditions and programs from her late husband’s leadership.
“I really appreciate him, and we love him,” Kemper said. “He is a really nice young man and a people person. He ministers to the needs of the people, and he takes interest in young men with trying to rehabilitate them.”