Family and friends of Dr. Drayton and Mary Etta Sanders of Dalton, Ga., will celebrate the fine couple’s 50th wedding anniversary this Saturday. While I cannot be physically present for the festive occasion, I do want to pay tribute to two of the finest Baptist lay leaders around.

Drayton and Mary Etta are deeply involved the ministry of First Baptist Church in “the carpet capital of the world.” It would be impossible to give a full accounting of their many and significant leadership roles within that congregation and community.

Additionally, they use their gifts to impact the broader ministries of Baptists outside their local setting. For example, Mary Etta is a valued member of the Baptists Today Board of Directors and Drayton has given superb leadership to the Baptist Heritage Council of Georgia as well as serving as a trustee at his alma mater, Mercer University.

In 2005, he organized a tour group to England for an enjoyable experience. The photo above is one I took of the couple in Birmingham, England, where the centenary gathering of the Baptist World Alliance was held.

Mary Etta has served as deacon chair for Dalton First Baptist and is a part of many mission activities — including ministry with the area’s large Hispanic population.

Drayton,a retired physician, is a key leader in the Baptist Medical/Dental Fellowship and has served in medical missions years. He was involved in Katrina relief efforts.

Last year, the good doc helped pioneer a partnership in Africa between Mercer’s medical school and some missionaries of the African-American Baptist group, Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention. (This was one of the many good new things to come out of the New Baptist Covenant relationships.)

Not only are Drayton and Mary Etta model lay leaders, but they are friendly, well-humored persons and a joy to be around. I’m delighted to call them my friends.

While I affirm their uniquenesses, it is hard not to wish we could clone them a thousand times. Congratulations and best wishes!

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