by Vicky Kaniaru
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) -- "I really like being a mom, and probably the greatest challenge is trying to balance work, ministry, family, service to the Lord, and sitting at his feet," said Angie Gant, chair of the education and behavioral science division and associate professor of education at Truett-McConnell College (TMC).
Gant has been married to Jim Gant, the college pastor at Helen First Baptist Church, for 17 years and said they both envision retiring in Cleveland. The couple has two daughters, Sarabeth and Jamie.
A percussionist since the age of 10, Gant studied at the University of Georgia and played in the Redcoat Band. One day, a peer invited her to Prince Avenue Baptist Church to assist in the orchestra during a Christmas production.
It was there that Tara, a 14-year-old girl, asked Gant, "What would happen if you died today?"
Gant assured Tara she would think about the subject back home during Christmas break. Tara began to weep. Later that night, Gant remembered watching Tara weep on stage during the production.
"I mean, I'm down here watching from the orchestra like, 'Wow, that is really amazing.' So, I accepted Christ that night," said Gant, who added she was stirred by Tara's compassion for lost people. However, Gant's Christian walk remained stagnant for the next few years.
"Not ever having gone to church, I didn't know what that was like," Gant said. "I didn't even know the expectation there."
The professor graduated college and accepted a teaching job in Clayton County. At orientation she encountered a man wearing a simple bracelet of a few colored beads strung on a leather strap. When she inquired about it, he invited her to church.
"By that time I was already three-years-old in the Lord and incredibly a baby," Gant said. "So, I went. And that very first Sunday morning I joined because I knew that was where I was supposed to be."
In that church, she met Jim, and the two later married. Gant's relationship with the Lord continued to grow even when life offered challenges.
While planning a six-week mission trip to the Panama Canal, Gant discovered she was pregnant with Sarabeth. She canceled the trip. When she planned a mission trip to that location again, Gant was pregnant again – this time with Jamie.
"Sarabeth changed my direction. After having Jamie, it really changed my heart," said Gant, who suffered serious, post-natal complications.
Gant said she realized "how close I was to death and how fragile life is."
God used that time in her life to change her direction professionally and call her to Truett-McConnell College.
"I think there's such a sense of wanting to be perfect, wanting to glorify God with my life that, when I fall short, there's such as sense of inadequacy," said Gant, who meditates on 2 Cor.12:9, which says, "And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
Gant would later embark on two mission trips to Kenya. Although she was passionate about working with the people there, God confirmed in her heart and mind that her ministry was to her family and the young people around her.
"I so clearly heard from the Lord: 'Your home is your mission,'" Gant said. "Since that time we've had several individuals who have lived with us. We really believe that God has given us our home as a lighthouse."
Gant laughs when she recalls her original plan of becoming a professional marimba performer. "The problem with that is there aren't a whole lot of jobs out there for professional marimba players," Gant said.
Gant decided to try an elementary music education class. While there, she met UGA professor Mary Legler, who "opened the world of elementary music," Gant said.
"I had always thought the only thing you could do with a music education degree was be a band director," Gant said. "I knew that wasn't for me."
For 10 years, Gant taught K-5 music, directing about 300 performances. During that time, she completed her graduate work intent on becoming a school principal. However, responsibilities of motherhood drew her away from that plan. She began teaching in a fifth grade classroom, and eventually became frustrated about her work until a friend reminded Gant she was "meant for something more. And God is reminding you that this is not what you were made for," Gant recalled.
"Coming to Truett-McConnell was really an answer to prayer. That's what drew me to teach here," Gant said. "For me, being in a public school, I felt very restricted. I loved teaching children, but I think TMC has given me the opportunity to go to the next level."
As for her courses, Gant added that, as chair of the education department she is able to create courses that meet the standards set for accreditation.
In addition to teaching Reading Diagnosis and Remediation, Gant also teaches Children's Literature, where she challenges each college student to read books from different genres and learn how to teach reading.
"The single-most important job of the school is to teach a child how to read," said Gant, who added that teaching education students how to teach reading is a priority in the education program.
"If a person never becomes that final-stage, mature reader, which happens in middle school and high school, how in the world is he going to read the Bible? And if you can't read the Bible, how can you know who God is?" said Gant, who firmly believes one cannot separate the Bible and education.
"One of the greatest privileges of being here is not having to separate who I am and what I believe from what I teach," Gant said. "In a lot of ways, God will speak to me, and I just want to share that with my students. And so it's sort of interwoven. There isn't a separation between my spirituality and what I teach."
As a student, Gant said she was unaware that she was naturally separating what she was learning from what she knew scripturally. Therefore, Gant believes it is important to biblically train students.
"It is not against the law to be a Christian," Gant continued. "Now, we cannot necessarily teach the Bible with its references right there in front of a fourth-grader, but we can definitely live that out."
"A great revelation for me is that I have a lot that I can share with the students, and I just really believe it's a great privilege," Gant said. "I don't want to do anything else. I mean, it's a challenge to mentor, to do ministry, to teach, and to love the kids, but it's really an honor."
Vicky Kaniaru is senior staff writer at Truett-McConnell College.