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Savannah pastor authors new book, ‘WOW! Moments’

  • The Rev. Billy Hester
 

Savannah pastor authors new book, ‘WOW! Moments’

29 Nov 2016

If you’ve ever uttered in amazement, “Did that really just happen?” you might have had a “wow moment.”

The Rev. Billy Hester, pastor of the Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church, is the author of a new book, “WOW! Moments: Stories of Grace, Wonder, and Synchronicity.”

“I had been thinking about it for a long time,” Hester says. “As a minister, you’re telling stories a lot in sermons that people seem to be inspired by. I thought about putting some of these in a book.”

For Hester, a wow moment is when two things happen at the same time to make an obvious and unusual coincidence. Some folks call that synchronicity, and others see it as the presence of a higher power.

“I have come to believe something is working beyond us,” Hester says. “These are wow moments.

“People call this energy different things,” he says. “Even those who don’t believe in God believe in this other dimension.”

For Hester, his best wow moment came when he was living in New York City and working as an actor. He had seen a cute young woman with short blonde hair and wanted to meet her, but didn’t know how to make it happen.

“Being an actor, you’re out of work 98 percent of the time,” Hester says. “Yet here I was, getting cast opposite the girl I wanted to meet.”

The young woman’s name was Cheri, and she became Hester’s wife.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “After that show, I was out of work for a long period of time. Meeting Cheri — that’s the one that opened my eyes.”

Another wow moment for Hester was when Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a pioneer in near-death studies and the author of “On Death and Dying,” spoke at his church.

“She had been an atheist,” Hester says. “During all that time she spent with people who were dying, she saw something more, something transcendent.

“That was a powerful thing for me to hear from her,” he says. “As a minister, I’ve had a lot of these wow experiences, often occurring during the death of someone. We think of death as being so awful, but it can be so powerful and beautiful.”

Life-transforming events also qualify for the wow factor.

“The story of my journey with trying to understand homosexuality and not being condemning of it is one,” he says. “I kind of get emotional thinking about it.

“This mysterious figure moved onto my block. He seemed strange and I never met him.

“I left Savannah and came back and this figure came back into my life,” Hester says. “He became a friend, this man I used to make fun of.”

Stories of family members also are included.

“There is the story of my Uncle Butch,” Hester says. “He took care of me when my father died.”

Hester opens one chapter with the story of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were best friends. The second and third presidents of the new United States, they were the last of the original leaders of the American Revolution.

Ironically, Jefferson and Adams died within minutes of each other on the same day – July 4, 1826. It was the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

“I still can’t get over that story,” Hester says. “That’s unbelievable.”

It took Hester three summers to write the book.

“I kept working in the summer and saying I’d finish during the year,” he says. “With pressure from work, I could never finish it.

“It always took up the whole summer,” Hester says. “But after the second summer, I knew I was going to finish it.”

Once the book was finished, it had to be formatted.

“Frank Ramsey designed the book,” Hester says. “He’s been a big help.

“I had no idea how hard it is,” he says. “In telling a story from the pulpit, it communicates one way, but in putting it in print, you may have to put it another way.”

Ramsey says he and Hester have discussed the possibility of releasing the book in a digital format.

“We’ve done nothing about it yet,” Ramsey says. “I’ll let Billy decide whether or not to commit to it at this time.

“Billy will have an eStore on Amazon that will allow purchase just of his book,” Ramsey says. “We are working on a front-end website that will link to the eStore.”

The website can be accessed at billyhesterbooks.com.

Everyone has wow moments, Hester says.

“I was going through my files and read a story I had completely forgotten about,” he says. “I thought, ‘How could I forget this?’

“I wondered how many other stories I had forgotten. And how many would I forget down the road?

“There are 25 stories in the book and some have multiple stories in them,” Hester says. “I’m writing it because I’m encouraging other people to write their wow moments down.”

Looking back on those memories can help lift a burden, Hester says.

“We do go through depressing times and down moments,” he says. “I read these and remember that there is something beyond me, which can be very comforting.

“Being a minister and trying to help people when they’re going through down times, I’m often sending them to therapy or counseling them myself. I feel there are other tools.

“If you keep a wow journal, and read the stories when you are down, it might have an uplifting benefit,” Hester says. “It’s a good ministerial tool, also.”

The book is already having a positive impact on readers.

“The minister who married Cheri and me is in the book,” Hester says. “His name is Jerry Everly and he’s in Tennessee.

“He wants to order 30 books to have people read it and talk about it. He said the book reminds him of a book he read a long time ago by a fellow named Arthur Gordon.

“I said, ‘Jerry, Arthur Gordon was from Savannah,’” Hester says. “He was a ghost writer for Norman Vincent Peale, the pastor of Marble Collegiate Church. Arthur wrote ‘A Touch of Wonder,’ which is a great book.”

That was another wow moment for Hester.

“When I was 11 years old, I wanted a drum set for Christmas,” he says. “Mom was a single mother without much money, so she bought a used drum set from Arthur Gordon, who had retired and moved back to Savannah.

“I never contacted him and I still regret it. I was at Norman Vincent Peale’s church when I was in New York.

“What I liked about Arthur Gordon’s book is that it’s celebrating God without pushing God down people’s throats,” Hester says. “It’s about the wonder of God and the wonder of creation.”

So far, Hester has two book signings scheduled. Both are local, but he is hoping to reach out even further.

“The Marble Collegiate Church people know about it,” Hester says. “I’m going to see if I can get some New York action and do a signing there.”

Readers have suggested Hester create a wow journal so they can write down their own wow moments.

“It would be something for them to write in, maybe with some quotes,” he says. “People do have a lot of meaningful stories, synchronicity moments, a lot of life stories.

“Some have said it would also make a great audio book,” Hester says. “I’m glad it’s finally written.”

IF YOU GO

What: Book signings for “WOW! Moments: Stories of Grace, Wonder, and Synchronicity” by the Rev. Billy Hester

When and where: 1-4 p.m. Dec. 3 at E. Shaver, Bookseller, 326 Bull St., and after the Dec. 4 service at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church, 1008 E. Henry St.

Cost: Books are $10

Info: asburymemorial.orgbillyhesterbooks.com

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