Published October 17, 2013
STATESBORO — Georgia Baptist Convention President John Waters describes his wife, Cynthia, as encouraging, genuine, and generous. He could hardly say otherwise, because she has been his companion for almost 30 years and a great complement to his ministry – and to his GBC presidency.
Waters is pastor of First Baptist Church in Statesboro and in addition to traveling all around the state as president of the GBC he has made multiple trips to the GBC Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth during the two years of his presidency. And Cynthia, the Convention’s First Lady, has accompanied him on most of his travels as his chief supporter and chauffeur.
Cynthia Hendricks Waters, who was born in Upland, CA, is the daughter of Stanley (pastor of Massee Baptist Church in Adel) and LaVerne Hendricks. Cynthia explained, “I have a brother, Richard, who is six years older than I am. When he was three years old he started praying for a sister and he’s the one who gave me my name.”
Cynthia’s public school education started in Perry when her dad was pastor there, but included stints in Stapleton and Moultrie before she graduated from Tift County High School in Tifton. As a high school student she was involved in the High School Girls’ Chorus, All Star Choir, and Future Homemakers of America.
Upon graduating from high school Cynthia continued her education at Brewton-Parker College. In the beginning of her junior year at BPC John Waters arrived on campus as a freshman ministerial student. Both John and Cynthia, who were active in the Baptist Student Union, became prayer partners.
Cynthia commented, “John actually had a girlfriend at the time, but we started praying together in the ministry of the BSU. We were very innocent about it and our motives were pure, but God seemed to use that experience to draw us together. I was so conflicted about him having a girlfriend that I decided not to go back to Brewton Parker after that fall quarter.
“I enrolled in Georgia Southwestern in Americus for the winter quarter, but in December, before the classes at Southwestern began, I saw John at the Youth Evangelism Conference and he told me he had ended the relationship with his girlfriend and that he loved me.”
John and Cynthia continued their relationship long distance during that winter quarter while she was in Americus, but she returned to BPC for the spring quarter and when she returned to Brewton-Parker John proposed to her.
Cynthia recalled, “One day we went to Cordele to look at rings and John bought an engagement ring there. He didn’t give it to me, because he said that he intended to first ask my dad for permission to marry me. However, he decided not to wait to ask my dad. I guess it wasn’t the most romantic proposal, but he stopped the car by the side of the road and asked me to marry him.
“I gave him my unreserved ‘yes.’
“Although John had not asked my dad for my hand in marriage, I know he had my dad’s approval. The first time my dad saw John, he said, ‘That is the man you need to marry.’ We were married a year after the proposal, on March 10, 1984 at First Baptist Colquitt where my dad was pastor at the time.”
John was pastor of Poplar Spring South Baptist Church in Dublin and Cynthia taught school in Vidalia after they were married and until they went to Fort Worth, TX, where John enrolled at Southwestern Seminary. Like many seminarians, the young Georgia couple went off to pursue their theological education without a job or the promise of a job. It was a venture of faith.
Cynthia remarked, “I found a job teaching the first grade in Maypearl, TX near where Places in the Heart, the movie starring Sally Field, was filmed. Then in November John was called to pastor Patillo Baptist Church west of Fort Worth, near Mineral Wells. We moved to the church field and for the remainder of the school year I had to drive one hour, forty-five minutes one way to get to my teaching assignment in Maypearl.
“It was during this period of time that we adopted a little 2 ½ year old girl, Trisha Ann, in Stephenville, TX. After one year of teaching in Maypearl I got a teaching assignment in Santo, TX just nine minutes from our house.”
In 1989 John graduated with his Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern, but the graduation week was filled with some extra drama, because Cynthia gave birth to their younger daughter just three days before the graduation. Bethany Ruth was delivered by a Caesarean section, but that did not prevent Cynthia from being present at her husband’s graduation.
John’s ministerial pilgrimage took him from Texas to South Carolina before finally coming back to Georgia, where he pastored a mission church in Perry for six years, then to the pastorate of First Baptist Church in Sylvania before joining the administrative staff at Brewton-Parker College. Cynthia taught school along the way until John was called to be pastor of First Baptist in Statesboro.
At First Baptist, Cynthia faithfully teaches five-year-old children in Sunday School, teaches the first grade children’s choir on Wednesday night, sings in the adult choir, leads a Bible study for women on Thursday night, and occasionally makes hospital visits with her husband.
Cynthia is an avid reader of Christian historical fictions and mystery novels. She particularly enjoys Karen Kingsbury and Terri Blackstock and commends The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin.
Aside from Christian music, Cynthia likes the popular music of the 1970s. She lists Barry Manilow, the Bee Gees, some of the music of The Eagles and Dancing Queen by Abba as among her favorites. Somewhere in Time and Anne of Green Gables are among her favorite movies.
The rather unassuming but gracious wife of our GBC president stated, “I am not basically a risk taker, but I have been to Russia three times on mission trips. I guess that is the most adventurous thing I have done. I have also been to the Holy Land twice and have ridden on a camel. I was determined to do that, because my grandmother did.”
When asked about her husband’s GBC presidency she exclaimed, “I think John has done a great job of pulling people together. He is good at being a calming influence. That is one of his strengths.” Cynthia concluded, “John can get excited, though. He gets most excited watching football. He generally roots for the underdog, but he is a big Georgia Southern fan. And he likes boxing. He likes to score the boxers in each round of the event.”
When asked, “How will life change for you when John completes his second term as president of the Convention?”
Cynthia exclaimed, “We are expecting our first grandchild in December. I am sure that will fill any void created by John completing his two years as Convention president.”
It is evident that Cynthia is John’s greatest encourager and also the greatest asset in his ministry, in his GBC presidency, and in life itself.
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