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A Private Christian School Engaging Hearts and Minds

Author Walt Merrell visits Chattanooga

November 09, 2022

Maybe the name Walt Merrell doesn’t ring a bell. How about the Facebook page, Cooking with Brenda Gantt? Walt certainly doesn’t need his mother-in-law’s three million+ social media followers lending him any kind of credibility, with nearly a quarter of a million followers of his own. Nonetheless, you’ll find a family loving and supporting each other, regardless of whether they’re cooking or canoeing.

By profession, Walt serves as the district attorney for the 22nd Judicial Circuit (Covington County) of Alabama, but he visited Silverdale Baptist Academy recently as one of a select group of authors chosen to speak to students as part of our Author Series. Merrell manages an outdoors-based ministry, Shepherding Outdoors, and has written two books - Shepherding Outdoors: Short Stories from a Southern Father and Shepherding Outdoors Volume 2: More Short Stories from a Southern Father.

Beginning early on a Wednesday morning outside the Creekside Theater, Head of School Becky Hansard introduced Mr. Merrell to a select group of students she calls her Student Ambassadors - the cream of the crop of high school students here at SBA. Together, they dialogued about all variety of topics and eventually landed on a simple charge from Merrell to resist the urge to spend time on their devices, instead choosing to get outdoors and be relational.

The rest of Merrell’s day at Silverdale Baptist Academy provided him three opportunities to get in front of over 1,100 students between our elementary, middle, and high school chapels. Those three chapels gave Merrell three unique opportunities to address different age groups and, therefore, craft messages that would best relate to them. His casual nature and encouraging messages, combined with wonderful stories of his adventures, painted a picture of the beauty of God’s creation and just how important it is to engage with nature. Whether talking about treks with his family or his dog Lincoln, the students were treated to a message where scripture and Biblical truths were woven throughout.

Of his time at SBA, Merrell said on Facebook:

“I had an awesome time with the students at Silverdale Baptist Academy outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The school is great, the kids are phenomenal, and the staff and administration are truly looking for every way they can to help those kids grow! Many times when I speak, I feel as though I leave more than I came with. I leave my heart and my passion about the great outdoors and about our Lord. And that is how it should be… I feel called to share and so leaving my passion should be the norm. But can I just tell you that I sat in that auditorium with awe as I watch those elementary kids sing ‘Glorious Day’ at the top of their lungs. Emotion stirred in me even more as I watched the praise band sing with such earnest desire and still even more when the kids wanted to talk afterwards. Then the teachers and administrators… those kids are a blessing but they are so blessed to have such an awesome faculty leading their way. To have such spirit led people with joy overflowing molding and shaping the children was such a true blessing. Silverdale Academy…. God is using you to do great things. Thank you for letting me be a small part of it!”

Silverdale Baptist Academy’s Author Series continues next semester, with dates to be announced. You can watch Merrell’s presentations to the students at SBA on the live stream page of our website and then by choosing the November 9th video from the appropriate playlist on the elementary, middle, or high school feeds.

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