Above, in the 1980s, Don Wildmon meets with reporters.
July 2019 – June marked 42 years of ministry for us here at American Family Association. Hard to believe, but it was in the summer of 1977 that my father, Don Wildmon, left the pulpit ministry as a pastor in the United Methodist church and answered God’s call to raise up an army of fellow Americans who saw the moral decline our country was experiencing and wanted to do something about it.
Dad was 39 years old when he started the National Federation for Decency which later became AFA. You have to understand, when he left the church, he had no steady income. There was no one person or group of people making sure he could feed his family while he got this new ministry off the ground. And there were Mom and four of us children in our home on Greenbrier Drive in Southaven, Mississippi.
In those first few months, Dad had incurred some debt. He was extremely frugal, with his office in our home; but still, postage, phone bills, printing, paper, etc. were necessary to get the word out. He was once in need of $5,000, and he didn’t know where that was going to come from.
Then one afternoon, while he was mowing our yard, a gentleman called the house asking for Don Wildmon. Mom went to tell Dad, and he stopped mowing, wiped his brow, and came inside to answer the phone.
As he tells the story, it was a businessman he had heard of but did not know personally. The man was in Dallas at a conference with many conservative and Christian leaders and wanted to know why Dad was not in attendance.
“Well, I don’t have any money,” Dad told the fellow.
“I understand,” the man responded. “What is your address? I’m going to send a check for $5,000 to you today.”
That was a specific answer to prayer for Dad. It was more confirmation that he was doing God’s will. A year later, he found himself in the same situation, $5,000 in debt and not knowing where the money was going to come from. Then one afternoon, the phone rang and it was a Memphis businessman who owned a chain of discount stores across the Southeast. He had read in the newspaper about what Dad was doing and got his number from the phone book.
As the conversation wound down, the man said this to dad: “I am mainly calling to encourage you, brother, and to let you know my wife and I have talked about it and have decided to send you a check for $5,000 today.”
God came through again.
After that, I don’t think AFA had to borrow money but one time, and that was a loan to construct a building, and that was paid off in a year. Other than that, Dad always operated in the black. Dad was notorious for his frugality and always made sure all the lights were turned off and the air conditioning was adjusted before he locked the doors at the end of the day.
Whatever criticisms may be said of Don Wildmon, wasting money would not be one of them. He often reminded the staff that the backbone of AFA’s support was people who were giving sacrificially.
Dad is 81 now and doesn’t come into the office much. His body and mind have slowed – it happens to us all if we live long enough. But he asks me about the work we’re doing and the issues that we are addressing. Then he often reminds me to manage the ministry money well and not to get into “financial trouble.”
He used to get irritated by ministries always begging for money. He used to say to me that if you have to beg for money all the time, you need to go ahead and close the doors. It’s a bad witness, he would say.
Dad stressed doing the work and “treat your supporters like adults.” Don’t try to manipulate them. “Do the work, and the donations will follow,” he would often say as he mentored me for over 30 years here.
Thank you for supporting AFA. Together, we will continue to raise the banner of righteousness across our country for years to come.