May 2020 – “I think you should come work for me.”
Those were the words of Don Wildmon, founder of AFA. Durick Hayden (photo above) stood in his office one Monday in 1993, on the verge of leaving town with his family for a job elsewhere.
“I don’t know what you’ll do here,” Wildmon told him, “but I really think you should come to work for me instead of taking this other job.”
Hayden and Wildmon had been attending the same church for a time, but Hayden was indeed in the process of moving away from Tupelo. However, that conversation took hold of him and would completely change the rest of his life.
“The next day,” Hayden recalled, “I agreed to come aboard. The rest is history – right up until my retirement in February.”
AFA Journal: What was your journey to Christ like?
Durick Hayden: I grew up in a family that prioritized participation in a faith community. While I did stay connected to my church roots in high school, I drifted away in college. When I finally married, I had drifted so far that we were not even married in a church.
Following a divorce, I moved to another town with the company I worked for. There I met Debbie and later married her. As a pastor’s daughter, Debbie was involved in a family that worshiped together and had a strong relationship with the living God. Through her love and acceptance and her father’s example, I started to question my lack of a walk. In time, her father introduced me to a loving relationship with Christ.
AFAJ: What attracted you to the work of AFA?
DH: I was attracted to AFA because of my relationship with Don. I saw how driven he was in the fight for our culture, and I wanted to be a part of the fight myself.
AJAJ: How is AFA different than other companies you’ve worked for?
DH: AFA is the first place I’ve worked where Christ is the center of everything. I worked in the for-profit arena exclusively in my past. With AFA, we seek to reach people with the gospel and educate, encourage, and motivate our supporters to be salt and light in a dying world.
AFAJ: What is the one thing you have learned working at AFA?
DH: If one person is willing to take a stand for righteousness, that person is enough to make a difference.
AFAJ: What’s one significant story from your time at AFA?
DH: We were in a busy time during one of our AFR Share-a-thons 20 plus years ago, and the phones were ringing off the hook. In the midst of all the confusion, I noticed Don tending to one of his grandchildren. He was changing a diaper, totally oblivious to what was happening around him. The only important thing was the child. That said a lot about where his priorities were. I understood why the “Family” existed in American Family Association.
My time at AFA has been the best of my working life. The greatest gift I have received has been working with so many godly, dedicated, and loving people. The relationships I have been able to form will be treasured for the remainder of my life. I believe the best years for AFA have not yet come. To God be the glory!
Friend to AFA families
“Durick’s office was a popular haven for kids young and old, demonstrating genuine love and concern for every AFA employee as well as each family member. I thank God for the five years I was able to work side by side with him.”
— Stacey Fowler
VP of human resources