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Danny: Crashing Into Heroism
A herd of rhinoceroses is referred to as a “crash.” Rhinos are technically blind; therefore, they charge into any creature that may get in their path at speeds of up to 35 mph. A crash does not let anything get in its way. At Central Christian Church in Carmel, the Student Ministry refers to itself as “The Crash,” as a ministry of teens who are willing to run forth in faith and not let obstacles overcome them. The leader of this crash is Victor Daniel (“Danny”) Wright, my youth minister, a man I admire for his faith.
Danny claims that he was “in church since 9 months before I was born." Rose in mainly North Carolina and Virginia, Danny was active in the church as a child.
One of Danny’s favorite memories is a hot, stormy afternoon spent memorizing several Bible verses for Vacation Bible School with his sister. His mother attended Bible College when Danny was a child. Danny thinks of her as a “Servant extraordinaire.” Daniel’s father was highly fundamental in his choice of career. Mr. Wright started saying his son would be a minister at the age of three. Danny feels that, “I think I learned how to love public speaking and develop a voracious appetite for knowledge from him."
Danny felt moved to use his adolescent faith throughout his life. In high school, Danny was involved in Bible Bowl. He said, “Some of the best friendships I have ever experienced came through Bible Bowl. I even met my wife through Bible Bowl, and the fact that Central stole my youth minister, Richard Clark. I vowed that I would get Central back.”
In 1986, Richard Clark went from North Scales Street Christian Church in Reidsville, North Carolina, to Central Christian Church in Carmel. Danny then came to know a girl in the youth group named Melissa. He was “very impressed with her knowledge and willingness to speak up during class.” Danny and Melissa are now married with two daughters, Tori, 13, and Ally, 7. These are the relationships that fuel Danny. “Good relationships are not easy or quick, but they are worth all the effort,” he said.
Danny has a deep relationship with Richard Clark. “I will never forget the fact that he said that he would always be there for us the very first time that I met him. He meant it.” As a youth minister, authenticity is important to Danny. “I believe that the people in this room can change the world,” Danny often says on Sunday mornings. His faith in us to excel shows through his caring for us. Danny’s advice for youth ministers is to pray, listen, read, seek God, love deeply, and never forget that they are being led themselves. Daniel is more than a youth minister; he is a friend, and he is a teacher.
Every moment of Danny’s life can be considered a learning experience. He has no typical days; in fact, he says, “Every day is an adventure. I try to meet it as it comes, and pay very close attention. I want to hear God’s call. I want to live life to its fullest.” Danny is willing to go anywhere, anytime and do anything you need him to. Danny not only is the part-time youth minister at Central, but he is involved at Shepard Community Center in Indianapolis and also works with Outreach Ministries on a volunteer position. On a recent retreat to Chicago, Danny told the youth group to “Go where God leads you and stay there until God leads you somewhere else.”
It was on that retreat that a few members of the group, including myself, chose to stay in the Windy City late to catch the 12:40 a.m. train back to our hotel. While roaming around the trash-covered alleyways of Chicago, we came upon a frail African American woman handing out papers. The papers were free, but the woman, who we found out is named Joyce, was accepting donations for a woman’s shelter. The shelter houses those who have been abused or left homeless. Danny insisted we pray for her. We held hands as he poured out words of wisdom from the Bible. I was holding Joyce’s hand, and I could not help but notice how absolutely chilly it was. Joyce, after praying herself, walked the three or four blocks to our subway stop. It was there that, with Danny’s help I convinced Joyce to accept my gloves, he himself in only a tee shirt, shorts, and Crocs. Danny’s smile was enough to tell me God was there that night.
Danny’s smiles are common to his students. He makes Sunday morning the highlight of my week. Pop culture references and his ever-popular “Borat” accent contribute to his fun-loving nature. At first glance, he may seem intimidating, but Danny is really like a big teddy bear. This large, bearded, man with spiked hair and glasses, clothed in thrift shop attire is more like a teenager than some students I know. Danny tries to live life to the fullest every moment. He wants to, “live with reckless abandonment to God’s call.”
Danny’s faith is firmly planted in the Bible as the source of religious truth. His simplistic style of living reflects his opinion that modern Christians are better at being modern Americans. Danny lives by compassion, Splanknizomai in Greek. In his wisdom, he told me that the splankna were the bowels. He says, “When Jesus had compassion on the crowds in Matthew 9, he was not feeling pity because pity is too condescending, nor was he feeling empathy because it is too distant. He was feeling a gut-wrenching pain for those in need.” Danny wants to remember to live and die in God as his life verse, Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Heroes do not have to fly, have double lives, or wear capes (but I would not be surprised if he did). Heroes have to be willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of helping others. Gandhi was once asked what he feared most, and replied, “Educated minds without souls.” Danny is quite possibly the most soulful person I have ever met. He knows how to live life to fullest, and he sees the task at hand to change the world. Danny Wright is my hero because he is truly himself: a great, selfless, faithful guy.