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Stanley Horton

Wes Bartel

Jason Roy

Steve Donaldson

Norma Champion

Byron Klaus

Alton Garrison

Ed Stetzer

Aaron Boyd

Eric Treuil

Lynn Krogstad

Lew Shelton

Todd Starnes

Gary Smalley

Rick Cole and Dary Northrop

George O. Wood

Sarah Reeves

Mercy Me

Chuck Bengochea

Jeremy Camp

Kary Kingsland

Doug Clay

Owen C. Carr

James T. Bradford

Marlo Schalesky

Wally Nelson

Leeland and Jack Mooring

Mark Trammell

Chris Sligh

Scott Krippayne

David and Marie Works

Paul Baloche

Ellie Kay

Deborah Burke

Max Lucado

Sy Rogers

Duke Preston

Kenny Luck

Todd Tiahrt

2008 Conversations

2007 Conversations

2006 Conversations

Connections: Norma Champion

Leading and Serving

City council member, Missouri state legislator, state senator, professor, writer, producer, TV host, minister’s wife, mother and grandmother — each describes Norma Champion, a recipient of the General Superintendent’s Medal of Honor at this year’s 53rd General Council in Orlando.

After graduating from Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo., Champion wrote, produced and hosted Children’s Hour, a top-rated television program in Southwest Missouri that ran for 29 years. During this time, she became affectionately known to young and old as “Aunt Norma” and was presented with a key to the city of Springfield by the mayor.

In 1987, Champion was elected to a city council position in Springfield. She served for five years before winning a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives. She served in the House from 1993 to 2002, when she was elected to the Missouri State Senate. She won re-election in 2006 and currently chairs the Senate’s Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families Committee.

On the faculty of Evangel University in Springfield since 1978, Champion teaches courses in communications and political science. She chaired the board of Berean College and served on the Global University and Assemblies of God Higher Education boards. She holds a master’s degree from Missouri State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma and has been named as one of the 20 most influential women in the Ozarks.

Champion is the widow of the late Richard Champion, managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel from 1955 until 1984 and editor until his death in 1994. She has a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.

Champion recently spoke with Scott Harrup, senior associate editor.

evangel: Children’s Hour continues to shape the public’s response to you. How would you describe that show’s impact?

CHAMPION: More people, by far, know me as Aunt Norma than know me as Dr. Champion or Senator Champion. In fact, people I deal with in politics or in education who used to watch Children’s Hour will still call me Aunt Norma.

I knew when I was doing Children’s Hour that it was a ministry. I was very conscious of what I said to children. But I had no idea the real impact on values that I had. That would probably have scared me. This many years later, almost weekly, people tell me what an influence Children’s Hour was on their lives. One man told me I had more of an effect on the kind of person he was than his school and his church and his family put together. I would hope that’s an exaggeration, but he made his point.

I don’t know that we can expect that kind of programming to happen again. Local children’s shows have gone by the wayside in favor of cheaper ways of programming. We’re probably not going to see the era of Captain Kangaroo again. One would hope there would be other community influences to take its place.

evangel: What would you say is a central focus for the many college courses you have taught?

CHAMPION: You can pick up book learning almost on your own. I wanted to impart a frame of reference for a Christian in the media. When I have met our alumni years later, the things they remember are not the facts in the book.

One student told me the best lesson she ever learned was when I gave her an F on a project because it was late. Broadcasting can’t be late. She called me years later to tell me that was the most valuable lesson in her career.

And there is the whole subject of one’s ethical approach to the media. How far do you go as a journalist? Even in the broadcast production classes, I was very interested in what and why we were communicating as well as how we do it.

evangel: You serve on various education boards. What developments do you see in Assemblies of God higher education?

CHAMPION: I don’t see fewer students going to our colleges in the years ahead, but I believe many more students will be attending who never come to our campuses. We already have many students through the Internet, and I see more of that happening. And not just for undergraduates, but also for professionals who want to keep up with the latest studies in their fields.

evangel: What would you describe as the greatest reward of your years in government service?

CHAMPION: I was able to pass some significant legislation to fight methamphetamine use — both in terms of helping the addicted and in preventing the child abuse that often goes along with meth use. And I was able to change the budgeting process throughout the state to fund those programs that produce results.

But the biggest source of my satisfaction comes from knowing that people trust me and will come to me when they have a problem. They know I will do everything that I can to solve it. Being a liaison between citizens and government is very important. The old expression “You can’t fight city hall” voices a lot of people’s frustration with their government, that it’s too large and overwhelming. And the higher the level of government, the more that holds true. Working locally, then, for me is the most satisfying way to serve politically.

evangel: Would you agree that the biblical mandate to pray for our leaders is probably the best antidote to the bitterness and cynicism many people express toward politicians?

CHAMPION: I’m not sure it’s an antidote. I do think it’s good for us as well as good for the politicians we pray for. When we pray for someone, we can’t help but see them as a person rather than as an enemy. Praying for someone helps you get more involved with them, and I think it’s vital that Christians get more involved in the political process.

evangel: How have you discerned God’s guidance in your many avenues of service?

CHAMPION: It’s been quite a journey. I’m not through growing. I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me next, but I’m looking forward to it with great expectation.

Whenever I don’t know what I am supposed to do next, or when I feel I have too many responsibilities, I simply take that dilemma to the Lord and say, “I’m going to wait until You direct me.” And He has always done that. I just have to be smart enough to allow Him to direct and not try to get ahead of Him.

I love Isaiah 30:21 — “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’ ” (NIV).

evangel: What observations would you offer from your years of marriage?

CHAMPION: I probably understand my marriage better in having the years to look back on it. God was very gracious. Dick and I were not even alike, and we knew we were not alike. That really scared me. But we knew our marriage was the Lord’s will. We tried to follow biblical principles in our marriage, and it got better all the time. When the Scripture talks about being a “helpmate,” you really are a helpmate for each other. I still think, If I could talk to Dick, how would he advise me on this? I learned so much from him during our 40 years together. He was truly an amazing man.

evangel: What stands out to you about receiving the General Superintendent’s Medal of Honor?

CHAMPION: One of the things that especially pleased me about the Medal of Honor was that the leadership in the Assemblies of God recognizes and encourages the layperson’s ministry. Each one of us can reach people way beyond the church, people that the pastoral staff will never see. I think it’s very commendable that our leadership has a vision for encouraging our laypeople to consider their lives ministries in spreading the gospel.

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