Crowd encouraged to face their 'giants' at prayer breakfast

April 12, 2019

HIGH POINT — Richard “Stick” Williams used to be afraid of giants.

As a middling undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he didn’t expect to be one of 10 percent of students who passed the CPA exam.

When he rose the ranks of corporate America, being the first African-American to serve on many boards and in many leadership roles made him feel like the world was on his shoulders.

He wasn’t even sure he was equipped to be the keynote speaker at the YMCA of High Point’s 29th annual Lenten Prayer Breakfast on Friday morning.

But, like always, his Christian faith helped him overcome his fears.

“What do you do when you face a giant?,” he asked an audience of about 260 people at the Hartley Drive Family YMCA. “Now I’ve gotten to the point where I say, ‘Lord, I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do this time.’”

Williams is a retired vice president of corporate community affairs for Duke Energy Corp. He also served as the president of the Duke Energy Foundation.

At the annual pre-Easter breakfast, he told the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. A group of 12 men was charged with going ahead to explore Canaan, the promised land.

There, they found everything God had promised them. But to their surprise, there were also giants.

Williams used the metaphor of giants to talk about some of the challenges he has faced and how he has overcome them through his faith.

“We all have our giants,” he said. “Giants come in different forms — doubts, fears, the unknown, barriers, addiction, bullies.”

When Williams was the chairman of the UNC-Chapel Hill board of trustees, he presided over a contentious debate about tuition.

Hundreds of students, parents and community members packed the meeting room. Some trustees were dominating the discussion, while others weren’t talking at all. He didn’t know what to do.

But after saying a silent prayer, he decided to go around the table and have each trustee voice his or her opinion, and an agreement was reached.

“I know the wisdom that comes to me in times like that is not Stick Williams,” he said. “It has to be God Almighty.”

Williams said it’s easy to get intimidated by giants. But he encouraged the audience to keep the faith.

“Just like Jews of Israel, not so long ago, leaving Egypt, we forget about the miracles,” he said. “We forget about the fact that we crossed the Red Sea on dry land.”

The breakfast was sponsored by the Qubein Foundation and the YMCA Board of Trustees.

High Point University Chamber Singers performed “I Need Thee Every Hour” and “My Soul is Anchored in the Lord.”

YMCA Board Chairman Chris Whitesell said the breakfast is one of his favorite events of the year.

“I always walk away so uplifted,” he said.