By Ed Brock
There are many reasons why the Rev. Lanny Loe and the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro feel a connection to Romania.
Primarily, there is the revolution against the former communist government there in 1989.
"Romania is the only country that defeated communism with the shedding of blood," said Loe, who is senior executive assistant pastor at First Baptist of Jonesboro. "It began with a group of Baptists protesting the moving of (a pastor of the Hungarian Reformed Church.) The birth place of the Revolution was there in Timisoara (Romania.)"
Loe's continuing work with First Baptist Jonesboro's missionary projects are one reason why he has been named the 2003 International Ambassador of the Year by the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce International Promotions Council.
At a luncheon Monday on the Clayton College & State University campus Loe received a plaque, making him the first person to win the award under its new name. Previously it was the International Business Person of the Year award.
Southern Regional Medical was named International Employer of the Year and Army & Air Force Exchange Services based in Fort Gillem in Forest Park was named International Transportation Business of the Year.
Shortly after finishing the seminary in 1982 Loe and his wife Isabel went to the Uintah-ouray American Indian Reservation in Utah.
"That was our first real activity in working cross-culturally," Loe said.
After coming to First Baptist Jonesboro in 2001, Loe has ministered in more than a dozen countries and has helped send 500 people overseas to various countries to assist in projects such as church planting and music/cultural exchange programs. The church itself holds full Sunday services in Hindi, Khamir, Vietnamese, Laotian, Thai and Spanish and ministers to 30 different ethnic groups. It has sister churches in Serbia, Romania, Peru, Liberia and Central Asia.
Loe went to Timisoara in Timis County in 2002 where he was knighted by the president of that county. The sister-church relationship that Loe helped foster with a church in Timis County eventually led to the creation of a sister-county relationship between Timis and Clayton counties.
Last year Loe helped receive a visiting delegation from Timis and on Nov. 10 he will join a group from the chamber when that group arrives in Romania after traveling through Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
Loe is just the kind of person the council wanted to include when changing the name of the award, Chamber President and CEO Shane Moody said.
"The council felt that they didn't want to necessarily honor a person in international business but rather anybody who promotes international business," Moody said.
John D. Hursh accepted the award for SRMC in recognition of the hospital's service to the international community in Clayton County. About 40 percent of the SRMC's 604 member medical staff are of an ethnicity other than Caucasian or African American and 10 percent of their in-patients and 20 percent of their out-patients are from the international community.
AAFES Senior Logistics Operations Manager Gary Eckhardt accepted his organization's award for their work in providing food and supplies to 12,000 facilities worldwide during military operations such as "Enduring Freedom."
Most of the internationally owned companies in Clayton County are scattered around Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, said Clayton County Director of Economic Development Emory Brock. Some major foreign-owned companies in the county include European-owned Bosse Concrete in Jonesboro and Japanese-owned Toto Toilets in Morrow.
W. Glenn Cornell, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism, gave the keynote address at the luncheon.
"Perhaps the biggest single reason why companies continue to come and will continue to come (to Georgia), especially international companies from around the world, is the market," Cornell said.
Those companies can chose to go to other areas of the country where the market is declining, Cornell said, or they can come to Georgia where the market is growing.
"It's a pretty easy conclusion," Cornell said.
Atlanta Custom Brokers also sponsored the luncheon.