Arkansas, known as the Natural State, is not only filled with beautiful nature that surrounds us, but is filled with beautiful people as well. All of us are blessed by those who are willing to share their individual stories. We just need to take the time to read and listen to others.
Rev. Annie Lankford is a “natural” when it comes to devoting her time and energy to others. Her ingredients for handling daily life walks include humility, passion, loyalty, accountability, integrity, and being a “fashionista.”
Lankford loves life, and her mission is to help bring awareness to others.
“Brokenness is a blessing,” she says. “Instead of ignoring it, learn to deal with it. Accept it and let it challenge you.”
Lankford is not shy when it comes to sharing her life. Septemberis National Suicide Prevention Month.She is passionate about raising mental health and suicide awareness.
She often shares her story on a personal level. By sharing her family’s story, she helps spreads awareness. Her teenage son, Sam, is a survivor who has survived two different attempts with substances.
At the age of 15, Sam spent three days in the ICU before going to the Methodist Behavioral Center. Despite the weekly visits to therapy, Sam still could not shake the thoughts of suicide.
Annie and her family researched and found Teen Ranch in Morrow, Arkansas. Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch is a licensed therapeutic program and boarding school for boys ages 14-17 with life-controlling severe issues or addictions.
“A mother doesn’t want to send their child away,” she says.
However, Lankford understands everyone is affected by suicide and suicide attempts, not just the victim. Suicide impacts family and friends long after the loss of a loved one.
Recognizing depression and seeking the help of others and treatment centers is essential. Lankford made the tough decision as a mother to send her son away to a treatment facility.
Sam underwent intensive therapy, including equine therapy, and outdoor work. After that, Sam stepped down and remained in the boarding school for nine months.
After completing the program, Sam is back home with the family. Annie and the entire family are immensely proud of Sam and pleased he is doing so well.
She has dealt with a personal loss of a child, divorce, and blending families. All these life hardships, to which she refers to as blessings, give her the skillset to help pastor others.
I first met this fun lady when we worked together at the law firm of Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus. Annamary, as I call her, was a gifted labor and employment attorney.
While at the firm, she was chosen to be part of the Little Rock Regional Chamber for Leadership Greater Little Rock. As part of the class, she was part of a contest that had to help promote a Little Rock neighborhood. Annie dressed me up as a “punk rocker” to create a video to promote a local neighborhood. As memory serves, we won the competition. As I mentioned, she is quite the “fashionista.”
I would hold young Sam while working together on making the video and other marketing ideas for the Firm. We worked together closely on the Firm’s business development committee.
Competitiveness runs through her veins. Annie has participated in marathons, including the Boston Marathon, and is still an avid runner.
Annie is a dedicated member of the Little Rock Rotary Club and named Rotarian of the Year in 2019.
While at the firm, Annie devoted personal time to the Hand Bell Choir for Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. She wanted to spend more time with her spiritual journey and growth, so she became the Lay Ministries Coordinator for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Annie’s excellent communication skills helped to serve as a liaison between the various committees and congregation.
While raising teenagers herself, she had a desire to help teenagers grow in their faith. Annie took on the role of Director of Youth Ministry Adult Formation for Trinity Episcopal from 2015-2017.
Annie began to feel a greater calling whispering to her. After all, she is the fourth generation of United Methodist pastors in her family. Her husband Jack, who had been attending Pulaski Heights Methodist Church, asked her to visit.
Annie immediately felt a warm presence cover her. She met with the bishop, and with his blessing, she began her journey into ministry.
In November 2018, Lankford was officially approved by Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church for ministry into the United Methodist Church. Their love and continued support help her pursue her education into the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colo.
After 20 years of being in law, she found the role she is supposed to play in life. Her compassion is helping others by using her unique listening skills and caring approach.
Today, Rev. Annie Lankford serves as the associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in North Little Rock while pursuing her ministry education.
At age 50, she will be completed with all the requirements to be ordained as an elder and looks forward to being a full-time pastor.
Annie and her husband, Jack, are proud of their blended family. Together, they have three girls and two boys. They are also proud parents of several cats and dogs.
Annie wants to encourage others to learn more about suicide prevention and to know there is help if you ask for it. If you or someone you know needs emergency assistance, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
She has just scratched the surface of her goals and commitment to serving others. “My decision to follow God’s call to ordained ministry, is my greatest accomplishment of all,” Lankford says.
Growing up with a close-net family, they often came together for “Sunday Supper.” Their favorite dish to eat together is a favorite of us all. Annie shares with us her homemade pizza.
Annie’s Homemade Fig & Goat Cheese Pizza
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 ½ cups bread flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Mix the sugar and the warm water together until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the yeast and mix. Let this sit for at least 10 minutes!
You are feeding the yeast and it will make your crust rise much better. Let the yeast bubble on top.
Afterwards, combine the flour, salt, oil, and yeast mixture. Let rise for at least 10-15 minutes. While waiting on dough, cut fresh figs in half. When dough has risen, punch down and spread out on oiled pan or pizza stone. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and just a touch of rosemary. Then arrange figs and goat cheese all over.
Bake at 400 until crust is brown and crispy.