Faith Matters: Business owner found motivation in faith

Family has always been a motivating factor in Larry Lundy’s life.

It was the example of his God-fearing parents that motivated Lundy to go into business; he eventually became one of the wealthiest black restaurant owners in the country.

And it was his family and his faith that gave Lundy the motivation he needed in the legal battle for his business and in his fight against chronic myelogenous leukemia.

“The greatest gift that you could get is your family,” said Lundy, a New Orleans native who moved to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina. “If you have a happy family … there is nothing else. That is the pinnacle of everything.”

Lundy learned to appreciate the blessing of his family even more after being diagnosed with leukemia in 1999.

“I just wish I could tell everybody it’s OK to get a job, make money, reach for things. But, at the end, it is your family that matters. And that’s all you’re going to think about,” he said. “I think that’s why God spared me, because most people who got this kind of leukemia, they would die in weeks and He’s allowed me to be around 14 years.”

Fourteen years that has seen many challenges for Lundy.

In addition to his health problems, Lundy’s company, Lundy Enterprises, which once operated as many as 67 Pizza Hut locations from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, encountered financial problems. In 2011, a legal dispute between Lundy Enterprises and Pizza Hut forced the closure of 44 Pizza Huts, including 16 in the Baton Rouge area.

The two parties agreed to dismiss the lawsuit last fall. Terms were not disclosed.

Lundy recently made his first public comments since the case was resolved, participating in a salute to small businesses at his church, Higher Ground Outreach Church in Baton Rouge.

Bishop Rickey Washington said he’s glad to have Lundy as a part of his congregation.

“I believe that God sent him here to give us wisdom and knowledge and understanding, and that is the best thing we need — to get somebody to help us and show us the way,” Washington said.

God has a purpose for everyone’s life, Lundy told attendees.

“God didn’t put one person on Earth that He did not give some talent to,” said Lundy, whose father was a minister. “Everybody has something that they can do. The challenge with life is trying to figure out what it is that God purposed for my life … I encourage you to have the biggest dreams. I’ve seen the Lord work miracles and He has a destiny for all of us.”

One miracle in Lundy’s life could very well be surviving his upbringing in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

“At that time, we had the highest crime rate in America,” he said. “We knew every weekend, somebody was going to get killed or stabbed. If you got out of the Ninth Ward, and got to be anything, then that says a whole lot.”

Since age 5, Lundy knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. His parents ran a gas station, and Lundy and most of his eight siblings got their start there. Lundy went on to graduate with an accounting degree from Dillard University and earned a master’s degree from Pepperdine University while working in an accounting firm in Los Angeles.

He joined Pizza Hut in the early 1980s, rising to the position of controller and vice president of development. He was rather successful there, and, as an investor, and made plans to retire at age 42.

“My whole plan was to invest in the stock market, buy real estate and set up a foundation,” he said.

But Lundy Enterprises decided to buy 31 Pizza Hut outlets in 1992 and expanded from there.

To the aspiring business people and youth, Lundy offered such advice as getting as much education as possible, staying humble, giving to others and showing respect.

But he also added: “Always put God first.”

Radical redneck

Unitarian Universalists could learn a lot from the “remarkable life” of Will Campbell, said the Rev. Steve J. Crump, pastor of the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge.

Campbell, a Mississippi native who attended Louisiana College, was a white Baptist minister and author who worked closely in the civil rights movement. He helped escort black students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957. Campbell died last year at age 88.

“We’re all are bastards, but God loves us anyway,” was among the well-known quotes contributed to Campbell.

“He was a radical true Christian in every sense of the world, though many people criticized,” Crump said. “There were many people in the Baptist church who criticized him because he was an integrationist. He just thought God loved all people.”

In a recent message titled, “Radical Redneck Reconciliation,” Crump said Campbell helped illustrate a principle of Unitarian Universalists: respect for the inherent worth and dignity of all persons.

“Our affirming the inherent worth and dignity of all persons does not mean we dismiss our experience of those individuals who are rude, ignorant, mean, cruel and violent,” Crump said. “And we do not gloss their behaviors nor, necessarily say all is forgiven as if we were dispensing cheap and easy grace … Affirming the inherent worth and dignity principle tells us not to be the executioner, the judge or the jury. That’s what I believe. Campbell pretty much concluded what the Universalist side of our tradition concluded.”

Generous giving

Churches have long been fearful of discussing money, putting a stranglehold on the attitudes of members and hindering church growth, said the author of the new book “Cultivating Generosity: Giving What’s Right, Not What’s Left” (Life Rich Publishing).

“If the church ignores money as being ubiquitous in the lives of its members and avoids discussing it, that church overlooks the opportunity and the challenge to influence members with their money struggles and to build the church,” writes author and lay leader Rem Stokes. “Money silence is a serious issue for a church that wants to be vital and grow. And it is an even bigger concern for a church that wants to be truly relevant to the real problems of its members that are frequently financial.”

Stokes endeavors to share effective techniques and program plans to cultivate generosity that he’s learned while working in more than 70 churches over 60 years.

Generosity, Stock writes, “is more than donating money … Generosity is an aspect of character, a habitual part of the mind. It is freeing ourselves from the traditional ego-centered way we relate to things.”

Chapters in the 165-page book include “Increasing Financial,” “Gaining Control,” “Confronting Money Discomfort” and “Being on the Corner of Walk and Don’t Walk.”

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.