SPRING HILL — Considering the work Walter Dry has been doing on an international level on behalf of his denomination the past several years, it's no surprise he was selected to serve on the 2011 World Methodist Council, which met this month in Durban, South Africa.
Since 2008, Dry has been serving on the board of directors of the General Council on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns of the United Methodist Church, which works toward peace and unity by engaging with and talking to other Christian denominations.
But Dry, 78, who is well known for his volunteer work with organizations such as the United Way and his church, First United Methodist Church of Spring Hill, is a humble man who gives the glory to God for his accomplishments. When the notification came that he had been selected to be one of only 500 Methodists worldwide who would make up the world council, he was completely surprised. In fact, he almost missed the letter.
"You know how you're getting your mail and you look at certain envelopes and sort of separate the bills from the advertisements or people soliciting for something?" he asked. "So I threw it on the side and went through my bills first, and then I saw 'World Methodist Council.' I opened it up and started reading it, and I almost had a heart attack and fell out of my chair. I had no idea at all."
Dry had been named by the General Council on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns to be a member of the world council.
"Walter brings incredible organizational skills as well as a deep sense of the personnel needs of any great organization," said the Rev. Stephen Sidorak, general secretary for the general council, when asked why he nominated Dry. "He is exceptionally perceptive and very savvy, organizationally speaking."
Sidorak met Dry in 2008 when he joined the general council. He knew Dry would be a valuable asset in the area of human resources.
"We spent five or six days together in Dayton, Ohio, at our organizational meeting," Sidorak said. "I learned about his whole background and career in the area of human resources. I would call it a ministry. I knew he would bring manifold gifts and graces in that area."
And so he has.
Dry called Sidorak after he got his letter and was told his trip to South Africa would not be a vacation.
"He told me, 'You are going there to work. Put your two cents in and do what you normally do. We want you to put your expertise in about the reorganization of the WMC,' " Dry said. "That's the same thing I did with the General Council on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. We did reorganization with them, and I was in the forefront of that."
When Dry attended the world council meeting in South Africa, followed by a meeting there of the 20th World Methodist Conference, his wife of 46 years, Glenda, accompanied him. It was a fulfillment of their lifelong dream.
"When my wife and I moved here and sold our house in New Jersey, we made some nice money off of it," Dry said. "We put away about $10,000 as an emergency and to travel to Africa. That was one of our dreams."
But with family emergencies that caused their nest egg to dwindle, the Drys thought their dream had faded away.
"What's such a blessing was the fact that I thought I would have to be out there working again to build up that nest egg, and then all of a sudden it came through the work that I'm doing with the church," Dry said, noting that he had to pay only his wife's expenses.
While Dry didn't have time for extracurricular activities on the trip, he said what he did there was even better.
"It was a blessing more than you can imagine," he said. "It's all right to go there for vacation and you're floating around with the natives and going sightseeing and enjoying yourself. But when you go there because someone has asked you to do some work to help a worldwide organization, you can't get a much higher honor than that."
Dry said he accomplished what he intended.
"No matter what language you speak, where you come from, what you look like, the thing that impressed me the most is that we were there as a team, and we were there for one purpose — to make the World Methodist Council better than what it was and up-to-date and not exclude anybody. And that was accomplished."
Dry has served as president of the United Way of Hernando County, the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association and the Brotherhood/Sisterhood Association of Hernando County; he has been chairman of the board of directors for the United Way of Florida and has been active in numerous other volunteer organizations in Florida, New Jersey and New York.
Though he retired from the clinical laboratory field in 1989 and from a position as an equal employment opportunity investigator in 1999, Dry still works from home as a consultant with specialization in labor relations, equal employment opportunities, diversity in the workplace and prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.
He has conducted lectures and training on the "Prevention of Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace" for agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and regional offices, Lake and Hernando county employees, the Spring Hill Fire Rescue District, Pasco-Hernando Community College and the city of Brooksville.
Dry says, in retrospect, he can clearly see that God led him to where he is now and that it took those years in his career fields to be prepared for ministry work.
"All the years I spent (in my career fields), then all of a sudden I'm in another career in the Methodist Church. What's going on in my life? What's the deal?" he said he had asked himself.
He began searching the Bible for answers.
"The more I started looking in the Bible and looking at the heroes in the Bible, I realized that 90 percent of the heroes in the Bible were over 60 years old when they started working for God. They were just ordinary citizens going through all of their mentoring and nurturing and training as God prepared them for the work.
"And I got slapped in the face by the Holy Spirit about two or three years ago (with the realization)] that this is what it has all been about. That's why I have done all that I have done. I find use for it all in my ministry now. I firmly believe this was all in God's plan. This is his mission for me."