Four decades ago, Kleist Wideman, a young television reporter fresh out of college, was introduced to Tommy Rhodes when she interviewed him after his re-election to the North Carolina General Assembly. Their first meeting made lasting impressions on both of them, and the young couple married a year-and-half later. In Kleist's words about their meeting, "It was Tommy's first encounter with a, wild-eyed-tongue-talking-on-fire-for-Jesus girl."
As the two got to know each other, Tommy, who was well educated and mild-mannered, had his Southern Baptist theology rocked by Kleist's spirit-filled ways. His introduction to the Holy Spirit was counter to what he was taught during his upbringing, but he eventually realized he wanted all that God had provided for him, and he embraced the doctrinal differences. Looking back now, as a spirit-filled believer, Tommy wonders how he ever got along without the Holy Ghost.
Over the years, Tommy and Kleist led a happy, stable life. They raised their family and both enjoyed successful careers; Tommy as the Executive Vice President at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh and Kleist worked in real estate. In 2003, the two were introduced to Andrew's ministry when a friend gave Kleist Andrew's teaching, You've Already Got It. The teaching CD came at a time when Kleist was questioning God, asking if He had more for her life. Her fire for the Lord had been reduced to a smolder over the years, and she felt as though something was missing. You've Already Got It was an answer to her prayers and reignited her passion for Jesus. Kleist shared the teaching with Tommy, and the two began to listen to Andrew regularly. It was through their listening that they became aware of Andrew's school in Colorado. As they neared retirement the two were looking to shake things up a bit, and enrollment at Charis Bible College in Colorado Springs seemed like just the thing.
Five years passed, and after attending several Gospel Truth Seminars and a Summer Family Bible Conference, the two began to give serious consideration to attending CBC. In 2008, after Tommy retired from his position with the community college in Raleigh, the Rhodes attended another Summer Family Bible Conference in the Springs. This was the trip that sealed the deal—they decided to apply. Within six weeks the Rhodes had relocated to Colorado. Tommy said, "Kleist and I had discussed attending Charis Bible College on many occasions, but she was more excited about it than I was at that point in my life. But when we got to the conference and I heard the instructors teach, I too became excited about the possibility of attending. I knew that Andrew had put together a world class of Bible teachers, and I did not want to miss the opportunity to learn as much as I could from them. Before we left the conference, we had both filled out applications. I knew that God wanted me to complete the training and then to open an extension school."
Going to CBC and sitting under the Word for three years solidified Kleist's understanding and made her resolute in living the rest of her life being led by the Holy Spirit. "I have known, since I was a small child, that God had called me to walk with Him and preach His Word; it just took me a long journey to finally settle into His plan," said Kleist. "Tommy and I both love to teach and have had many Bible Studies in our home over the years, but we both felt that a school would be the best way to prepare people to follow after God’s calling. I was blessed with a great foundation in the Word during my last year in college (East Carolina University) as a member of my house church, and I had always wanted to share that foundational training with others. Charis has given me the way to complete this desire that has been in my heart for years. We left North Carolina with the purpose of returning and starting a school for our community. It has been wonderful to see this long time dream come to fruition," Kleist shared.
The Rhodes graduated from CBC in 2010, and completed their third-year internship in 2011. Today they are the Directors of CBC's Raleigh/Durham extension school in North Carolina. They currently have more than twenty students enrolled and several more interested in attending. The Rhodes have already had to expand the size of their classrooms and they are exploring the addition of more space to accommodate the continued interest.
The Rhodes' long-term goals for the school include expanding the CBC curriculum to meet the needs of a culturally diverse area. They have plans in motion to facilitate a Spanish-speaking program in the fall of 2013, and they also want to reach the area's large Asian population. Raleigh was a destination for the Montagnard people at the end of the Vietnam War, and it is desire of one of the Rhodes' current students, Jet Rmah, to minister to that specific demographic.
"To see the excitement in our students every day as they hear the balance of the grace and faith message, and to see how the Word is changing them, has truly been one of the greatest blessings of my life. I have told everyone who has inquired but just can’t seem to decide, to just fill out the application and see what God will do. That is what happened to us; once we made that initial step of faith, God did everything we needed to move us forward into His plan for our lives," said Kleist with that wild-eyed-on-fire-for-Jesus look in her eye.
For more information about Tommy and Kleist and their vision for CBC visit CBC-Raleigh/Durham online.