PLAINS, Ga. (WRBL) — As former President Jimmy Carter receives hospice care, those in Plains and his church family are preparing to say farewell to the man who embodies the spirit and resolve of the small Sumter County community.

People across the world are praying for the 39th President, his wife, Rosalynn, and the Carter family, but nowhere does it hit close home than his church – Maranatha Baptist on the outskirts of Plains.

In November of 2019, President Carter taught his final Sunday School lesson at Maranatha Baptist on the outskirts of Plains.

Two people who go to church with President Carter – Jan Williams and Zac Steele – remember that day.

“The very last lesson he gave was on November 3, 2019, talking about he had no fears of leaving this earth and going to his heavenly place,” Steele said.

Williams remembers the message.

“We saw the expression on his face when he said, he knew where he was going. Do you know where you are going?” she said. “What a wonderful way to end all of your Sunday School teachings. And that’s what he really did every Sunday, was to challenge people to change their life.”

And for the nearly three decades he taught Sunday School, they came from near and far to hear a former president share his Christian faith and spiritual journey.

“For the longest time – 30-plus years – President Carter taught Sunday School a couple of times a month,” Steele said. “And you would have crowds of up to and over 500 people.”

And they came from across the globe.

“We had people from hundreds of different countries over time that came and visited,” Steele said. “But if you weren’t here on Friday night or early Saturday morning, there was a good chance you weren’t getting a seat on Sundays.”

And what President Carter and the Maranatha members were doing was mission work.

“There were so many people who came to this church and the first thing they said when they got here was, ‘This is the first time I have ever been to church,'” Williams said. “So, we had a one-time witness to many people. We were a mission field. He was a great teacher. No matter how he said it, people saw how he lived it. That is so very important in this time and the world we live in.”

Right now, the people at Maranatha are praying for their friend Mr. Jimmy.

“A lot of people understand he’s a president, but to me, he’s a friend,” Steele said. “To a lot of us here, he is just a fellow church-goer who sits on the same pews. We have had the opportunity to listen to a lot of Sunday Schools from him and meet a lot of people from all world just because of President Carter and his influence here in the church, as well.”