Conley thankful for Bivins’ mentoring

Published 5:05 am Friday, October 7, 2011

Davarrio Conley doesn’t like to think about where he might be today, if he hadn’t paid his first visit to the Rev. Adren Bivins and the Laymen Brotherhood Second Chance Outreach Center, four years ago.

“I never had a father at home,” said Conley, who is now 19 and enlisted in the U.S. Army. “Rev. Bivins was like my father — he supported me and encouraged me. I was making a lot of bad choices when I was younger, and he helped set me straight.”

Conley is one of many young men who have come through Bivins’ ministry in its four years of existence. The purpose of the ministry is to help young men who get in trouble, have discipline problems, or simply need a mentor, by providing regular spiritual and mental guidance.

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Conley said Bivins’ guidance helped him mature enough to join the U.S. Army after he graduated from Bainbridge High School in 2010. Conley passed basic training at Fort Leavenworth, Mo., and then continued on for nine weeks of additional training at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga.

Conley is only home in Bainbridge for a few weeks, before he is re-deployed to Army service in South Korea on Oct. 15. He took advantage of that short time, though, when he asked Bivins to serve as the minister at his wedding to his fiancee, 18-year-old Adria Carter.

“I proposed to her before I left for basic training on March 26,” said Conley, who will be bringing Adria and their 11-month-old son, Davarrio Jr., to South Korea.

Bivins said that Conley was a “good young man who made some bad choices.”

“Davarrio got good grades and was a good athlete,” he said. “Some things happened that caused him difficulties, and he started getting in trouble.”

Conley was a good football and basketball player, but off-the-field issues caused him to be ineligible to play sports, Bivins said. When he was a sophomore and seemingly out of options for recreation, he decided to visit the Laymen Brotherhood Second Chance Outreach Center for the first time.

From that point, and until his high school graduation, Conley showed up nearly every single week for the Bible study, trivia contests, sports and fellowship.

“I knew that (Rev. Bivins) would never tell you anything that was wrong,” Conley said. “I trusted him and looked up to him.”

Bivins said he usually has about 20 to 30 young men who attend the ministry on most Sundays, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Bainbridge Church of God Annex on Independent Street. There are also sometimes Wednesday meetings.

“We have speakers and activities sometimes,” he said. “But a lot of times, it’s just about listening to their problems; some of them just need someone to talk to them.

“Sometimes we have ‘man talks,’ where I tell them the things that a godly man and a godly father really needs to know. These are all my boys, and I love every one of them.”

Bivins said he even sees a little of himself in Conley.

“Davarrio came out of the projects, like me,” Bivins said. “It’s not about where you come from, it’s about what you can make of your life.”

Conley’s mother is Inez Conley of Bainbridge and his grandmother is Claudia Conley of Bainbridge. He has an older brother, Dontavious Conley, and a 5-year-old daughter, Denalia.