Those first few months were hard on me, as I became accustomed to the leadership of someone who knew his way around the Bible and had little incentive to tread cautiously in that capacity. You taught me so many things during those early days, and I’ll admit a lot of it was accepted only grudgingly from my own heart. But it was hard to argue with your logic as well as your reasoning on the various Biblical topics we covered, because you always backed it up with a referenced chapter and verse to fit the occasion. As music director, I learned the importance of choosing hymns for services that were not just melodically but also scripturally accurate - whereas in the past I had given it minimal thought. If they had made it into the hymnbook, I figured, somewhere down the line someone had already covered those bases. From you I learned that angels didn’t sing to the shepherds in Bethlehem, there is no scriptural reference to the wise men performing as a trio, and 'Canaan-land across the river' does not compare to the Christian’s final, eternal resting place.
You shared in my joy when my children were born again, yet refused to take any credit for the messages you preached that pricked their hearts and gave them the conviction to do so. One by one you took them into the baptistery, towering over them as you immersed them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And of course, that wasn’t merely the end of the road or a ‘mission accomplished’ for you. You made sure you continued to teach them, exhorting them during each and every service to live their life and walk their paths according to His Word which you consistently shared from the pulpit: “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”
Beyond the church, you showed me your talents when you took the time to help me restore one of my antique tractors. What began as a day of sandblasting took an amazing turn as you repaired worn bushings on clutch levers and fabricated fillers for damaged seat pans. You wanted the old tractor to be perfect, as you had allowed yourself to become part of the restoration process. Most of the true artists of our time are like that; a double threat of being able to express yourself with your hands as well as with words. I remember the morning I took a vacation day to help you wire your shed, all the while wondering why you needed so much electricity out there. It was only later when I witnessed the various creations that began flowing from those hands - the metal engravings, the custom woodwork, and most of all the special gifts you generously gave to my family over the years that followed.
In the time I was blessed to know you, I never saw you shy away from speaking the truth, although I know there were times when it must have been difficult for you to do so. Popularity is never bestowed on those who continuously keep their hands to the plow. I’ll admit there were a few times when I wondered in my mind why you kept preaching on keeping our church unblemished by the things of this world. You were firmly set against the items that are prone to infect the worldly churches of our day, and through your leadership and spiritual guidance we were never pulled into those dark voids. Your legacy will be a constant reminder to us if/when those sins become attractive to us in our future.
Across the road from my house and on my brother’s land there stands a wrought-iron gate. It’s a statement for the importance of keeping things safe and secure, a testament designed, fabricated, and put together by strong hands fit for the purpose. Each seam is welded to perfection, the hinges swing flawlessly, and the hasp forms a perfect latch. The beautiful gate you designed and built for my brother will stand as a vibrant testimony of the importance of safekeeping, very much akin to the manner in which you held our church securely against the wiles of the devil for so many years.
I sang a very special, scriptural song that you had passed on to me many years ago, as a tribute to you during your funeral. It was a difficult task to perform from a soul weighed down by sadness. Yet I was comforted in my heart, warmed in the knowledge that we’ll meet again over in a land of perfect day.
Some day, when fades the golden sun
Beneath the rosy tinted west,
My blessèd Lord will say, “Well done!”
And I shall enter into rest.