The Baton is Passed
I received a phone call this past Monday afternoon, notifying me that one of the most influential men in my life had died. He was getting along in years. He had been very sick. He was recovering from major heart surgery; but I was totally not prepared for that phone call. George Meyers was a co-laborer in the work of the Kingdom. He was an advisor and confidant; a wise guide and kind counselor – a friend.
He was not only a mentor to me – but to literally hundreds of other men and women. Over the course of his lifetime George stands out as one of the great men of his generation, a stalwart “general” among a great band of Christian soldiers. His influence in the task of worldwide evangelism is incalculable and stretched to every corner of the globe. The number of lives he has touched directly is more significant that most could ever hope for and the effect on lives he has indirectly touched is staggering. To think that I had the privilege of serving as pastor to him and his wonderful wife, Janet; to have him serve on our Board of Elders and help us to develop the very effective mission vision for which Agape is well known only underscores the sense of privilege that I have in knowing the Meyers.
This makes three – three of the most powerful influences in my life have left us in less than three years. My mom died just over two years ago. She was a strong woman who carried the burden of raising a strong willed boy without a father in the house, bringing us out of abject poverty and making a life for me through a lifetime of personal sacrifice. She enjoyed the last few years of her life surrounded by her grandchildren. She died at peace with herself, her past, and her God – a happy woman who was almost destroyed by childhood abuse, but arose out of the ashes to live a meaningful and productive life – loved by many and admired by all who knew her.
In the fall of 2011, I watched the only man I ever knew as a father waste away under the ravages of cancer. Robert Parmley was the man who led me to the Lord and showed me the way to manhood. He introduced me and trained me in the world of gospel music and drama. He ingrained in me a deep, abiding love and respect for the Word of God, to be unwavering in my convictions, and to be a staunch defender of the gospel. I was – No, I am – his Timothy to whom he entrusted a great treasure to be guarded with my life – the gospel of Jesus Christ. I spent his last days with him, traveling to North Carolina from my home in Vermont on two different occasions to spend time with him, helping him prepare for death only to return a short time later to officiate at his funeral. I never knew my biological father, but this is only incidental to my story because God’s providence provided me with a Dad who, though he had no biological children of his own, fathered many in the faith. His influence lives today through me and many men and women who chose to give our lives in service to the Kingdom because of him.
Then, yesterday’s phone call came. I was in my pick-up driving home from an afternoon out with my youngest son and his wife. I wasn’t expecting it because George had been recovering from his recent heart surgery so well. We were beginning to expect a full recovery and perhaps a few more years of benefit from this remarkable man. I had to pull over to the side of the road because my eyes immediately pooled up with tears. Over the past couple of days as I have watched tributes pour in from the lives he has touched the term “General” has come up several times. As I have reflected, I suspect that is a most apt description. Though he achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army, in the army of Christ he was in fact, a General. He was more than leader of men. He was a man builder. He was a master strategist in the work of worldwide evangelism and as he moved into the years when most men are leaving the office and headed for the golf course – George Meyers was moving forward and moving all those around him forward. When I could compose myself, I called Janet his wife. Sitting there beside the road I was not surprised when she told me that he was in the driveway performing is Physical Therapy mandated walk when he stepped on something awkwardly and fell. He struck his head and began to bleed into his brain. He could not recover and died later than night. What struck me was that George died as he had lived. . . . moving forward. He was working hard to get back on the job. In his mind, he had more to do, more to give, more lives to touch. He was not looking back at the struggle, but forward to the victory. What he did not know was that from Heaven’s view – he had finished his course. His work was done. He has left a tremendous legacy for those of us who follow.
These were not persons who just showed up for work. They didn’t come and go in this life leaving those around them indifferent or unaffected. Each of them left their own unique legacy that will continue to impact culture and community long after the funeral flowers have wilted and grass has overgrown the gravestone. I am suddenly struck by the fact that those who have sown into my life are gone. In the course of just two short years the people who were most influential in my growth as a man and as a minister have faded and remain only as shadows in my life and memory. The generation that mentored me is gone and for a while today, I felt very alone.
This afternoon a new realization dawned on me. I am now, “that” generation. The baton has been passed and those who once led me now cheer me on, part of that “great cloud of witnesses” spoken of by the writer of Hebrews. Will I leave such a legacy for my children when my life is over? Will the sacred treasure of the gospel be preserved and guarded as I hand it off to my children? Oh, I so dearly hope that it will; that I will not betray the trust that has been given to me nor disdain the investment that has been made in my life by the spiritual giants that have gone before me. From my mom, I learned the richness of self-sacrifice; the Kingdom value of laying down one’s life for another. From my Pastor, Bob Parmley, I was enriched by the most zealous love for the Word of God and its power to transform lives and a unwavering faith in the power of God to intervene in the most daunting circumstance and cause us to emerge victorious. From George Meyers I have received an understanding of careful, thoughtful, strategic vision that sees great things and shuns the mundane, pursues great victories unwilling to settle for “not losing,” and living in the balance between real world practicality empowered by other worldly understanding and supernatural influence through the power of the Holy Spirit. I am enriched beyond measure. May I be as faithful.