There are people that we know or people that we have heard of that have had an impact so profound on the lives of those around them that their absence leaves behind a legacy. One such person was my grandfather.
I was 11-years-old when he passed away on a cold winter’s day almost 18 years ago. I miss him just as much as I did then. What is amazing to me is the fact that every few weeks, someone still comes up to me and tells me a story about my grandfather and what a blessing he was to them. Nearly two decades after he went home to be with his Savior, the work he did for Christ while on this earth remains.
Growing up, my grandfather was painfully shy. He was 1 of 15 kids and I’ve heard stories of him getting his sisters to talk to people for him just so he wouldn’t have to. After serving his country in the Korean War, he came back to the states and married my grandmother and they began their family. While raising my aunts, uncle, and father, my grandfather worked for a local oil company. They never had much, but my father speaks fondly of his childhood and the way he was raised. During this time, my grandfather began to feel that God wanted his life to go in a different direction. He could not shake the fact that the Holy Spirit was leading him into the ministry. He loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him, but wasn’t sure how someone so shy could become a preacher. Finally, after years of prayer, my grandfather surrendered to God’s call on his life and went into the ministry full-time.
He began a church and, with no shortage of prayer and hard work, watched it grow. When I was younger, I knew my grandfather was a pastor, but to me he was just my Pap. Now that I look back on the things that I observed in his life, I have come to greatly appreciate him so much more.
I remember staying the night at my grandparents’ house and waking up to find him reading his Bible in his worn out recliner in the living room. He diligently studied God’s Word and he applied it to every area of his life. I remember my grandparents kept kids at their house for a few weeks when they were going through a rough family situation. Their dinner table was always open and my grandfather would go anytime day or night to meet with a hurting family. Now, you could say that this was part of his job as a pastor, but I honestly believe he would have done these things regardless of his job title.
A new family came to our church and while introducing ourselves, we asked how they found out about the church and where they were from. It turns out that they had just moved to town and while my grandfather was driving home one day he saw them unloading their moving truck and pulled over to help. Of course, he began to talk to them while helping them unpack and they decided to check out the church on Sunday. They became an active and an integral part of our church family. That’s just the way my grandfather was – he didn’t hesitate to meet people exactly where they were at in life and that’s how he was able to have such an incredible impact on the lives of others.
Another day that sticks out was a Sunday that was entitled, “Friends Day.” My grandfather challenged our congregation to invite our friends and to make new friends. When Friends Day rolled around, many people had invited others to join us on this Sunday, but my grandfather had invited more people than I can count, and many of them showed up. In a day and age when so many are put off by the concept of faith and church, my grandfather had a way about him that was so genuine that you couldn’t help but consider him a friend. His faith and relationship with Christ was central to everything he did. He often would cry while preaching because he cared so much about others and wanted so badly for people to come to the saving knowledge of Christ. I love the quote that says “Let my heart break with the things that break the heart of God” – that was my Pap.
Shortly after Friends Day, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. His battle was short and difficult. People came in droves to pay their respects. As we all stood and sang his favorite song – Victory in Jesus – even I could tell that the eternal impact of this man would not be fully known this side of heaven. I’m sure his Savior greeted him with the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
There are times when I feel sad and bitter that I only had 11 years with him. I am sad that he didn’t get to watch me play basketball. I am sad that he didn’t hear my speech at graduation. I am sad that he never knew I graduated from college. I am sad that he was not celebrating with me on my wedding day. I am sad that he has never held my children.
He has missed out on so many important things in my life, but he was there for the biggest moment – the moment that changed all of eternity for me. My family and many others were decorating our church for our upcoming Vacation Bible School one evening and suddenly I just knew. I just knew that I needed to ask Christ into my heart and to be my Savior. I knew that I was a sinner who could only be saved through what Jesus did on the cross – He died for my sins so that I could have eternal life in heaven. I went to my Pap and told him that we needed to talk. He took me to his office and I told him that I knew I wanted to accept Jesus as my Savior. We prayed together and my life was forever changed in that moment. I was only 5-years-old, but I knew exactly what I was doing and I remember that day vividly. Our VBS theme that year was ‘Camp Can Do’ and it was based off of Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.’ It was my Pap’s favorite verse and it is mine as well.
Just a few weeks ago, I was visiting a woman in the hospital and she me told me how my Pap led her to her own faith in Christ. She said he was like a brother to her and she can’t wait to see him again in heaven. It made me think about the impact a single person can have. When we surrender our lives to Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, anything is possible. A shy man can reach the souls of many with the gospel.
There is a song by Ray Boltz entitled “Thank You” that makes me cry every time I hear it. The song is about a man who makes such a difference while on earth, that people come up to him in heaven to say thank you. One line in the chorus states, “Thank you for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed.” My Pap changed my life and so many others. Who knows how long his legacy on earth will last, but the work he did for Christ will last for eternity.
If we all lived our lives surrendered to Christ and focused on eternity, what kind of an impact would we have on this world? What kind of legacy would we leave behind? It is the godly legacy of a simple man that challenges me to get to work, for there is much to be done for the cause of Christ.