I'll just go ahead and admit it: I was a VERY CONFUSED young man during my five years of undergraduate studies. I wasn't on drugs (either legal or otherwise), I wasn't an alcoholic...or involved immorally in anything. I was just "confused." I knew the LORD had His hand on me...but just wasn't sure where I was to go, or what I was to be doing...or even what I should be pursuing...
During my last semester of undergrad studies at Lee (www.leeuniversity.edu), I took an "Introduction to World Missions" course with Doctor Bill George. He is a veteran missionary, educator, pastor, and church leader. His overwhelming love for the "people of the world" struck a very strong chord on my heart strings. I had always thought "missions" was for someone else...but in this "Intro" class, I realized that "missions" was for me...that God could and would use me in HIS mission, if I'd just let Him.
Bill's class was never boring, stodgy, or lifeless. With the power of the Holy Spirit enriching his ministry, and the active participation of my fellow classmates, this "Intro" class was one of the best courses I had ever taken.
What I didn't realize at the time was how profoundly Dr George's life and ministry would impact me. Everywhere I would travel in the years that were to follow, I'd be confronted with the lessons I had learned from the "Introduction to World Missions" course.
Twenty four years after leaving Lee, in ways that only God could orchestrate, Dr Bill George and I would become closer than I could have ever imagined. I would become a living kidney donor for him at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center.
Since that time, Dr George has traveled several thousand miles, written a couple of books, gotten his "life" back (without dialysis ruling it at least 3 times a week)...and we both praise GOD for HIS goodness to us.
Bill's commitment to "missions" still inspires me.
I've been away from my blogging for more than a month now--and I really have no good reason(s)--just a lot of excuses, which all sound reasonable to me...and only to me. I've been giving very serious contemplation to the people who have "greatly influenced" my life---and I realized there have been SO MANY...and each of them in very, very different ways. I first met Leonard F Kendrick when I was just 13 years old--(that would have been in the mid 1970s) when he came to preach a weekend revival meeting at our local church in Huntsville, Alabama. He was tall, distinguished, and 'stately'--if that term can be used to describe a minister...he certainly was "stately." He mentioned to me, after that first Friday evening service, how he wished he had all my "energy." He even told my pastor that the church should "bottle up all my energy" and sell it--they would make a fortune. I was duly and completely impressed with Brother Kendrick from the very first time I met him. He would become a regular "guest" at the West Huntsville pulpit--normally about twice a year...and I always looked forward to him coming. Every year when I would make my "pilgrimage" to Cleveland Tn for the Annual Assembly, I would make sure to find him during my "one day" trip to this wonderful "feast of fat things", spiritually speaking. He always seemed thrilled to see me, and I know I was absolutely delighted to see him. A few years later, I would move to Cleveland, Tennessee to start my "college adventure" (I hesitate to call it a "career" because 3-5 years isn't exactly a "career" to me). I knew Brother Kendrick and his wife Joyce would become very dear friends to me...even more than they already were. On more than one occasion, I would go see "Brother Leonard" and talk with him about any variety of things that were on my mind. If I needed $10 I could always go to his office, ask, and usually receive. I always knew to "pay it back" immediately as well. I would always see him, his wonderful wife Joyce at the Peerless Road Church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and for the Wednesday evening services. They always sat on the second pew near the end, Organ side of the sanctuary. Always....ALWAYS... When I decided to enter the United States Air Force on active duty, Brother "K" was the first person I called to tell. He thought it would be a great thing. He was a veteran of World War II, having served in the United States Navy, and he strong encouraged me to pursue military service. From September 1986 through August 20, 1996 I made sure that I stayed in contact with the Kendricks...regardless of where I was living at the time. I always called, or sent letters/postcards--this was LONG before the cell phone, emails, and FACEBOOK ever became part of the vocabulary, slang or otherwise. When I left active duty in August 1996, I returned to Cleveland TN to pursue a masters degree at the Church of God seminary, adjacent to what is now Lee University. I was more than thrilled to be back near the Kendricks, among others whom I loved and treasured. Leonard had retired from his position as General Treasurer of the denomination (Church of God of Prophecy), and was now pastoring a small country church of about 70 people. He told me over and over again that "being a pastor was the very best thing" he had ever done. He never wanted to do anything except be a "shepherd to God's sheep." He had traveled the world with his positions at the headquarters for the church, but his first love was being a "pastor." He never sought higher positions, and never really sought to stay in them. He always wanted to be a pastor. When his grandson Curry came along, we all started calling him "Dadda" (pronounced "dad" and "uh") For the 14 years before his death, he and I talked about three times a week, usually. I could tell him ANYTHING, and I usually did. He and Hollis Gause know things about me that I would never share with ANYONE else...I knew that Brother "K" would keep those things to himself, and would take them to his grave. I knew that I could trust him 1000% percent...with anything. Many times our conversations wouldn't last more than five minutes, if that long. But he would always end by telling me that he "has me at the top of the prayer list" and every morning he called my name out to the LORD in prayer. I lived to hear that promise! What I learned most from him: 1. Always keep your word. Always. If something happens, and you have to break your word, then the persons affected need to know as soon as possible from you--not someone else. 2. Love people where they are...not where you wish there were. This one is more challenging for me, because I don't do such a good job "loving people where they are" when I wish they were "somewhere else" in their lives. But Brother "K"--Dadda--showed me how to love people by the very way he consistently loved me. 3. Be thankful. No one exhibited the Fruit of the Spirit more than Leonard Kendrick did, in my very unbiased opinion. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone....not ever. He was never rude or condescending to anyone. He may not agree with everyone, and he had no problem stating why he "disagreed" with a person or a position. He was every much a CHRIST-ian....I saw the face of Jesus in him. 4. Keep relationships--all of them--strong and vibrant. There are no "practice" relationships in the family of God....every single member of God's family is important to all the other members of God's family. Even when we don't like them...or they irk us...or we'd rather not be around them. The strength of our relationship over the years was a living testimony (to me) of the importance of the family of God. No big "I" or little "you"--just God's wonderful people. 5. Constantly learn. Dadda was a voracious reader, when his health was stable. He would devour books, and encouraged me to do the same. One of the great thrills was when I visited him in 2007, and took three books by my pastor (Erwin W Lutzer) as gifts for him. Pastor Lutzer had autographed this books especially for Dadda. He loved them. He read them...and we often talked about them. I talked with Dadda on Wednesday, April 14th..he was going to the VA hospital to have his pacemaker replaced...he asked if I were planning to come to the Lee University homecoming in November...I told him that I really wanted to come...he asked if I would come spend the day with him while I was in Tennessee...I promised him that would happen if I made it to Tennessee... On Thursday morning, April 15, 2010 I had an interview with my current employer. I had returned to my apartment, changed clothes, and getting ready to have lunch with one of my closest friends here in Chicago. I picked up my Nazarene hymnal from the coffee table, and was singing the words, "To our bountiful Father above, we will offer our tributes of Praise...for the glorious gift of His love and the blessings that hallow our days...in the sweet bye and bye, we shall meet on that beautiful shore..." For some reason I couldn't get this song out of my mind... I walked over to the bus stop, headed to my lunch appointment...and was singing the song very softly under my breath, and very loudly in my heart.... Then the cell phone rang..... It was Kelly Coalter, wife of Bishop Tim Coalter, overseer for the Church of God of Prophecy in South Carolina. Tim had asked her to call me and let me know that "Brother Kendrick is in heaven now..." I was on the bus, and suddenly felt all the oxygen leave my body...I began weeping...I couldn't think...I had just talked with him yesterday..... His funeral was glorious. It was a fitting tribute to the stellar life he had lived, and even more so a marvelous act of worship to God the Father.... My "Dadda" is in heaven now...where he's been for almost a year now....but there are no calendars in glory....
Posted: Saturday, April 09, 2011