Eleven years ago…I met Mr. GB. He was looking to start a church and so was I. God put us together at the exact right time. We had this unique connection and friendship that was more like father and son. I told him often that I wished I had known him years before. I believe I could have gleaned so much more wisdom and knowledge in leadership. I talked to Mr. GB just about every morning at 9am. He always wanted a project and wanted to succeed. He taught me many, many lessons….things I use today to lead our church and our staff. It will take me months to measure this loss to my life and our church family. New friends at Friend Church will never know the impact that he made and how instrumental Mr. GB was over these last 10 years.
Let me tell you a little history about how we got started as Friend Church. I was pastoring a church in downtown Columbia, and Mr. GB and his lovely wife, Donnis, came to one of our services. He called me inviting me to lunch one day and we talked about our ideas in starting a church. He then told me of 75 people that he knew that wanted to participate. We scheduled a meeting at his house for me to lay out the vision. I showed up at the appointed time, but when he answered the door, he said, “Greg, they are not coming! It’s only going to be Donnis and me, and 3 other couples…will you talk to us?” I stayed, we talked, and we roughly outlined Friend Church (known as Lakewood Church). As we left the meeting, Mr. GB asked if I would take the risk with him and start this church together. I told him that I was going on vacation and would call him in 2-3 weeks with my answer.
I had only been at the beach 24 hours and the house phone rang, it was of course, Mr. GB. I hadn’t given him the number, I didn’t know the number! He asked, “Well…have you made your decision?” It was then that I knew the type of man I was dealing with! He was a winner! He was ready to go! He was passionate about building something great!
He was probably involved in every major decision I have made over the past 11 years. He was a genius with money and financing. He set up our finances and set up a fantastic relationship with the bank. We have borrowed money about 3 times over the years and have never been turned down for a loan.
Whatever the problem was I could call him for advice and not only advice, but he took it as a ministry to just help people out. He was an unbelievable giver. He gave thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars over the years to the ministry of the Gospel at FC. He is the one that set up the our present facility. He is the one that worked out all of our business. He is the one that set up the new McPherson Educational Scholarship. He is the one that encouraged me and so many others even in the most difficult of times! I suppose the only thing that he wanted to do that we didn’t get done, was to buy some property to build on. I promised him a few weeks ago in the hospital that we would buy it and would call it the “Broome Land”.
Four years ago…he was on his deathbed. The doctors called the family in and said that the end was near. Unbelievable…but he fought the odds, God wasn’t ready for him, and he lived another 4 1/2 years. He remarked many times over the last few years that God must have left him here for something. And he just kept working and going and loving and encouraging and making deals…until 6 weeks ago.
We all thought that death was imminent. We just couldn’t believe that he would fight 30+ more days! He did. And for the last two weeks, I was on scheduled vacation in Jekyll again. I just knew I would get that call in the middle of the night. It never came. I got into town yesterday, and before I went home I went straight to the Hospice Home. He was restless, I talked to him for a few minutes alone, he opened his eyes and seemed to be listening. I prayed with him…and then just a few hours later…Jesus came to get him. He went home. I am looking forward to this funeral more than any other I have ever conducted. i look forward to honoring my friend and mentor. I love him…and I will miss him…until I see him in glory.
Lying in the surf late yesterday evening, as the waves crashed around me and sand all over me (and in my mouth!), I was reminded of the old evangelist’s illustration of eternity. He was asked how long does eternity last? Of course, this is a perplexing and frustrating concept in our time conscious world. But the old preacher answered it perfectly…”If a bird would capture one grain of sand in his beak, and then fly from the Atlantic side of the US and to the Pacific side and deposit it and then fly back for another single grain…as long it would take that one bird to empty the Atlantic side of sand one grain at a time”…then…he said…”that is the beginning of eternity!”
I am starting my vacation right now. Just got to Jekyll Island and got settled. We come here every year (at least for the last 15 years). I will do the usual…run about 4 miles a day, lay on the beach in the surf for hours while the waves pour over me, eat good food and hang out with Missie and Jack. We decided to leave the Boston Terriers home this year, but we did bring the Old Man (my 15 year old Chihuahua-Buck). He and I are old men. We both like to complain, we both like to bark when we don’t like the way things are going…there is one thing we definitely have in common when it comes to the beach: we both like to sleep! Well…it’s time for bed…I will update you tomorrow and let you know how the old boys are doing.