We don’t speak regularly. In fact, it’s only three of four times a year, thanks to Facebook. He lives in the South, and I live in the Midwest. He’s retired, and I’m still working. He’s 10 to 12 years older than I am.
Because he took the time to talk with someone he didn’t know (a desperately confused college student), he changed the lives of countless people.
I was that desperately confused college student. I’d achieved every goal I’d set for myself, and found only emptiness. He helped me understand why I would only find the same emptiness no matter what I did, because I didn’t understand what the real goal was.
We stood in a hallway. He was silent as I prayed like he told me to. No belles sounded. No fireworks exploded. No angels sang that I could hear. But life changed profoundly.
He had been a businessman, a diehard loyalist of the University of Alabama, and here he was, living a significant sacrifice – working as staff director for Campus Crusade for Christ at SEC rival LSU (at least it wasn’t Auburn).
That night, after I prayed, and he became nearly hysterical (I’m not making this up; I was an eyewitness) to the point that the building janitors got concerned, he drove me to the CCC office and gave me a copy of the Living Bible (I still have it). He inscribed a reference to a verse on the inside cover (I had never seen anyone write in a Bible before, except for family records). He had me start reading the Gospel of St. John, and met with me to discuss what I was reading. He got me into a student Bible study. He took me with him to a spring break outreach at Fort Walton Beach, Florida – and it was then that I learned that he had angels protecting him, because he drove like a maniac.
I graduated, and he and his family moved to Dallas, where he was worked for Campus Crusade at SMU. My wife and I stayed with them one weekend and attended their church – seating was on the floor. He attended seminary and got his degree, and then he moved back to his hometown of Birmingham, to care for aging parents. He needed something to do, so he founded a ministry for students at the University of Alabama medical and dental schools.
He “retired” a few years ago. In 2005, I had to represent my company at a weekend event in a town near Birmingham – a meeting that included a tour of a chemical waste site (I go for the glamour jobs). We met for dinner on Saturday night. It was the first time I had seen him face-to-face in almost 30 years – and we didn’t miss a beat.
I am one of hundreds if not thousands of his spiritual children. He remembers every single one of us, and treats each one of us like an only child. He’s influenced thousands of people’s lives.
Time, distance and the busy-ness of life hasn’t diminished the impact that this man – and a 60-minute conversation – had on my life.
The verse that he gave me on Jan. 26, 1973, the one he inscribed in that Bible, was Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”