Thursday, September 15, 2011

The friendship of faith

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.”

At Faith Barista today, Bonnie Gray is hosting a blog carnival on faith and friendship. To see other posts, please visit Bonnie's site.


Anonymous said...

WOW!!! Awesome post! I actually lived in Dallas for quite some time before returning home to Louisiana! I just gave you +1 for this article and will be following you. I love finding blogs with meaningful content! Have a great day!

Karen Kyle Ericson said...

What a beautiful testimony. I accepted Christ in 1976 a little after you. The verse is so perfect for a new believer. Thanks for sharing this : )

Anonymous said...

This is awesome, Glynn. Thanks for sharing it. Campus ministry is such a vital part of church ministry as a whole. Thanks for the brilliant reminder. :)

Pat Hatt said...

Very inspiring story, interesting how one little point in time can affect every day forward.

Megan Willome said...

Thanks for sharing your testimony, Glynn. There's always someone, isn't there?

Louise Gallagher said...

I always feel richer when I read your stories Glynn.

I feel replete right now.

Thank you!

S. Etole said...

And the angels rejoiced! And we all benefit.

Maureen said...

You live out those words he inscribed. Your friend was amazingly prescient.

Nancy said...

What an honor, to read your tribute to the man who introduced you to Jesus. I'm so glad you shared the verse he inscribed on your Bible.

"At least it wasn't Auburn." You SEC people! (I'm Big 10, myself)

Lisa notes... said...

What a beautiful story, Glynn. I love to hear of people like that (even if they're from the U of Alabama! War Eagle). They are the kind that we can always pick up with regardless of how few times we get to talk.

Anonymous said...

i like the part of the story where he was hysterical. that really makes me smile. it sounds like he was full of joy of the occasion.

oh! and the scripture at the end of the story!

Anonymous said...

One perspective on this story may be easier for the rest of us to see, Glynn, is how much you now resemble your first spiritual mentor. You are working every day to build people up in the faith.

But, I hope the similarity ends at his death-defying driving. I've known a couple of spiritual athletes who put the fear of God in me when they were behind the steering wheel.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful tribute to a Godly man! Thanks for sharing. Reinforces how one little moment can leave a lasting impact for Christ!

Katie said...

Thank you for sharing your "story" and life. Friendships like this are worth it!

Bonnie Gray said...

When I read about a friendship like the one you so beautifully described here-- it gives me courage to let go of the ones that aren't so loving to me. I remember the joy of true friendship and remember those are more important than the ones that might disappoint us. We can't rid ourselves of the risk of disappointment, but we must never stop reaching out to be friends and also never stop being open enough for friendship. btw, Glynn -- "and it was then that I learned that he had angels protecting him, because he drove like a maniac. " You got me laughing... you have a way of slipping those in! Love it.