Sunday, June 24, 2012

I'm old enough now to experience the death of loved ones and mentors

There is a song about this someplace in my heart . . .

In the early minutes after this day began . . . my longtime friend, mentor and adopted dad, Rev. E. Frank Leach, died from complications following a sudden massive stroke.

I worked for Frank at two churches over the course of years.  The first experience, well, let's just say it wasn't that positive.  I was too immature to be in church work . . . newly married, still in school, clumsy in relationships, too hot-headed when I spoke.  My way or the highway. I thought I was hot stuff and deserved more than I had worked for.   I didn't understand anything about being an adult . . . and it showed . . . a lot.  Frank was patient with me to a fault . . . guiding, suggesting, and more than once just plain ordering me to get stuff done.

Truth be told . . . I was scared to death . . . and no idea what to do, expect to make friends with as many youth as I could.  But the business end of being in the ministry . . . I was lost.

The 2nd time I worked with Frank, he was involved in helping bring me back into the ministry.  That experience . . . well, let's say I was more mature, not a kid anymore, and willing to learn from someone I respected, who I know would tell me the truth, even when I didn't want to hear it.  I had worked in the public, earned a living, been an police officer . . . experienced my "boot camp" in life, and knew that I could do what I set out to do.  I was spiritually more mature as well.  

Our church recommended me for the ministry with his approval.  My first appointment as a pastor came after his recommendation to our District Superintendent.   And, at my invitation, he was one of the elders who laid hands on me when I was ordained and elder.

I cried.  He cried. My wife cried. His wife cried.  

Ok.  At that points we were good friends, and I knew I loved and respected him like I do few others.

Frank embraced being a pastor.  He put his whole self into it.  And, was still a good husband, good dad, good neighbor, and about the best friend you could hope for.

I think he excelled as a pastoral mentor.  There are a handful of us in the Central Texas Annual Conference who benefitted from his "adopting us."  His advice was simple.  Preach from the Bible. Love everyone equally.  And, always showed up unless you were really sick.

He was getting ready to leave to officiate a wedding when he had is stroke. Faithful as a pastor at age 82.

In truth, Frank was a mentor, friend and in some ways . . . a dad.  I called him "Papa" for perhaps the last dozen years or so.  He never told me not to.  His son David is a pastor in our conference.  Frank always introduced me as David's younger brother.  At the hospital last night, David and I realized that I was actually born the day before he was.  I've been the older brother all these years!!!!

I don't care what you think or say . . .  but that's funny.

Frank is one of the ones who won't get the big reputation or the long-winded legacy.  And most will not remember him for long, as he had been retired for the past 15 years or so.  But many of us will remember his positive influence and support.  He cared for us.

He cared for me.  Bless him.  And I appreciated it.

For a blog that is supposed to be focused on music . . . I've been focusing a lot on saying goodbye to some loved ones.

My response to Frank's passing is to celebrate with his family the well lived life he enjoyed to the end.

And, I will experience myself . . . again . . . that God's still amazes me . . . ><>


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