Monday, April 24, 2017

When a Hero Dies

I was a very small girl when my parents began taking me to a country church in rural Tennessee.  I don't remember too much from the very first years, but then again all the years start to blend together into a lifetime of golden memory.

I do remember meeting Preacher.  Preacher is what I called him.  Sometimes, I called him Preacher Cutshall, but mostly he was just "Preacher" to me.  He was tall and had a large smile that took up his face when he allowed it to.  He stood behind the pulpit on Sundays, he often scrubbed the bathrooms on Mondays, and he stayed on bended knee on Wednesday nights at prayer meeting.  He went to the nursing homes, he grew a garden, he worked a job in the community, he was always there.

I remember chuckling at times when he would preach and his words would get faster and more full of passion.  I remember finding him often in the basement of the church, scrubbing a stain out of the carpet.  He came to every Bible school, church camp, and youth event at the Rec center.  He was "Preacher" to us all.

He traveled over the mountains to be with me as a nine year old girl having major surgery.  His face was one of the first I saw when I woke up after the procedure.  His big smile was there welcoming me back to the world.  He made sure I could be at church when I was recovering.  Through the efforts and gifts of the people of the church, he let me lay on a hospital bed wheeled at the front of the church for every service.

He let me play clumsy piano for the congregational singing, allowed my brother as a young boy to stand on a chair and deliver his first sermon on a Sunday morning.  He loved us, prayed over us, shepherded us.  He was so much more than a preacher.

As a girl, I did not know what truths and qualities he was teaching me just by being there.  I did not understand the treasure in the character of that man then, but I surely do now.  I came to expect his support, his energy, his love.  He was as much a part of my life as my own family.

When I grew and made it to high school, he helped launch my dreams to international ministry.  He prompted the church to support me, and he paved a way for me to be used by God.  Our church sent me to 4 different countries, endured my endless slide shows, and listened to me pour my heart out about God's love for the nations.

And when I found myself in questionable situations or difficult choices through those teen years, often my parents would ask me if I would invite my Preacher to whatever activity was in question.  I knew if I could not feel proud to have him there, I did not need to be doing it.

He lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.  He was the first to give up the pulpit and spend an hour with us in prayer.  He encouraged us all to share our stories, our testimonies of faith.  He never stopped the moving of the Spirit for the sake of preaching.

He was humble and a hard worker.  He checked on every light, mopped the floors, and kept the Lord's house immaculate.  He was the first to work and the last to leave.  He had no pride in titles, but rather he served in all the little ways that poured value into every facet of ministry.

But more than all of these...he prayed.  Oh, that I could hear that man pray again today!  He would call us to the alter, and the whole of our 200 plus member church would bend our knees and bow before God,  and he would speak to God.  I remember so many times just listening to his words.  When I got older, I would say my own prayers, and then I would say, "Lord, let my words be like his.  Teach me to pray as he does."

People's lives changed because He was a praying man.  My life changed because of his prayers.  He taught us all, young and old, to seek the Lord.  Our church became my family.  This family loved me, cried for me, carried me, washed my feet, and prayed over my life.  And no doubt, many of them still do today.

I would not be the woman I am today were it not for the influence of that man in my life.  I have served the Lord all over the world,  graduated from Bible College, and now serve in full-time ministry in large part because He helped me sense the call to follow Christ.  His simple, country ways reached far more than just me, It reached the very hearts of an entire community and beyond.  We all saw God work through him.  We all worked harder because he did.  We all loved more because he did.  We all gave more because he gave to us.

I know his family sacrificed so that he could love us all and shepherd us so well.  I am sure he was missed at times when he was pouring into our lives.  I am sure that there was never enough of him to go around, but I am also sure that God multiplied his efforts, and there is lasting, eternal value for all that he sacrificed.

But now, he is gone.  I want to cry and run home and remember all those wonderful years of golden memories.  But, it is impossible for me to be sad for long.  You see,  he had this little plaque on his pulpit that said, "Sirs,  we would see Jesus."  And it was there as a reminder for him and all of us that one day, we would all see Jesus if we gave Him our lives.  And how can I be sad now that he has made it to this place he spent his life inviting us all to?

And I ached to make the trip over the mountains to be there to say my goodbyes.  I could not make the journey because I was serving at my church.  You see, I am now in full-time ministry with over 200 little children that I shepherd.  And not a day goes by that I don't remember the lessons that man taught me.  He lived Jesus to me and taught me what it meant to love people.  And I know that he would be pleased to know that the only thing that kept me from saying goodbye was the people God has given me to serve.

His influence forever lives on.  The way I love and serve my people is the way he taught me.  My brother, who is now a pastor, leads his people from that same example.  My parents serve as missionaries and they too live out their service because of how they were served.  And we are just one family, one of many, that grew in our faith in large part because of his leadership and commitment to shepherd his flock in a way that pointed straight to Jesus.

So, when a hero of the faith dies, we weep for our loss.  But we know that it is a gain beyond description.  And--heroes leave bits of themselves in all the people they poured their life into.  So, "Preacher" keeps living through the hands that he served, through my hands, and countless others. He will always be a part of my story and hundreds of others.

Until the day I can hug his neck again....

We would see Jesus!

Alfred Cutshall

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