Raw Reflections from the Journey

Monday, August 6, 2012

"He Always Had Time" - A Tribute to Pastor John A. Wilson

"He always had time" was my father in laws complimentary conclusion from a memory about John A. Wilson, 100 years old this week, pastor in Springfield Ohio since 1944.  Even though he's mostly bedridden, patiently waiting to see God ("I don't know if I'll say anything to Him, but I'll certainly worship Him"), he really hasn't retired.  Just ask the thousands to whom he ministered through a taped interview shown to them during one of four services at First Christian Church yesterday.

My in-laws didn't even attend Mr. Wilson's church, BUT they considered him one of their most beloved pastors.  How'd that happen?  Mr. Wilson was my pastor growing up.  When Jill and I began to date, my in-laws attended some services, and Mr. Wilson remembered them.  When illness befell my mother in-law, Mr. Wilson went a calling.  "One day I looked out from Betty's room, and there he goes", said Jack.  "I called to him and in he came, with plenty of time to listen, encourage and to pray.  He always had time."

Calling was the ministry that Mr. Wilson really loved, and for good reason; it resulted in effective introductions to his best friend.  "You'll never reach everyone for Christ by waiting for them to come to you at your church building.  You've got to get out into their homes (hospitals, etc.)."  If you are a Springfield resident, you've no doubt seen Mr. Wilson in your home, a hospital, funeral home or racing down Limestone St. Burnett  or Home Road, anxious to get to his next appointment.  It's amazing how many lives this one passionate and focused servant of Jesus Christ touched.  Are you one of the ones he visited?

It was Christmas Eve 1992 when we took our three children, cookies and some Christmas Caroles to see John and Jane. Our purpose was to "bless" but of course, it was we who were blessed as they generously asked and listened to happenings in our lives. Our time together concluded in a tight circle with prayer, "Let me pray for you" the preacher insisted.  Talk about a man who has frequent conversations with the Almighty.  You've got to get ahold of his book of prayers! 

But the most memorable part of that evening was when we stopped by our in-laws.  "Carly, what did you do this evening" her grandma asked.  "We went to see Jesus, Grandma."  "You went to a manger?" "No Grandma, we went to see Jesus; the little man with the purple hair." Our jaws dropped and eyes went wide.  Who did Carly see? Was this 'little man' so Christlike that a child was able to recognize him?  Our conclusion was that, yes, he not only walked in the footsteps of Jesus, but he also walked like Him, and even a little child could recognize that.

Mr. Wilson provided our pre-marital counseling, and always took a special interest in our lives through seminary and establishment of Christian counseling ministry, marriage ministry, etc.  He insisted on donating to help us publish our first book, Raw Reflections ("Put another zero on that check, Jane."), and even now continues to give to the not for profit ministry of Great Relationships.  Every month a check comes that helps to make it possible for Christians around the world to be trained in the ministry of Marriage Coaching, and it always comes with an applicable verse of scripture hand-written by Jane after she prays for the Holy Spirit to lay a verse on her heart.  Talk about humbling and encouraging!

One hundred years!  1912-2012, and still counting. Amazing!  Lots of changes in the world since then, but one thing never changed. As my father in-law said, "He always had time."  And the time counted.  Why?  He was constantly pointing to Jesus, "If you have your eyes on any program or any person instead of Him, you have your eyes on the wrong thing", practically applying the Word of God, and praying for and with saints and sinners alike, in faith for their salvation and maturation in Christ.

Under a blanket laying on a couch with a loose fitting shirt (and a tie), Mr. Wilson 'preached' to the Church, one last time yesterday.  Thousands were silent, moved and awed by the incisive wisdom and wit of a godly centarian.  Focus on Jesus, do the Great Commission, love and serve the family of believers, and never, never, never give up.  "To live is Christ, to die is gain" were among the preachers final exhortations.  Live for Him, and then really look forward to being with Him forever.  What a great way to live!

Thank you, Mr. Wilson for a life well-lived.  Thank you for genuinely caring, and tirelessly serving.  We love you, and we'll miss you.