Monday night, September 22, Heaven reached into time once again and took an Acts 7 man into the timelessness of his reward. As a pastor I have had the privilege of serving Heritage for over three decades. You cannot have longevity in one pastorate without faithful God-loving men who love church as much or more than their pastor, God fearing men who pray for their pastoral teams and celebrate every victory as though it was their own. God called these special men, Deacons, "Acts 7 Men" who rejoice when the church rejoices and weeps when the church weeps. Monday night I received a call that I had been restlessly waiting for, it was Julie and she said, “Pastor, my husband is gone to heaven”. When I left about 6:30 pm, I knew it would not be long. GayNell and I had been there with them on Sunday afternoon. I thought his 91 years became months, months became weeks, weeks became hours, hours became minutes, and minutes became seconds. Time ran its course, but Jim’s clock did not run out. It only was rewound in Heaven. We all loved Jim, but we can say with assurance, “Our loss was Heaven's gain”.
I found Jim driving himself to renew his driver’s license the other day. It was a Wednesday, and Julie had gone to the prayer meeting; so with the little strength he had, he said he was sneaking out of the house to take care of business. I said, “Yeah, but you never know when your Preacher is going to show up. He grinned like a kid with his hand in a cookie jar. It may have been one of our best days ever.
We talked about his trip to heaven 20 years ago. He told me it was just as real today as it was when it happened. We drove down a road that he knew and traveled when it was nothing but dirt and gravel. We parked in front of the little church and cemetery where the engraved head stones for he and Julie were already in place. We talked about everything and anything. We ate a meal and laughed all the way home.
My friend in ministry for three decades traveled on Trinity Air Lines to Glory. Jim Stephenson, our beloved brother in ministry, made his homeward journey on flight 316 (St.John 3:16, that is). We were all made better by our friendship with this man whose love for Christ was a positive influence on us all. We are holding Julie's arms up, and ask you to do the same.
I want to say thank you to all the Acts 7 men who have been a part of my life. We mourn together, for one of us whom we loved and deeply respected is gone and his seat is empty. He will be greatly missed by all of us.
Your loving pastors,
Cleddie & GayNell Keith