Passing the Torch

Last week I received an email from fellow blogger John Dobbs. With the passing of Jack Exum Sr., he suggested that other bloggers share stories of a minister who had influenced our lives and to also invite our readers to do the same, to tell of someone who passed the torch of the gospel to us. I have been influenced by many and although for the sake of space and memory I will only list a few.

My earliest influence came when I was six or seven through Frank L. Smith. We lived in Shawnee Oklahoma and attended the Church of Christ at Tenth and Bell Streets. I remember seeing him in the pulpit with his grey suit and balding head and his ever ready smile. His sweet wife was Mary and he had two daughters and a son, F. Lagard Smith. (We knew him as Lagard at the time) I remember one sister, Sandra and sadly my memory fails me for the name of the other sister. I was too young to know or understand about the gospel at that stage of my life, still I feel I must mention him because as I look back, I remember and (understand now) the kindness and great hospitality shown to my parents, my brothers and me. We spent many Sunday afternoons in their home visiting and eating dinner with them. My mom still has a picture of me sitting on the front steps of their home. (I was baptized at the age of nine at the Tenth and Bell congregation after hearing a Hell Fire and Brimstone lesson during a revival, and later in life realized what I did was out of ignorance and fear.)

For those of you who know me or have followed my blog, you know that I have lived through some very rough years. I was pregnant and married at the tender age of 15, and had three children by the age of 23 and divorced years later. I ended up battling drugs and alcohol for several years. My path to Christianity was a long time in the making and this is where the next people who greatly influenced my life enter in. I shall briefly mention three more men and their strong and faithful wives who have taught me the way.

When I first began to turn my life from myself to Christ, I lived in the small town of Hornitos CA and began attending church in Mariposa CA. It was a very small congregation and it was there where my real roots to becoming a Christian began. Vern Godfrey was not a preacher but he was a great bible class teacher and he was a kind and gentle man. I clearly remember him teaching the book of Acts and he brought it to life. Vern and his wife Esther greatly influenced not only my life but my oldest brother Tony Tharp and his wife Pat as well. They would visit us in our homes (and believe me when I say-we were a challenge) and would invite us to their homes. To say it plainly…they loved us so much that not only were we shocked, but we learned to love them so much we did not want to disappoint them in any way and we longed to be with them and be like them.

Next are Shelby Garrison* and his wife Elizabeth. They belonged to that small church in Mariposa and they came to visit me one day after I had moved from Hornitos to Mariposa. I had given up all of my drugs at that time except Marijuana. I had just finished smoking a joint (it really pains me to write this but it’s true) and my doorbell rang. There stood Shelby, all 6 plus feet of him and Elizabeth, who wasn’t even 5 feet tall. I didn’t know what to do except invite them in. The house reeked with the weed I had just finished smoking and I was higher than a kite. I know for certain that they were aware of what was going on, but they did not condemn me or even make mention of it. They simply came by to tell me how happy they were to see me at church on Sunday and to invite me back again and wanted me to know that I could call on them if I needed any kind of help.

Lastly are Pete Casci and his wife Brenda. (It’s hard to mention great men who have influenced me in the gospel without mentioning their loving and faithful wives.) Pete was the young preacher hired by the congregation in Mariposa. Pete loved the Lord and loved the people he shared Jesus with. You could see it in his eyes and you could feel it. Being a struggling and young Christian I know I disappointed them many times and in many ways and they never, ever gave up on me. We are still the best of friends even after thirty plus years. We haven’t seen each other in several years but we stay in touch either by phone or mail. He baptized me and he married Larry and me.

In closing I must say that it wasn’t eloquence of speech that influenced me or their style of preaching. I say with all honesty it was their outpouring of genuine love and their true friendship and concern that touched my heart, that made me want to have what they had and to be like them. It was from them I first learned of Faith, Love and Hope and truly the greatest was their love.

* Shelby and Elizabeth and one of their daughters, Sarah really liked me, so much so that they all played match-maker and introduced me to their son/brother Larry. Shelby and Elizabeth ended up being my father and mother-in-law and Sarah my sister-in-law. Larry and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary in July of this year.

Frank, Vern and Shelby have all gone on to their reward. I thank God for letting these Godly men cross my path and I thank you John for this great idea and privilege to share these memories.

10 comments for “Passing the Torch

  1. March 30, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Inspiring post. Thanks for the transparency. Your testimony here can be very encouraging to a lot of people!

    I can remember several preachers who were a big encouragement to me. I hope my life has such a positive impact on someone else.

    Thank you Warren! You are a great encouragement to many already, I know your writings inspire me and I hope to purchase your book in the near future.

  2. Meowmix
    March 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Janice, your honesty and humility NEVER fail to encourage me. You are really some kind of lady, you know that? Thank you for being my sister and friend.

    That’s a wonderful story about you and Larry’s family. What precious people they had to be…..and they recognized in you an equally precious person.

    Thank you so much Judy and believe me when I say the honor is mine in being your sister and friend.

  3. March 4, 2010 at 1:02 am

    very nice. I had never been to your blog. Very touching. Thanks.

    Thank you Darin, I appreciate that you came by and appreciate your comment. 🙂

  4. March 3, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Janice, I left a comment yesterday but my computer froze and I wasn’t sure if it went through. Apparently, it didn’t. I want to thank you for this touching and intimate look into your life. I appreciate you and your work for the Lord.

    Thank you Paula, I really appreciate you and your work too. I always enjoy your posts.

  5. March 2, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Frank Smith was a very close friend to my uncle. Matter of fact, when Bro. Smith died, he and my uncle had been out looking over a piece of land on which Bro. Smith hoped to build a house. He made the decision that was the place for his house and dropped dead. My uncle tried CPR on him, and held him in his lap until help came, but it was too late. Bro. Smith was dead when he hit the ground. Small world, isn’t it?

    It is a small world indeed. I was not aware of the details of his death, but I’m glad he was with a close friend.
    I hope you are doing well Greg, sounds like you have had a few hectic days/nights.

  6. March 2, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    I haven’t known you but I look forward to catching up with your blog and following your posts in the future. Please keep telling how God used wonderful people to to do wonderful things in your life. We need to hear that. It’s hard to remember good people when the others shout so loudly.

    I sincerely thank you!

    Mark, I am always humbled when people read what I write. I have made so many friends since I began blogging almost a year ago and honestly I’m still a bit surprised at the ones that continue to read and comment on my blog and I am always encouraged.

    I appreciate very much that you stopped by and I certainly appreciate your words of encouragement. Quite honestly I probably would not still be alive if not for those people who loved me when I was unlovable.

  7. March 2, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Loved your post. I’m amazed how God has used so many people in our lives to get us where he needs us. Well done.

    Thank you Trey, it is amazing indeed, God’s grace constantly amazes me, especially when I look back at the “old” me.

  8. Janice L Watson
    March 2, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Janice, you and Larry both are a reflection and light of our Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us your life and faith. Just as many have touched and influenced your life this is how you have touched others. God bless you always
    love you

    Thank you for you kind words Janice-we love you and miss you!

  9. March 2, 2010 at 10:51 am

    What a beautiful story of faith and perseverance. God is so good never to give up on us…and His people that follow in His path do the same. Thanks for sharing so honestly. I wish I could meet these brothers and their wives … how wonderful. God bless you!

    Thank you John and thank you for such a great idea. I had a wonderful time remembering these great people who prayed for me, taught me and loved me. I pray my own life will reflect the love of Jesus for someone else.

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