It was many years ago that I learned of certain individuals who have impacted my life and ministry. The first person who impacted me is, of course, my own Dad, David. He taught me so many things from the Scriptures and just how to do things around the house and especially on cars. The greatest lesson I learned from my Dad is that love covers a multitude of sins (cf. 1 Peter 4:8); for this I am most grateful because he taught me that through Jesus Christ, who is perfect love, all of my sins are forgiven for all eternity. He taught me that Jesus Christ, who died for my sins, was buried, and was raised again according to the Scriptures, can save anyone who will come to Him by faith. He taught me the Scriptures just like his Dad taught him. He taught me about Jesus and the salvation He offers to all.
Another great influence on my life is my grandfather, Dionicio, my Dad’s Dad. He was kind of short compared to others, but he was a giant in my eyes. He was faithful to my grandmother, Fidela, for 63 years before she passed away. And after my grandmother passed away, it certainly did not stop my grandfather from ministering to others. He would always purchase big station wagons in order that he might pick up people and take them to church services with he and my grandmother. He would constantly speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ to whomever he could. He was a diligent worker in everything he did and my grandfather taught my Dad how to be like this and he taught me how to do the same. I would go with my grandfather to the church to help do yardwork. He taught me faithfulness in serving the church.
Another great influence in my life is John Pretlove. He was a professor of Church History and New Testament at Criswell College where I attended for my undergraduate degree. He is from England so I was always interested in listening to his accent being that I had never heard that accent growing up on the border with Mexico. He taught me the doctrines of grace. He helped me to understand how God is Sovereign while inclining our spirits toward Jesus Christ for salvation. He showed grace to me spending time with me when I was only 17 years old in college. He discipled me like my grandfather and my Dad did. Living 12 hours away from home, John helped me to feel alright with being away from the two men who influenced me the most and became the third most influential man in my life. He has been a faithful Bible teacher and preacher and pastor since I have known John. He taught me doctrine from the Scriptures.
Louis Newman was a deacon at a church where I met my wife over 30 years ago. Louis was already 78 years old when I met him. One day I realized that I needed to have an accountability partner, someone who would hold me to account as I was getting ready to marry my wife, Cheryl. I wrote a letter and handed it to Louis on a Sunday morning after the worship service and asked him to read it, pray about it, and then let me know his thoughts. That evening, when we were getting ready for our Sunday evening service, Louis came to me and agreed to be my accountability partner. He had no idea why I would choose to ask him to do this. My response: Because I prayed about who I should ask and it was Louis. He taught me about finances and how to provide for my wife and family. He encouraged me–like my grandfather, Dad, and John–to stay in the Word of God, the Bible. He encouraged me to be obedient to the Lord and how to pray. Louis prayed with me and by doing this, like my Dad and grandfather, he taught me to pray.
There is another deacon that influenced me greatly. His name is David Blackerby. In my first pastorate, David was serving as the chairman of the deacons when I arrived. I asked him if he would pray with me the first week of my pastorate. He obliged and came to my office. He then asked if I would like to meet with him weekly for prayer and I absolutely wanted that. David was an encourager. He would listen and he would love me no matter what was said. He would let me know that he may not have an answer for what I was asking or saying, but he just listened and encouraged me to continue serving the Lord faithfully. He would tell me that he was praying for me daily, and I believe he did. It was 4 1/2 years into my tenure in that church that he had a massive heart attack and died. I have never forgotten the way he just listened to me and encouraged me. He taught me how to encourage others.
Paul McCord is a trustee and a deacon at the church where I currently pastor. He was the chairman of the pastor search committee that contacted me and asked if I would consider coming to this church. When we first spoke on the phone, his calm demeanor and constant encouragement since I started pastoring this church has been a God-send. He listens, has Godly advice and suggestions, and seeks to do whatever he can to come alongside me in ministry. He has taught me wisdom by what he says and beleives and by the way he lives.
Another trustee and deacon is Rody Ryon. He listens and has such Godly advice. He prays with me every Sunday morning but before he prays, he wants to know how my week has been. I can tell him that it has been good or it has been hard, and he always has a word of encouragement and prays for wisdom for me. He has taught me about marriage just listening to what he does for his wife who has certain health issues. He loves and cares for her and has for so many years. This is a great lesson and encouragement to me. He has taught me about love for my wife, my family, and my church.
Lawrence Story is another trustee and deacon who faithfully prays for me every week. He has had some health struggles as of late, however, when he is able to be in attendance of our weekly time of prayer, he is there. He is faithful. He loves the church. He seeks to encourage. He tells me about the history of the church and it helps me to know what we need to do and what we do not need to do. He’s faithful to his wife, his children, and to others who have known him for many years. He has taught me about the holiness of God by listening to his prayers.
I have known Linney Patton since the mid-1980s. He has influenced me as well. I tell people that he is my best friend. His aunt Elvira taught him about God’s faithfulness. Linney has faced some hard times in his life, but he chalks it up to God teaching him to live for Him no matter what may come his way. Even when I have sought prayer from Linney for issues that I was facing, asking him to pray for me to get out of it, he rather told me that he would pray the Lord would see me through the hard times. That was not easy to hear, but it was the best thing he could do for me. The Lord showed me His faithfulness as He has shown Linney. Linney has taught me about the faithfulness of the Lord.
These men have influenced me through the years. I love each of them dearly because of so much I have learned from them, been encouraged by them to do and not to do, and just watching them and listening to them has helped me in ministry over the last 38 years. Each of these men are full of faith, full of love, and full of the Spirit. Because of them, I have been a blessed man for many years.
Thank you for making an impact in my life and ministry through the years.