While I was traveling in the Middle East recently, two personal friends back home died. I was blessed that I arrived back in time to participate in both memorial services for, Howard Pennington and Joey Chavez.
Both men were ministers associated with Praise Chapel Fellowship. Joey was saved in prison, then was a resident of Jacob’s Ladder, a Praise Chapel Men’s recovery home. Later Joey became a resident leader of the home, a member in the church, serving as an usher, he became a Bible study leader and a pioneer pastor.
Joey was a servant. If there was an evangelistic event he was there, loaded with supplies to reach out to the community. During holidays, he made sure that 1000’s families had a holiday meal, giving away bags of food at a number of churches.
During a mission trip to the Philippines, Joey got a virus infection through a flesh wound. by the time he flew from Asia to the US he was in serious condition. This wound never totally healed land along with hepatitis C, high blood pressure and sugar debits, Joey was losing his health for a number of years. He couldn’t work. Became financially desperate and overly medicated. All of this never changed Joey’s desire to serve.
I was concerned what his memorial service would be like. He had both believing and non believing family. The past year or so had been really rough for Joey. But, the service we was well attended and very uplifting. There most amazing part was the testimonies from folks Joey touched in a positive way. A step son who said, “Joey was a true dad to me…” another man said, “Joey witnessed to me, helped me get into a recovery program, then performed the marriage for my wife and I.”
There was no mention of the fact that Joey died with no resources. He was not very successful as a pastor (by the numbers of members or size of church concept.), but he touched many people and had a positive effect upon their lives. That was the message.
Howard Pennington was my others friend who died.
I had the opportunity to participate in his memorial service the next day. Howard’s story is much different than Joey’s. By every standard Howard was successful. He left a large church with beautiful facilities. Financially Howard was successful, a beautiful home, a family and lots of close friends.
What amazed me at Howard’s memorial service was that it was not much different than Joey’s. There was no mention about the size of his church, the home he lived in or the car he drove. Each speaker gave a personal testimony of how Howard touch them and helped them at a critical time in their lives. His giving, friendship and trust.
I came away from these to memorial services with the sense that what truly matters in life is what we do for others. No one really cares about how much a person has or does not have. It doesn’t matter if a person in a success by the world’s standards. What matters is, “Who did I reach out to and help in some way during their time of need.”
Jesus summed it up when he was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew22:37-39).
I believe both of these men fulfilled these two commandments.
Since their memorial services, I have thought of how often I have missed an opportunity to reach out and help someone. I intend to be more purposeful, not in succeeding, but in touching and helping. Perhaps that is why Jesus follows up his answer to the question about the greatest commandment with the story of the “Good Samaritan.” (Luke 10:30-37)
In the end, life is a Samaritan’s journey.