By Bob Stacy
How thankful I am for the memories of people who have touched my life. To forget them would leave a deep, dark chasm in my story. I would be poorer because of it. Through the 78 years God has given me, thousands upon thousands of people have left their imprint upon my heart. Each one, in a way, has influenced my life.
As I leaf through the pages of my heart’s photo album, I first see my parents. There’s Dad, Communion trays in hand, at the Lord’s Table. Although a young man, Dad served as an elder in the Tonawanda (New York) Church of Christ. Dad died when I was only 10, and the most vivid pictures of him relate to the church and our family. I remember the tears in his eyes when he came home to inform us that our preacher had resigned. Those tears taught me compassion for God’s servants.
Mom was everything a preacher would want in a Christian. She sang in the choir. She, along with another faithful member of the church, prepared Communion each week. She took an active part in the women’s group. She enjoyed cooking and baking for others, including our preacher and his family. I can picture her the night Dad died. Sitting on the couch with her arms around four crying youngsters, I can hear her say, “Children, we’ll be all right. God will take care of us.” Talk about influence on a young 10-year-old boy! When things aren’t going well, I still hear her say, “God will take care of us.”
After leaving for Bible college in the early ’50s, I’d return home and be invited to preach. Mom would walk to the neighbors and call her friends, inviting them to “come hear Bobby preach.” She was proud of her preacher son, even though it had been difficult for her when I left home for college. I learned steadfastness and perhaps even some stubbornness from her when it came to the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.” Mom’s strength endeared her to me as she reared four children by herself, never wavering in her faith that “God will take care of us.”
Henry Davis, our preacher when I was a little boy, was a dignified man. The picture in my heart is one of a very neat man with thick black hair always carefully combed. He even wore a coat with tails into the pulpit each Sunday. At the age of 4, I decided I wanted to be a preacher and wear clothes like that, too. From that time onward, becoming a preacher was always in my dreams.
Every preacher who came our way made an impression on my life. Above all others, however, was Max Engle, the only preacher we had who had not pursued
formal education. Mr. Engle allowed me to sit beside him at his desk as he prepared his sermons. How patient he must have been! I remember a group of young people sitting in a circle in his home as he took us, verse-by-verse, through the book of Acts week
after week. That study made it easy for me to maintain an A average in my freshman Acts class. Max taught me to be a careful student of the Word.
Turning another page, I see a young preacher in the town of Clarence, New York. Sunday evenings would often find a group of us in Clarence to hear Ted Murray. I remember well his deep conviction. Ted pulled no punches. We liked that kind of preaching. Hardly such an evening went by that Ted did not encourage me to be a preacher, to attend Cincinnati Bible Seminary, and to remain faithful to the end. He loved to laugh, and his good times with us made me realize that it’s okay for preachers to laugh and even to have a silly moment from time to time. (I’ve had so many.) I believe it was his influence in part that led me to desire to influence youth through the years.
My Professors and Mentors
College days ushered many more people into my life. My professors influenced me the most. Again, the picture in my heart’s album is one of a large classroom where a bald-headed man is teaching on the book of Acts. L. Edsil Dale was a teacher like none other I’d ever had. Never was there any doubt in my mind as to what he believed. His deep conviction and sense of humor kept our attention. I made sure I was in class early to get a front row seat. It was there I began to dream about what God might do through an ordinary kid like me, a kid with a speech impediment like Moses.
Throughout my life and until his death, Professor Dale and I remained good friends. He became a counselor of mine at almost every juncture of life. I’m sure some of my tenacious spirit and insistence upon sound doctrine are results of my association with Professor Dale. How honored I was to be called upon to officiate at his memorial service. As I studied his life at that time, I realized the influence he had on this college kid.
George Mark Elliott, a quiet scholar among scholars, left a deep impression on my life both while I was his student and later when I became his colleague at Cincinnati Bible College. Professor Elliott walked or took the bus everywhere he went. Not wanting to waste time, he never drove. After all, he “could read while on the bus and think while walking.” His classes were not what one would call exciting, unless one were excited by digging deep into the meaning of the Word. He encouraged me to study and to wonder.
He was an encourager, too. I’ve never forgotten the day he stopped me in the hallway during the days I taught at CBC. “Bob,” he said, “I wish we had two of you here.” My heart stopped for a moment. I remember nothing of my reply. But what encouragement from one whom I admired so much and what motivation to continue teaching young men to preach. A few words, but how powerful they were!
Turning the page of my heart’s album again, I find myself in 1954 at Ozark Bible College in Joplin, Missouri. One of the first things I saw was a man behind the main college building. I surmised he was the custodian, since he was emptying trash. “What is his name?” I asked. “Oh, that’s our president, Brother Boatman.” The president emptying trash—what an impression! His gentle spirit and kind advice influenced my ministry many times. But more than anything else, I learned that emptying trash is sometimes just as important as standing at the door to greet people or sitting behind a big desk. Emptying trash may even be as important as standing in the pulpit at times. Trips with “Brother B,” as I called him, were filled with words of wisdom and lots of fun and frivolity, too. His position did not dull his humanity—an important lesson for a young man.
My Partner, My Wife
Turning another page, I see someone else who came into my life at OBC. Her name was Nell White, a sweet and beautiful girl from a little Missouri town. Perhaps she was the reason that in his providence God led me to OBC. He knew I needed someone just like her. To consider life without her is a sobering thought.
Nell is everybody’s friend and the confidante to many. She was not only mother to our twins, but their best friend as well, and she remains that to this day. Our grandchildren adore her. Church members love her. No one serves more willingly than she. I’ve learned more from her than from anyone else.
Trying to understand others no matter how different from me they may be, being patient with those who try our patience, looking for the best in each person, finding time to help others, preparing well for every presentation—and that’s only a few of the lessons learned from my sweet wife. Often when I might say something critical about a person, she is quick to say, “God bless his heart!” I could write a book about her.
So Many Others
As I continue to view the pictures in my heart’s album, I see Christ In Youth personnel, thousands of youth, young men in Preacher Training Institutes, Bible college students, elders, church staff, and hundreds of other people. Each one, in a way I may not even remember, has touched my life. Each one has a special place in my heart’s album. There is no way to determine the extent of their influence.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like without the people God placed in my life, the people who have touched me and made me who I am. I’m sure I’ve disappointed some of those people at times. I’m sure I’ve not lived up to what they had hoped for me. But one thing is sure. Without their influence, how different my life would have been!
I thank God for each one who has a place in that memory album. My prayer is this: that my picture may appear in the hearts of those whose lives I’ve touched and that I, too, will influence others as I’ve been influenced. As each of us has been influenced by many, may we seek to influence others also.
Bob Stacy is a minister and freelance writer in Middletown, Ohio.
Remembering Christ’s Work for Us
As we remember the people who have made an impact on our lives, let’s also remember the impact God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice have made on our lives. Use these resources to gain a new perspective on that love and sacrifice.
Discovering God’s Story: Illustrated Bible Handbook in Chronological Order
by Jim Eichenberger
Jesus No Equal: A Passionate Encounter with the Son of God
by Barry St. Clair
Crash Course on the Old Testament
by Christianity Today International
Crash Course on Jesus
by Christianity Today International
Crash Course on the New Testament
by Christianity Today International
Find these resources, and many more, at:
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