When Grandpa was a teenager, he hitchhiked across the US during the Depression in search of a job. He made it out to California from North Carolina by hopping trains and had many adventures along the way. He wrote a book about it, and if anyone is interested in having a copy, let me know and I will send one to you. Grandpa wrote several books after he retired and would give them out as a personal ministry.In his early twenties, he married my grandmother and the two of them prepared for ministry at Moody Bible Institute. He missed serving in the war because of this, but he was preparing for battle to be waged in a different war. He and Grandma served in the West Indies for forty years as missionaries. I don't know how many churches were started under their ministry, but I know some of them are still thriving today.
My grandparents may have retired from the mission field in the Caribbean, but they definitely did not retire from serving God. Their pastor who spoke at Grandpa's funeral said that if a church were filled with people like my grandparents, the pastor of that church would be like the Maytag repairman -- nothing to do. After Grandma died in 2005, Grandpa moved into a retirement home. He said that God had placed him in another mission field, and he was very open and vocal about his testimony and about the Gospel. In fact, because he was known as Gene and his room number was 316, he earned the nickname of Gene 3:16.
As I grew older and got to know Grandpa better, I was reminded of the rich spiritual heritage God has blessed me with. Grandpa loved God and His Word, and this fact defined his life. He loved to study and there are boxes of books from his library that he left behind. My dad mentioned that some of the books were dated after my grandparents' retirement, and he was challenged by the fact that Grandpa never stopped growing spiritually and studying God's Word.
My sisters and I liked to take Grandpa out when he was living at the retirement home. He loved good food and ice cream and we loved to laugh at his very blunt statements. One thing that was said about him at his funeral was that he understood the balance between being a missionary, a husband and a father. He definitely loved his family dearly and he liked to tell people how many grands and great-grands he had. My baby will be great grandchild number 26, and a couple of my aunts told me that they watched Grandpa get a smile on his face when he saw me and my growing tummy the last time he was at a family function, just two weeks before he died. I think he was happy that his family would go on after he left. As part of the family he left behind, I pray that I will honor his legacy by telling my children of this great man who was their great grandfather, who loved God with all of his heart, who was always kind and humble, who longed to be with God in heaven and lived his whole life as a testimony to that truth.
My mom found this statement written in one of Grandpa's Bibles, and David and I were both challenged by it: "I have no personal plans for the future except to teach and preach the Gospel to more people in more places, villages and islands." That he did to the very end of his life.