Yesterday afternoon we attended a “Celebration of Life” for Jerry Davis, a long-time member of Three Lakes Community Bible Church where I pastored from 1974-2011. Jerry and his wife, Sherry, were a tremendous blessing to our assembly and a great encouragement to my wife and me. Every church seems to have those who feel they have “the gift of criticism,” but Jerry and Sherry were encouragers like Barnabas (means “Son of Encouragement”) in the New Testament who became a mentor to Saul of Tarsus just after his conversion, when others were reluctant to get close to Saul since he had a reputation for persecuting and killing followers of “The Way” (later called Christians…Acts 9:26,27; 11:26).
Jerry and Sherry had a puppet ministry and often put on skits to teach spiritual truths. They also developed a balloon ministry. They became very involved in our Sunday School and Vacation Bible School programs and also ministered at the Bible camp which our church started, Elohim Bible Camp and Retreat Center. They even went each summer up to Canada to minister at a camp and would often take young people with them to mentor and minister with them. Sherry had a great sense of humor and would often show up at a meeting with a big red nose and big ears or a funny hat. She always had a joke for me. With all the stress of the pastorate and the struggles that every pastor faces in dealing with people, it was so refreshing to have Jerry and Sherry Davis as those who came alongside, not to complain, but to encourage and assist. Jerry and Sherry had a tremendous love for the Lord, their physical family and also their church family. They had a great passion for souls, and shared the gospel with pretty much anyone with whom they came in contact. They were always concerned about whether or not their children, and grandchildren were walking with the Lord.
Sherry passed away two years ago and a couple weeks ago Jerry “graduated” from this earth to his heavenly home, Their passion to see others come to Christ and to grow in their faith continued right up to their dying breaths. What a tremendous testimony they were and what an impact they had on their family and on all who knew them.
Jerry seemed to have endless energy and was always eager and ready to go on a project. He was on our elder board and normally chaired the meetings. Every board has a “brakeman” who is very deliberate about proceeding on anything new, and an “engine” which “ drives the train—Jerry was definitely the “engine”! He also served for a time as the administrator of the Three Lakes Christian School started at our church. He also served on the board at Elohim Bible Camp. This was in addition to his work as a materials procurer and supplier to mines in the area. Oh, did I mention he also spent 20 years in the Air Force!
Needless to say at the “Celebration” yesterday, we heard from many of the spiritual impact Jerry had on their lives. Our celebration was held outdoors at a public park and the weather was ideal, with sunshine but not too hot, and with a gentle breeze. We heard testimonies from those who had worked for Jerry, those who had taught at the Christian school, those who had been encouraged to become involved as our youth leaders, those who had ministered with him in leadership at the church, and, of course, from his children and grandchildren. It was a great time of rejoicing.
At the conclusion of the celebration service, there was a potluck and time to visit with those who had traveled to Troy, Montana to celebrate Jerry’s life. What a time of fellowship we had. Many (I counted at least 40) who came were members of Three Lakes from way back who had moved away and some we hadn’t seen or visited with for years. We had such a wonderful time catching up and sharing what the Lord has been doing in our lives and our families. I couldn’t help but think of how heaven will be like that as we are reunited with family and friends who know Jesus and we can spend time catching up. Only there won’t be any “time” so we will have forever to do so! Wow! We spent about three hours Sunday afternoon rejoicing and fellowshipping and one day we will have eternity to do so—and Jesus will be there in person!
When Paul wrote his first letter to the believers at Thessalonica, he addressed a concern that they had about loved ones who had died. Paul obviously had spoken to them of the “rapture” when Christ takes the church (all believers) to heaven, but they had experienced the death of friends and family and wondered if they would get to see them again. So Paul wrote these words of comfort: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep (have died), that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thes. 4:13-18). We get our word “rapture” from the Latin for “caught up.” Those who have preceded us to heaven will return with Christ, their bodies raised and glorified, and those of us who are still alive will be caught up with them (also receiving glorified bodies…Phil. 3:20) and then all will be taken to our heavenly home.
“When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory” (Eliza E. Hewitt). Yesterday, the “Celebration of Life” for Jerry Davis was a little foretaste of what it will be like “when we all get to heaven.” But, our time at Roosevelt Park in Troy, Montana came to an end, and we each returned to our earthly homes. Some of the people we visited with yesterday we may never see again here, but we know that we will for sure see them “on the way up” and then have forever to celebrate and praise and fellowship and rejoice. Hallelujah! “Even so come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).
P.S. Next week, Part II of “Not Forgotten”