As a pastor who has at the privileged opportunity for serving the church I have had many graduations that I performed at funerals for people who lived such incredible lives for Jesus Christ. The more as I travel on my journey the louder the echo of heaven is that I hear in my spirit as I reflect on why Heaven is going to be an incredible place. There have been many moments that this pastor simply did not have the words to say when attempting to eulogize the life of a person you were privileged to serve. If the story be completely told I learned from their lives because how they lived was like a symphony that bellowed out the Love of Christ. Many of these people will never be remembered in a History Book or have some monument erected in their honor. No, the lives that I have known in my pastoral calling are lives that expressed the character of Christ which impacted how others lived because of their influence. My heart can remember an, Edna Brewer, who was one of the most courageous women I have ever known who literally saw the heavens open up prior to her graduation from this earth. There is a Giovanna Soetje who was like another mother to me who was an incredible example of perseverance. Before she passed she said to me and others in the room, “Al I see Jesus and the angels!” I then whispered, ‘Joe go run to him.” A little girl by the name of Christiana Powery who graduated to be with Jesus not because a blood disorder defeated her but instead her Heavenly Father declared it was time for her to be with Him. It is because of Christiana’s life to this day I take time to greet children as they go into their classes because it is these children that have an entire life to serve the mission of Christ. There are so many to remember a Pastor Glenn Long and Reta Long who were champions for Christand served so many. I think Paul David Tripp says it so well when he writes, “Personal ministry is not about always knowing what to say. It is not about fixing everything in sight that is broken. Personal ministry is about connecting people with Christ so that they are able to think as he would have them think, desire what he says is best, and do what he calls them to do even if their circumstances never get “fixed.” It involves exposing hurt, lost, and confused people to God’s glory, so that they give up their pursuit of their own glory and live for his.” And I would add: “Often times your life is impacted greatly by who they are and you feel like you have been able to walk with men and women who were Champions for Christ!
Tonight I am writing this blog post to remember one man who was a Champion and his name is Butch Eastland. I was a young pastor planting a church in San Jose, CA in 1987, and we were meeting at a place called the Southside Community Center. Butch and his family came to then “Family Life Center” and he gave his heart to Christ. Butch came from a broken background and he was one tough man but he had a huge heart and when he came to Christ he was serious. Our church in the early days attracted quite a diverse company of people who were coming to Christ. We had Silicon Valley Executives to people who were coming out of the gangs. Butch was always protective of me and he would say to me, “Pastor Al, I have got your back!” By the way – No one would mess with Butch! Butch was a servant and he would always be desiring to help and to serve others. He was fun and he was a San Francisco Forty- Niner’s Faithful who not only enjoyed watching the games but he would laugh with me as we would poke fun at the Raider Fans at Church. The greatest testament to this man’s life man’s life is how he loved his wife and family. Always unselfish with his resources by giving to people who were in need. The greatest accolade I can say about, Butch Eastland, is that he made it such a joy and pleasure to be his Pastor. Butch, as I reflect my thoughts on you, and your graduation to be with Christ, I am once again reminded that what we get to do as Pastors is not a job- “It is a calling!” This Pastor considered it an honor to have been able to be on the journey with you when he was a newbie to the ministry. You Butch are God’s Masterpiece and you are now with the Master Artist. You are a great example of a man who never gave up and always believed the best in others. I will always be reminded what it means to remain “authentic” because of your life and the ability you had to always be the best “YOU.” So my brother… this is only a goodbye for now … The Best is yet to Come!