Troy Hayes and my daddy, Bobby Gregory. Judging from Daddy’s shirt, they must have been working on a car.
For as long as I can remember, Brother Troy has had heart trouble. But now, in just the last month, cancer and its treatments make it so he can’t stand behind the pulpit and deliver a full sermon. I heard he sat down halfway through his talk on Easter and that more hymns were sung than normal.
Of course the small Oklahoma congregation understands. Of course they pray for his strength and comfort. Of course they offer support to the man who has officiated at their children’s weddings and helped them say their earthly goodbyes.
But it feels like there should be something more – some proper way to thank the man who baptized you and then coaxed you to wade deeper, to grow stronger.
When I was about 10 I wrote these notes in my Bible, including mentioning which pastors baptized my family members.
In the more than 20 years that I sat under his teaching, I’ve lost count of the times the Baptist preacher told us that the name on the church sign didn’t matter. I don’t care if the sign says Methodist or Lutheran or Pentecostal, he’d say. What matters is that they are preaching the Bible, that they are following God’s teachings.
Then, sometimes in the same sermon, he’d tell us not to just swallow his teachings whole. Don’t just take my word for it. Study it yourselves. Pray about it.
I’ve always liked that about him, how he humbly points to God and to scripture – his true north. And I don’t even have to ask. I know that hasn’t changed in the years since I moved away.
His wife, Sister Betty, still teaches Sunday School. It was there in her classroom where my 7-year-old self fell in love with David and his psalms. Where I saw a re-enactment of Daniel in the lions’ den on an old-fashioned flannel board. Where I memorized most of the scriptures that guide me today.
I’m the middle angel, proclaiming the Good News to the shepherds in the corner.
All those lessons. All those sermons. They’ve mattered in my life and in the lives of countless others. I’m in awe when I think about the influence of two faithful people in a tiny little town, and I’m struck by the far-reaching ripples of all people in ministry – be that behind a pulpit, in a classroom or mowing the lawn for a neighbor.
Thank you, Brother Troy. And you, too, Sister Betty. Thank you, all who teach us about God’s love.
Dearest readers, Brother Troy went to be with his Heavenly Father today. Many are mourning his passing. Will you join me in praying for them?
No one preached a finer funeral than Brother Troy. There was just something indescribable about how he shared God’s love with those who were hurting. I’ll never forget what he said at Daddy’s funeral. He talked about faith, hope and love. He said faith and hope are realized in heaven, completed if you will, but love continues. There is no end, no death for love.
Much love to you, Brother Troy, and welcome home.