When I first began this blog last summer, I wrote a post entitled, “Land Of Goshen,” where I highlighted the importance of Goshen Free Will Baptist Church and the immense way they reached out to my family in the days following my dad’s disappearance in 1965. Our family did not attend this church at the time; however, my aunt and her family were very active at Goshen. When the church’s pastor, Johnnie Floyd, heard that my dad did not make it to the states and was listed as AWOL in Germany, he quickly came to the aid of my mother. Even though we were not members of his church, “Preacher Floyd,” as we would affectionately call him, treated us with the same respect and care that he did his own. His benevolent actions made such a strong impression on my mom, that she recommitted her life to the Lord and became solidly active in the church.
As I also related in that post, Goshen is where I found my faith in Christ and was baptized by Preacher Floyd into the family of believers. My mom made sure we were there every time the doors were opened, so I was heavily involved at the church from the time I was a young child all the way through my college years. Throughout most of that time, Johnnie Floyd was my pastor and spiritual mentor.
Johnnie had a true shepherd’s heart and was the kind of man who would be there for you in any situation. He had already proven that he was willing to reach outside his own church walls to meet the needs of strangers, and such was the nature of his true servant heart. He had a gentle demeanor, was very approachable, and always made you feel welcome in his presence. Equally as loving and inviting was his wonderful wife, Ruth, who always strived to make her home feel like your own.
Johnnie and Ruth left Goshen in the mid 1970’s and went on to serve churches in Michigan and Tennessee. Upon retirement from the ministry, they eventually settled in Erwin, Tennessee, and have been there to this day.
A couple of weeks ago, my mom informed me that the senior adults from her church were planning to visit Johnnie and Ruth and wondered if I would be interested in joining them. It had been years since I had seen them, so I made arrangements and planned to meet them in Erwin for this special occasion. On Tuesday of this past week, I joined Goshen’s pastor, Clayton Burch, and several of their senior adults to visit and share a meal with Johnnie and Ruth Floyd.
Before we went to eat, we sat in the Floyd’s living room, reminiscing about the days when Johnnie was pastor of Goshen. He recalled several stories from his years there, including the incredible way the church broke ground and eventually built a new sanctuary, even in the middle of challenging economic times.
I had the opportunity to share with the group the story of how Johnnie and Ruth came to our family’s rescue in the winter of 1965. My mom and my aunt were also there, helping to fill in all of the details of how he quickly came to our aid when he heard my dad was missing. He helped her contact our local congressman, who started an inquiry on my dad that eventually led to my father’s discovery. I told him how much that meant to me and my family and how we might not even be in that room with him had it not been for what he did.
Listening to every word and smiling throughout, Johnnie admitted that he had forgotten much of that story, and appreciated us sharing that with him. I told him he may have forgotten it, but that I never would – that his genuine and caring love towards us had made an indelible impression on our lives that would remain forever.
He said “I guess you will never know until you get to heaven just how many lives you have touched,” and he’s probably right. And equally as true is the fact that we may not always recognize the contributions that others have made into our lives. We might have good intentions to do so, but something will manage to keep us from taking the time to express our gratefulness and thankfulness to the people who have meant the world to us and helped shape us into who we are. On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to do that. I would encourage all of you to take the time to seek out those people who have made great contributions to your lives and tell them just how much they have meant to you.