I wasn’t prepared for what I saw when I walked in John’s room last night. He had lost weight, appeared frail and looked just a bit confused when we walked in. It took him a minute to realize who we were. Then his eyes lit up and the old John was back.
John’s health is not good as he has fought illness, accidents and ailments for a while now. But I am not here to talk about John’s health. I want, instead, to speak of his life. This is not intended to be his history on planet Earth, but instead will speak of my encounters with my hero John Carver.
First and foremost John will forever be known to me as Mr. John – a name he earned from the many years he spent as Royal Ambassador (RA) Director at First Baptist Hickory. Many boys in our church spent their spiritual formative years under the Wednesday night leadership of Mr. John. One year the RAs buried a time capsule on the Boone Fork Trail while on a hike. Several years ago the RAs went to look for that time capsule and were unsuccessful in locating it, even after calling Mr. John on the phone. He was so excited that we were there looking for it. We buried our own time capsule and hope to be able to find it at some point in the future. His ministry in RAs was making little disciples.
Mr. John had a passion for his wood ministry. He cut down trees. He gathered trees that had fallen in storms. He brought them all to his property where he would gather the Baptist Men and the RAs and split the wood. Those days of wood splitting usually involved 20 or so RAs, 10 or so Baptist Men, dads, moms, GAs and others. They involved 3 or 4 wood splitters that were running at the same time. We would show up early for what looked like an impossible task, then 4 hours later we were done. Those work days were the most satisfying work I have ever done. And Mr. John made sure we had plenty of food and snacks for our break times! His wood ministry involved providing warmth to those who needed it. But his ministry really involved making disciples.
Mr. John has always loved having a garden and growing all sorts of vegetables. He always had an abundance of tomatoes and greens which he freely and enthusiastically shared with many people. Just this past summer my wife and I went over in the heat of a July day and picked cherry tomatoes which we enjoyed for many days to follow. Everything that Mr. John did was a ministry to him – and his ministry in his garden was all about sharing and Love.
Mr. John built bird houses for and with his RAs. He built RA race cars with his RAs. He cut down and split trees with his RAs and others. And Mr. John never took any credit for any of the acts of kindness that he did – he always gave credit to others and most frequently to his savior Jesus Christ. Mr. John had his own way of speaking using the repetition of certain words of phrases. And as I think of those words and of his sharing and of his love and of his ministries right now – the tears begin to well up in my eyes.
Mr. John has lived his faith better than anyone I can think of. He loved. He sacrificed his time, money, talents. He prayed. He gave and he never took any credit. Mr. John didn’t have to speak of his faith, he simply lived it.
And last night when my wife and I were about to leave we said we wanted to offer up a prayer. John insisted this own son John, Jr do the praying. John Jr offered up the most amazing, heart felt prayer I could imagine. And during the prayer Mr. John would offer up his agreement with a quiet Amen or a quiet sound of approval. John Jr didn’t pray for his dad – instead he said how thankful they were that these two friends showed up to offer a time of fellowship with their dad. And his prayer was spoken with such boldness that it was obvious these words were coming from his heart. After we all said Amen I told John Jr that he was obviously his dad’s son. Father and son beamed at my words.
Last night when Diane and I turned to leave from our visit with Mr. John, we had a lonely tear in our eyes. We are better people, better citizens, better disciples because of our encounters with John Carver. John Carver is my hero.
ps: John Carver was also a runner. Not only did John run to and from work throughout his years, he also ran 15 marathons. My hero.