When I awoke and started the day's duties on Tuesday morning, I assumed that it would be just another day much like all the rest.The duties as pastor of Abilene Baptist Church would consume my every thought and action for the next 12 to 14 hours.
Little did I know that May 15 was going to be very different in that one of my good friends and one of America's greatest citizens would pass away that morning.
My wife and I were eating lunch with two pastor friends and their wives when the news came. One of the pastor's sons works with the Department of Homeland Security, and he called his dad at around 12:30 p.m. to tell him that Dr. Jerry Falwell had been found unconscious in his office and had been taken to the hospital.
I immediately called one of my dearest friends, Duke Westover, who has been Dr. Falwell's executive assistant for 35 years. When Duke answered the phone I knew the situation was grave by the tone of his voice. He said "Bill, I can't talk right now, but I will call you back." About 30 minutes later he told me that Jerry Falwell had indeed passed away.
Yes, Tuesday, May 15 was a different kind of day!
Jerry Falwell was a giant who will be sorely missed on the American landscape. Those who love God and who adhere to conservative Biblical values have lost a dear friend, one who was a faithful soldier in the Lord's work.
Jerry Falwell, more than any other religious leader in the 20th Century, impacted American life in a way that truly made a positive difference. He was looked up to and revered my millions of Americans, and he will be impossible to replace.
God brings certain men along for specific times, and Falwell was one of those people. Falwell was faithful. He was committed to the task at hand. He held strong views on which he did not compromise. His yea was his yea and his nay was his nay.
There was no doubt about where Jerry Falwell stood on an issue. In this politically correct world in which we live, he was a breath of fresh air as he faithfully stood for the truth without compromise. That is why the liberal news media and political leaders did not care for him.
In debates, he was their worst nightmare. On television, they could not match him point for point. To those people he was the 900 pound gorilla and they didn't know how to handle him. Their convoluted liberal reasoning could not compete with Jerry Falwell's solid Biblical approach to the issues of the day.
All of those who knew Dr. Falwell personally, as I was privileged to do, found him to be a trustworthy and loyal friend. He was a man with a huge persona, but with a down-to-earth personality. When one of his friends needed support, Jerry Falwell was always there helping. He never let his friends down. I remember him to be a man who was easy to talk to. He had the gift of making a person feel as if they were the only person in the world right at the moment he was speaking with them.
He had a warm personality that came through in the way he treated the people around him. I remember when the wife of one of our church members passed away, Dr. Falwell came to Augusta to help me perform the funeral service. The husband of the deceased lady was a founder of Liberty University and Dr. Falwell thought the world of this couple. He was just that kind of a pastor.
I am reminded of a passage of scripture penned by the Apostle Paul as he neared the end of his life and ministry. In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, he said: "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
Ferry Falwell fought a good fight, he kept the faith and in God's timing he finished his race. We will miss him even as we pray for his wife Macel and his sons who will continue his ministry into the future.
The Rev. Bill Harrell is pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez.
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