NOTE: I wrote this last week, but am only posting now.
I enjoy living in Johnson City. I'll admit it's a bit smaller than I would prefer. It's also a bit more out of the way than than I would like (but there are good things that come along with living in a smaller town).
I would like downtown Johnson City to look more like an "is" place than a "was" place, but we seem to be making some progress on that.
I've gotten used to drivers who seem to meander in fits and starts, who pull out in front of you like they're in a hurry, then travel at 20 m.p.h.
I've gotten used to the elevators at the hospital, where more than a few some local folks stand before these magical rising cubes, but aren't at all used to elevator etiquette . These are people who don't come into contact with elevators anywhere but our seven-story hospital, folks who regularly jump on the first elevator that opens, regardless the direction it's heading. I watch them hit the "up" button, scurry to the "down" elevator, then magically reappear before me as they look around wondering how I made it to their floor before they did.
Last week there was a lady who did just that. When I got onto the elevator she turned to her friend and asked what happened. The friend figured it out.
"We got on the DOWN elevator."
"Well, why was it going down when we pressed the up button?"
The friend decided not to bother explaining, letting the comment pass. Then the first lady looked up at the monitor that the hospital uses to tell the captives how advanced their medical techniques are and said, "Look! They have cameras in here now. They're watching us!"
I'm used to those things here in Johnson City. I even find them endearing most of the time. All of these aspects of Johnson City are either minor annoyances or humorous diversions. But there is something troubling about living in Johnson City. It's something I don't think I will ever get used to.
By living and ministering in Johnson City I come into regular contact with some of the greats of our churches. I get to know them and appreciate them in ways I could never access if I lived far away from here. That is a great and wonderful thing.
But then I have the bittersweet task of knowing some of these greats as they leave us behind. It's so sad to experience, and it never stops. I've learned from and lost so many fine role models and teachers. Owen Crouch. Bob Fife. Charles Taber. Bill Norris. Howard Shaffer. Earl Stuckenbruck. And now Ray Giles.
If I were ministering in Florida I would hear that these men had died and I'd think, "That's too bad. I've heard he was a fine man."
The honor of knowing fine, Christian role models precedes the pain of saying goodbye. We, of course, grieve as people with hope, but when we live in Johnson City we grieve a lot as people with hope. Last week's was as tough as any I've experienced here.
Farewell, Ray. May God Bless Effie with the comfort only the Spirit can bring.