I rarely use this blog to mention one of Memorial Drive's members when they die. Today is an exception. Jack Gill died at St. John's hospital this afternoon. He was a dear gray-headed Teddy Bear of our sweet Memorial family.
This gentle man knew much about life in a children's home but very little about himself. At age three he was abandoned to live in an orphanage with about 30 other three year olds. Much later in life this single man was discovered by our youth group working at Tulsa's Day Center for the Homeless. He worked there full-time. Our teens went down once a week for a few hours.
Maybe for the first time in his life, he was adopted....by our teens.
Jack Gill was shy and humble, soft-spoken and friendly. The man moved among us with never a step toward intrusion or sarcasm; it wasn't in him. He was always wide-eyed to and complimentary of the wonderful things God was doing within the body at Memorial. He was especially sensitive to any teens who might have felt abandoned; even in their own home. It is easy to understand why.
When Memorial Drive met this man, he was our introduction into the community of those in humble need. We were his life in Christ. He became an icon to the Memorial family that those who didn't have as much had very much to share. Jack Gill was an ambassador of Christ to get the church to move out of its smug and distancing ways. We really needed him to teach us to plow deeper ground into a meaningful new field...compassion for the people around us.
I once found Jack waiting on the roadside in the hot afternoon sun for the next bus. I circled the block to give him a ride. Recently Mary and I were at lunch at the Jones...and there was Jack...so happy to be at the table. As usual, I never heard him complain. He was living the high life of fellowship with a church that was being groomed like the Son. We gave him a ride to his apartment. It was as if a docile teen was being given a lift home....thanking us all the way.
Only recently did he discover that Jack Gill was not his official name. Rather Oliver Cummings was his handle. Being my weird personality I would at times refer to him as Joliver....for he was jolly.
He said that Craig Hicks and the youth group of those years ago saved his life when they served at the Day Center and drew him in. I would guess such is an accurate statement for Jack wasn't of the nature to exaggerate. I'm guessing he needed such a grand connection. Too, I would guess that Jack Gill began to turn the emphasis at Memorial Drive for he opened our eyes to the vast wealth buried among the poor. He didn't only need us.
We (I) really needed him. We will always be rewarded at our church because of the things Joliver taught us. He is one of our humble heroes.
Later Jack....or Oliver....or Joliver! Enjoy your brand new day today...and 10,000 years from now!