Tuesday, July 03, 2012

RIP Bob Smith

One day, back when I was teaching at Willis College, I was off to get my usual coffee. I had tucked my bible under my arm to do some reading. At the lights a fellow made some comment about the bible and we got to talking. He shared how this man had approached him one day at a similar Ottawa crosswalk and chatted for a while, in the process this man had simply shared his faith and started this fellow on his own Christian journey. I asked a few more questions and was not surprised that the evangelist in question, the man who had approached him years before, was my old friend Bob Smith. Bob had this knack of knowing where people where at and how to enter into a conversation with them. He'd regularly sit down with strangers and chat with them about life and in the most easy going way he'd tell them about his relationship with Jesus. Many of those people would find their way to our little church - Open Arms Foursquare Gospel Church. A more motley band of misfits I've never encountered anywhere else - nor have I ever experienced a church with a stronger sense of God's presence. I know it wasn't perfect, in fact the church is not there anymore. But it was in that church that I first took on a pastoral role. Bob gave me that opportunity and, more than that, he was an excellent mentor.

Bob passed away this past week. I hadn't seen him in many years, last time I did age had taken quite a toll on him. He had a tendency to burn himself out in ministry, that didn't help I'm sure. But the way he loved people was exemplary. He always seemed to have time for people, listening, making them laugh and of course sharing his faith. I remember one of my first walks through the Byward Market with Bob, he was always seeing the best in people and with enthusiasm he introduced me to the people he called friends - although many, many of them would have nothing to do with any other Christians.

Bob would often share his own story of being a drunkard public servant - when one day he passed by an evangelistic rally on parliament hill. He met Jesus there and, like the woman at the well, nothing was going to stop him sharing Jesus with everyone he met. Bob preached of a Jesus who so loved him that when Bob was at his lowest, Jesus picked him up and gave him a new life. He preached this message on street corners and from pulpits. It wasn't a complicated message - but, nevertheless, it was a life changing one. 

The picture above was a common joy for us - Bob preaching. A typical Open Arms service ran three or more hours. Usually an hour of singing, then whoever introduced the speaker would preach their own sermon, then a sermon and before you knew it another hour had passed. Then we'd have extended worship and ministry times, praying for anyone and everyone. When you consider that we almost always came an hour early to pray for the service (some of the most incredible prayer services of my life!) there had to be something special there. I'm not sure I could stand that much time in most services - but the time there was like nothing else I've ever experienced. It was always over way too soon.

Bob has gone, but his mark on my life continues. I know that I am far from alone. Rest well my friend, you have earned your peace.