About a year ago, I was back in Arkansas preaching at something. And on my way back to Fort Worth I stopped off at Bro. Foy Mitchell’s house. Foy was the Patriarch of that little 10 person church that I grew up in. He was one of the craziest people I have ever known, but he was crazy for Jesus.I was worred that Bro. Foy would get on to me for not working at a church that was just like the one he helped raise me in. I was working at Richland Hills, and I had heard through the grapevine that Foy now knew that RHCC had made some changes.
Foy was never one to be wanting for opinions, and he was always very vocal in what he thought. But I wanted to go by and encourage him, and even though I thought it might involve a verbal spanking, I went by his house. Brother Foy said something I’ll never forget. He said that over the years he too had changed his mind on a lot of things, and that he was proud of me. Those words scratched an itch inside me that I didn’t even know I had.
During our conversation, Bro. Foy asked me to do his funeral. Like most vestiges of my childhood, I had a hard time imagining that the day Foy would die would ever come.
It came yesterday
I know that most people will never know who Bro. Foy was. He had outlived most of his peers at this point in his life, but he has lived a life that will go on forever. And this is one of the many things, that Bro. Foy taught me, that what you really believe is going to come out in how you really live.
Yesterday’s funeral’s was one of the most diverse ones I’ve ever done. Years ago, Bro. Foy had moved to an all black school and taught math to at-risk kids, and so today, many of them showed up. It was a crowd of Cowboys and inner-city kids. Which may seem unusual, but it is the fruit of a gospel saturated life.
When I was in High School, I was content to just keep working construction and preaching time to time. But Bro. Foy thought my life could be more than that. So my senior year, he drove me to Harding University, and he offered to pay for my first semester. I found out later that he had to take out a loan to do that, but he never complained. I heard one inner city kid tell about how Bro. Foy had co-signed for his first car. He died with hardly anything, but a full auditorium of people. Because his investments weren’t in Merrill-Lynch, they were in us.
There is not many memories from my church childhood that don’t involve Bro. Foy. The first funeral I ever did (I was 14), he wrote for me. I remember sitting up behind the pulpit with him, and him telling me that I was going to do just fine. The first sermons I ever preached, he heard and encouraged me. I used to go to different churches with Foy when he would guest speak. And about 4-5 times, right before the sermon, he would turn around and tell everyone that he had decided that he wasn’t going to preach that morning…his friend Jonathan was.
And that was Bro. Foy, he was a loose cannon. You never knew what he was going to say or do. Sometimes he was a prophet, sometimes he was a pastor, a lot of times he was both. Some people didn’t like him, a lot of people loved him, but everyone I know admired him.
Donald Miller, in his book, “To Own A Dragon” used an interesting metaphor to talk about mentors. He said that having a mentor in life was kind of like how airplane pilot’s used radio contact. Pilots who were going through turbulence would radio to the pilots behind them where those pockets of turbulence was, so that they could get ready for it, or even avoid it.
I’ve thought a lot over the past couple of days, why Brother Foy asked me to do his funeral. I mean, to be honest, he wasn’t there. For all Bro Foy cared a mariachi band could have sent him into the age to come. And I know he knew that. But yesterday morning it struck me. I bet Brother Foy didn’t ask me to do this for him, I bet he did it for me.
This was his last gift. He was a man who had buried so many of the people who had made a difference in his life, and he knew how hard it could be to say goodbye. And so his last gift to me was to radio back one last time, and let me know that this kind of turbulence is out there, and that I can get through it just fine.
Thanks Brother Foy.