I am simultaneously grateful – and saddened – this morning. The sad part comes from the news that my boyhood pastor went to be with the Lord over this past weekend. Pastor Richard Schwambach lived a rich life in Evansville, Indiana. Both his gentle heart and loving smile were so noticeable to me, even at age 10. But it was his clear sermon that night, his presentation of the Gospel, that pierced my heart. It was 1963, and I had never understood the Good News before, or had ever prayed like I did that night. It was more than a church service – it was a beginning. That night, with tears streaming down my face, I gave my heart, my life – everything that I could give – to Jesus. It is a moment that is etched in my memory, and I hope it always will stay that way.
What made “Pastor RR” so special to me was his deep and passionate love for Jesus. That love was evident in so many ways. He loved to sing and worship. He loved to pray, and he loved to see people come to know Christ in a personal way. He was an early innovator in praying with perfect strangers, setting up one of the oldest “Dial-a-Prayer” phone lines in our country.
He also envisioned his own sons with that love for Jesus, and both of them became pastors and are still serving the Lord to this day. I had the privilege of going to school with the youngest son, and enjoyed a great friendship with David for years after we graduated from high school.
A couple of years ago, I was looking through some documents when I stumbled on something I had not seen in a long, long time – it was an envelope that contained my baptismal certificate, and a note from Pastor RR. As I read it, my heart was freshly warmed by my remembrance of those days. I was prompted to call him, and by God’s grace, in my first attempt, I was able to reach him on the phone. I expressed my thanks to him, for his example that he had set before me. I also thanked him for the training I received in those first years of my life, under his ministry. I was also able to catch him up on all the things that happened in our lives since Cindy and I moved to Florida in 1985. It was a grand conversation. And you know, even though I had not personally spoken with him since 1990, it was like we had never missed a beat. His enthusiasm for the Lord was still as strong as ever, and I left that conversation freshly encouraged in my relationship with Jesus, and freshly thankful that I had the privilege of knowing this man.
Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (ESV)
Pastor RR Schwambach lived that kind of life, one that is worthy of emulation.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
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