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Reflections | Dr. Leighton Ford (Mentoring)

In everything give thanks

June 12, 2014

As our (American) thanksgiving time came I thought often of my long time friend, John Wesley White.

You may know John’s name as an evangelist with Billy Graham across the years. I knew him first as a classmate and fellow Canadian at Wheaton College. We prayed together almost daily, played hockey (he much better than I) against local schools – and dreamed about our future in ministry.

Most important: – John introduced me (at a hockey game!) to a lovely farm girl from North Carolina – who became my wife.

For many years John itinerated on his own preaching across North American and the United Kingdom, in large and out of the way places, often with very little income, led many to Christ, and earned two PhDs.

Then about sixteen years ago on the very eve of a campaign he had a major stroke, and as he says was “suddenly silenced.” Although his mind was alert, his writing skillful, his attitude positive, speech was limited.

When I occasionally called he would laugh, say “Yes, yes”, that was all, except he would end every talk with four words as clear as a bell: “Jesus Christ is Lord”!

This summer Jeanie and I went to visit him and Kathleen in Toronto. She was recovering from an illness and they were in two small rooms in a nursing facility. Several of his family were present.

We reminisced a while, then as we got ready to leave I said, “John, I have always been moved that somehow, in spite of that stroke, you can always say, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord.”

At that sat up straight and in staccato phrases – almost robot-like said,

In-ev-ry-thing-give-thanks-for-this-is-the-will-of-God-in-Christ-con-cerning- you

Then his eyes moving across the circle he said,

Betty – Linda – Kathleen – Jeanie – Leighton – and me

How he had to discipline himself to be able to say those words of Paul! What practice over and over it must have taken!

Since we were there his lovely Irish lass Kathleen has gone to heaven.

I am sure, for all the loss, John Wesley White, is still saying those words to himself and others.

I remember him as an eloquent and unusual preacher. One suddenly silenced.

But no sermon he preached could have been better than those words he spoke to us, that hot summer day, in that tiny room in Toronto.

John, I am seeking to remember – in everything give thanks – and I give thanks for you!

Your friend of the years, Leighton


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