Three years ago, our entire family gathered in Salinas, California in honor of my Grandma Distler’s 85th birthday. Grandma was declining physically and her one wish was to have the entire family together for her birthday celebration. No one thought she would live much longer. We had a wonderful time together as a family and when it was time to head to the airport to return home, we all said our good-byes to Grandma with full confidence that this would be the last time we would see Grandma this side of heaven.
To my surprise, Grandma was still alive and very coherent in Salinas as we made our plans to return to California this summer for me to speak at Brethren National Youth Conference and then attend our Adult Conference both which will be held in southern California. I was thrilled with the prospect of being able to take a couple extra days after conference to head to northern California to see my Grandma Distler one more time. Unfortunately for me, Grandma went home to heaven in her sleep during the morning hours of Saturday, June 24th. Today I am preaching her funeral in Sutter, Illinois.
Though I am very disappointed that I will not be able to see my Grandma one final time this summer, I am very content in knowing that Grandma is in heaven today, along side of my dear Grandpa Distler who was a pastor for over 40 years and who is a very large reason why I am in ministry today. Best of all, I know that she is with Jesus whom she dearly loved and faithfully served as a pastor’s wife for nearly five decades.
As I think back, I am forever grateful for the impact that my Grandma had on my life. When my Grandma met my Grandpa, he was not a believer. It was through my Grandma’s father, my Great-Grandpa Smith, who was also a pastor, that my Grandpa came to know Jesus. In fact, dozens and dozens of the hundreds of books in my library in my office at church were my Grandpa Distler’s. He personally wrote in each of them that he was giving them to me, his grandson. As I look through them, I find that many of them also have a hand written note that they were given to my Grandpa Distler by my Great-Grandpa Smith. By the way, my dad today is the part-time Pastor of Education at Crossroads Baptist Church in Lakeland, Florida. That’s four generations of pastors…my Great Grandpa Smith; my Grandpa Distler; my dad; and me. What a legacy.
By the way, when my dad first met my mom she was not a believer either. It was through the ministry of my Grandpa Distler that my mom came to know Jesus. And it was through my grandparent’s youngest daughter, my Aunt Ruth, that I came to know Jesus. My Aunt led me to Christ at a Child Evangelism Fellowship sponsored Good News Club that she was teaching in Akron, Ohio in 1970 when I was five years old.
So as you can see, my Grandma had quite an impact on my life. And someday when I get to heaven I will get to see and fellowship with my Great Grandpa Smith and my Grandpa and Grandma Distler as well as my Grandpa Williams (my mom’s dad) who accepted the Lord just prior to his death years ago. Good-Bye, Grandma! I love you!