It was 1984, the year of major transition for my life. I bought a ring from a guy who asked me if I had found a preacher to marry Paula (Paul and Briana's Mom) and me. We were both still drug addict and alcoholic respectively and had been married a couple of times, but we were seeking to find another way. He mentioned that we should try his preacher, Bill Long at the Sandy Springs Church of Christ.
We interviewed with him for several hours before he said, "Well I know the Lord will forgive your past, and so will I". At the same time he took us to witness a baptism and, being raised a Catholic, I wanted to know where all the statues and crucifixes were in the sanctuary. He said we would talk later and explain it all.
It was his grace filled acceptance of us that day that led to both our conversions to Christ, and my own personal desire to extend that same grace to others. A few years later, I heard the story of he and his brother Jesse and began to realize what pioneers of faith these brothers were. If not for Bill, my life would be in the tank, but it was not until I came to Campus Church that I realized both these men had the same accepting and encouraging mentality.
Jesse would often stop me in church to say how pleased he was with ATB. Then he would speak to those in our group as if they were members of his own family. One time I got to speak with him alone in his office as he waited for Marilyn to deliver his dinner and he spoke of his love for the lost and how Campus should be a place of comfort for all types of people who want to follow the Lord.
These are just words, but when you look around at how many churches reject the "sinners and tax collectors" of this modern day, you see how the heart of both these men has contributed to bringing many, many folks to the Lord. They embody forgiveness, love, and acceptance.
As we mourn Jesse's passing, we pick up his torch to carry it forward with the same spirit he carried it with. It is our charge, as Dusty likes to say, to take the work Jesse has founded and build upon it with his same charisma and vision. It is an understatement to say that his vision was empowered by the Lord himself.
We will miss you brother, but as someone said, you are now dancing up there with the Lord. For your legacy, your spirit and your example of how a man should live his life, we thank God for you and hope you will be proud of how we run with that torch you lit.
You have run the race, and you have won!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.