Monday, February 05, 2007

Perryman and Vivian Denison

For four years (1995-1998), Mandy and I lived in Lake City, Florida. It was where our first preaching ministry occurred. It was in Lake City that we built our first house together. It was during our time in Lake City that our first child was born.

But the greatest memory of our time in Lake City centered around the friendships we made. One of those friendships was the relationship forged with Perryman and Vivian Denison. For many years, Perryman preached for the largest Church of Christ in Jacksonville, Florida. When Vivian's mom grew old and required care, Perryman and Vivian moved to Lake City and it was there that a deep, lifelong bond was formed.

For the duration of our time in Lake City, Perryman and I met every Wednesday to study God's Word and to share insight and wisdom. I learned so much sitting at his feet. Despite his retirement from full-time ministry, Perryman kept an office in their home and continued to study and prepare as though he were still in full-time ministry. I was privileged to meet with him in his study once a week. We prayed. We studied. We shared. And I grew immensely.

Yesterday, the Central Church of Christ had a special day to honor Perryman, who preached the sermon, upon the celebration of his 86th birthday (he and Mandy share the same birthday, February 3). Though separated by some 2,587 miles and three time zones, I had the privilege of introducing Perryman via a letter read to the assembly by Dr. Michael Stone, current Preaching Minister for the Central church. Here is the text of the letter I wrote in honor of Perryman:

Dear Central Church family,

Greetings from the other side of the United States, from Fresno, California specifically. Mandy and I so wish we could be with you today to celebrate Perryman’s 86th birthday.

When we came to Lake City twelve years ago, Mandy and I made an immediate bond with Perryman and Vivian. They hosted us in their home on our interview and early on, we discovered we had a lot in common since Perryman and Mandy share the same birthday (February 3rd).

During our three-plus years with you, Perryman took me under his wing. I’m sure you’ll remember that every Wednesday, Perryman and I met together to pray and study God’s Word together. I cannot even begin to tell you the ways that time with Perryman impacted my life and ministry! I can honestly say, without reservation, I learned more about the Bible and God’s will for my life and ministry sitting at the feet of Perryman than I did in my four years of college training at Harding University.

When I think of Perryman, I think of a tireless servant of the Lord. I think of a man with a passion for the truth who is able to convey his insight with grace. I think of a man with a big heart for the lost, the least, and those learning the way of Jesus.

There have been many times in my ministry when I’ve asked myself, “How would Perryman handle this?” “What would Perryman say in this situation?” My life and my ministry have been eternally impacted by his example.

Paul admonished the Corinthian church to “follow me because I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11.1). In the same way, throughout my ministry and for the remainder of my life, my aim is to follow the example given me by Perryman, because Perryman follows Jesus in an authentic, transparent manner.

Perryman, I wish I could be there at Central today to join in the celebration of your 86th birthday. I’m guessing your uncomfortable by all the attention you are receiving, but because you have impacted all of our lives, you are most deserving. I think I speak for many when I say, we are eternally grateful to God for your impact on our lives.

With Jesus’s Love,

Jim Gardner
Fresno, California

Today, as I pray, rest assured I will thank God for sending Perryman and Vivian Denison into our lives. Their influence is impossible to overlook in our ministry and our marriage.

Who has influenced your walk of faith? Why not take some time today to send them a letter, give them a call, and pray thanksgiving to God for the person(s) who most influenced your faith.