After nearly 50 years as Senior Pastor of Lavon Drive Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, my childhood pastor and his sweet wife are retiring. I was able to be there this past Sunday (January 19, 2014) for his final sermons as Senior Pastor. This past week, I have been reflecting on all that Bro. Gary and Mrs. Judy have meant to me and my family over the years and I wrote them a letter. I know that their ministry has affected and blessed so many people so I wanted to share this on my blog for you all to read. LDBC IS HAVING A SPECIAL RETIREMENT CELEBRATION FOR THE COLEMAN’S ON MARCH 2ND, if you can, please plan on being in attendance!
Bro. Gary & Mrs. Judy,
I was so glad that I was able to make it to Lavon Drive this past Sunday to be there for your final day as Senior Pastor. My thirteen-year-old nephew Reid was hoping that the title of your sermon was, “I’ve Changed My Mind.” Selfishly, I was hoping that too. I am sure that you’re getting so many cards and letters right now, but I felt the need to write some of the things that are on my heart.
My family and I moved from Oklahoma City to Garland, Texas, in 1986. As an adult, looking back, I know now how difficult that move must have been for my parents. Back then, however, I was oblivious to any hardship – in fact, I was fine with the move. I was only 6 years old, and I thought it would be a new adventure. Plus, since Randy and Linda Brown and their daughters were moving to Garland as well, I had my best friend Randa moving with me.
I remember starting school at GCA. Mrs. Vicki Littleton was my second grade teacher. I always loved Great American Day at GCA. I remember being terribly intimidated by Miss Avery and Dr. McCartt, which I see now, was a good thing. I remember all of the Vacation Bible Schools where you, Bro. Gary, led us in so many fun songs. My favorite, as I am sure it was most kids favorite was “There Was A Mighty King.” To this day, singing is such a huge part of my life and my worship to the Lord – you helped set the foundation for that. I remember going to Awana and saying my verses that I had memorized, many of which I still have memorized today. Mrs. Ondrusek was my favorite teacher at GCA, and I loved singing in the school choir. I enjoyed winter camps and Sunday schools and all the in-between. I still remember crossing that stage to get my diploma from GCA and you and Bro. John standing there to hand it to me. I watched in line as my classmates received their diplomas, and I watched as you shook their hands. Bro. Gary, I was so privileged to be able to hug your neck; instead of just shaking your hand because I knew that you were my friend!
As I got older, I truly loved LDBC and GCA. Miss Avery intimidated me less, but Dr. McCartt still shook me up J. I know now that I took so much for granted, but now I am so appreciative that my parents moved us to Garland and saw how important it was to place Brian, Jana and me in a Christian school and in a God honoring church under your direction. I met lifelong friends at LDBC & GCA like Abby Lowery who came to GCA in tenth grade and we are best friends to this day and Denise Peters who I met almost the minute we moved to Texas. She would babysit us and is now a dear friend and mentor for me!
I remember many meals shared with you both. Many times after Dad would preach at LDBC and other times when you would come to Mom and Dad’s house for a Christmas party or a get together. Mrs. Judy, your stories always made me laugh, and you always had a word of encouragement for me. I cherish those memories and look forward to more!
I’ll never forget the special day that LDBC planned for my dad and our whole family. It was while the church was under construction and we were meeting in the gymnasium. Somehow, the church found Dr. Robert Bailey and we were able to meet the man who saved my dad’s life in Vietnam. The church had so many other people there as well that were a complete surprise to us. Our family and our friends were all present and it meant the world to us.
Bro. Gary and Mrs. Judy, I cannot say “thank you” enough for all that you have done. You have enriched my life and your ministry has impacted every single person in my family. Mrs. Judy, we have never viewed Bro. Gary’s ministry as just his. We know that you have stood next to him and encouraged him and you have played a major role in the life of LDBC for the past 49 years. Bro. Gary and Mrs. Judy, I want you to know that my Christian walk has been greatly impacted by you both and I am beyond grateful that even though it was difficult, my parents packed the truck and moved us to Garland, Texas, all those years ago.
I love Lavon Drive, and I am praying earnestly for the future of the church. I am praying that God’s will will be done and that the legacy of the faith, the legacy of the church and the legacy of their amazing pastor for 49 years will be well protected.
Bro. Gary and Mrs. Judy, it has been a privilege to call you pastor, heroes and friends for all of these years. I cried tears of joy, sadness and gratitude as the church gave you a standing ovation this past Sunday. My seven-year-old nephew, Case leaned over and said to me, “We are clapping forever, this is awesome!” I agreed with him that it was awesome, but I know that it is nothing compared to the applause and crowns that await you both in Glory.
I love you both and you’re in my prayers.