Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Real Deal

Some 35 years ago, the Cutest Community Organizer to Whom I am Married and I attended Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. The school wasn't really a good fit for us and we left after two years. However, from the experience we gained some lifelong friends, a love for the Ozarks where we now live, good biblical insights from a pastor we had, and the opportunity to be influenced by some dedicated faculty members.

Two of those faculty members were Elmer and Mary Deal. They were temporarily teaching at the college because the government of Zaire (now Congo) forced them out of the missionary work they had been involved in since 1957. While I never had classes with Mary Deal, her husband has remained all these years one of the most memorable teachers I've ever had. Mr. Deal did not bring great intellectual insights to the classroom, nor was he an intriguing theologian like one or two other faculty members I was exposed to. But Elmer Deal had heart. Heart for God, heart his students, and heart for the people of Africa. Truly a profound man.

People who look only at high-flying televangelists miss the Elmer and Mary Deals of God's kingdom. While fund raising for his African ministry, Mr. Deal would go anywhere he was invited to speak of his passion, no matter what the potential donorship might be. In one case he made the long drive at his own expense from Springfield to one Western state -- might have been Montana -- to speak at a church. It was a small church, as I recall, with limited means and after Mr. Deal spoke, they made a small contribution to him. He, in turn, saw how destitute the church's pastor was and ended up giving the offering to the pastor. And then he drove home -- again at his own expense -- confident that God would provide for his own needs. That's the character of Elmer Deal.

Last weekend, after all these years, Mr. Deal again made an impact on me. While Barbra and I attended church with her mother in Cleburne, Texas, I noticed the church had posted in a hallway correspondence with their missionaries. And one of those missionaries, still going strong was Elmer Deal! Unbelievable! How old was he, I thought? In his 80s? Sure enough, some Googling showed him at 85 and, although Mary has since passed, Mr. Deal is still ministering in Congo, having begun 164 churches over the course of his time there.

Eighty-five years old. Still serving God in the ministry to which he was called. No retirement, no long days of playing golf, no kicking back. Still that passion that keeps returning him to Africa. Eighty-five-year-young Elmer Deal is still making an impact on people's lives, including mine.

A profound man.

Thanks for the inspiration, sir. You are the real Deal.

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