Wes Gerig died on Sunday, June 7. At his service today (June 13), I’ll have the privilege of reading this essay I wrote about a year ago. I thought it worth sharing again.
“Wesley Lee … was probably fatally injured at Grabill Wednesday evening when a truck ran over the child.” He was three. He had a skull fracture and a broken left leg, among other injuries. He survived. Eventually, the leg was amputated, though it took 85 years.
During those 85 years, he has been like Ezra, the Old Testament scribe: he studied the law, he obeyed the law, and he taught the law. In 1957, when he was in his late thirties, he started teaching at Fort Wayne Bible Institute. While he was there, he taught Bible and theology to decades of students.
I was born the year after he started teaching, a fact I reminded him of after his surgery last week. And when I started teaching at the Bible College in 1985, I was a little in awe. Wes made me welcome and treated me often as a colleague.
Several years and two jobs later, I started preaching occasionally. On one of those Sundays, I looked into the congregation and saw Wes in the third row. My heart sank. I had never studied with Wes, had never had formal Bible training. After the message, Wes thanked me specifically for one or two things I had said that he hadn’t thought about that way. It was a moment of blessing.
I saw him a couple days after his leg surgery. He was doing well. He was anticipating being able to preach at the assisted living place he lives by the following Sunday. He preaches once a month and teaches a Bible study every week. It’s what he knows how to do. It’s what he knows people need. Even in their eighties.
In a week of distraction, I needed to see Dr. Wes. I needed to be reminded that I am not a country. I am not a congregation. I am not an organization. I am not a corporation. I am one person who has the capacity to follow Jesus. Daily steps. Hourly choices. Specific words in specific conversations with specific people at specific times.
I can remember that people everywhere always reflect the image of God. They need love and they need respect. And just like Wes, I can offer what I have where I am to who I see.
So can you.