Since I was a friend of his, Holly had said more than once to me, “I need to meet him. I want to thank him and remind him of how he has influenced my life,” or words to that effect. Then when she heard that he and other dear friends would be at our home on Tuesday, she asked, “Do you think it would be okay if Patrick and I come up and talk with them?”
The situation was this: Quarterly, we three couples–friends for most of our adult lives–rotate to our homes where we share dinner, and a breakfast the following morning: Stevensons, Hodges, and Buxtons. Holly and Patrick Garrett, our young friends who pastor a church in Yucaipa, CA., had not met either the Stevensons or the Hodges. It was in particular Johnny Hodges that Holly wanted to meet.
Earlier in the evening, I had phoned Holly and asked if they would be coming up. “Yes,” she replied. “We’re finishing drama practice and will be up in about an hour.” Our scrumptious dinner was over. Jerry had outdone himself on smoked St. Louis style ribs, (that’s another great story in itself), we had eaten dessert and had drunk strong coffee, Johnny had removed his shoes, and we had all slumped about in delicious old-time-friend conversations when the Garretts arrived. We made the introductions, offered food and drink, then rather quickly, Holly addressed Brother Johnny Hodges.
“I don’t know if you remember all the details,” she began, and then summarized the story. Her parents, Joyce and Richard Pierce, were not serving God, but because of family connections in the church asked Brother Hodges to marry them. Then sometime later when Holly came into the family, the Pierces asked Brother Hodges to dedicate their baby daughter to the Lord. He did so, and during the ceremony he urged them to continue to take little Holly to God’s house. Thus began the conversion of the Pierce family. He became a minister, and years later started a church in Costa Mesa, CA. It was there that Patrick Garrett found God, and where he and Holly fell in love. They married, have two sons of their own, and now pastor a church in Yucaipa.
“I want you to see the fruit of your labor, Brother Hodges,” Holly said as she pointed to Patrick, who was listening intently.
A sweet presence of God surrounded us on Tuesday night in our living room as this beautiful young lady sincerely honored the man who those long ago years reached out to her parents, and thus “effected” her salvation, and those of her parents, her husband, her children, and those to whom she and Patrick minister today. I admired her for her thoughtfulness and for her sincerity. It was an unforgettable moment.
Brother Hodges is now 82 years old, declining, and in very poor health. Many do not recall the days of his youth when he was an honored district leader, and was a preacher of rare skill, anointing, and distinction. Holly, too, has no memory of those days, but she has listened to the stories, and has heard their message, and has inculcated its meaning into her very soul. May there be more Holly Garretts in this world. May there be more Johnny Hodges.