In 1 Thessalonians 4, the Apostle Paul encourages those who are missing loved ones that have passed away. He writes:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
It is interesting Paul does not suggest that Christians should not grieve fellow believers who have died. Of course, we grieve when we lose a loved one. He does tell the mourning believers, however, that their grief is considerably different than the grief of non-believers because our separation is temporary. We shall be joyfully reunited.
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
We have taken comfort in remembering this passage with the passing of our parents, siblings, beloved friends, and losses of dear friends we have labored within this ministry. A few years ago, we lost our friend and mentor, Norm Geisler, and very recently, we have lost another friend and mentor, former Jehovah’s Witness Lorri MacGregor, from whom we learned so much of value to us in helping others. This past week we have lost another dear friend and member of the MCOI Advisory Board who impacted our lives and ministry, Pastor G. Richard Fisher.
We met Pastor G. Richard Fisher in the 1990s at a Witnesses Now for Jesus Convention in New Ringgold, PA. Like us, Richard had never been a JW himself but was interested in reaching the lost in that group and many others. He was the pastor of Laurelton Park Baptist Church in Brick, NJ, for 41 years and was a researcher and writer for another apologetics ministry, Personal Freedom Outreach. It is unusual for a pastor to remain at one church for over four decades, but he was an unusual man. It seemed his interests varied widely, but there was always a central theme in his research, writing, preaching and teaching. His passion was to explain to people how the teachings and claims of cults outside the church, and sadly, many teachers within the church, square – or rather did not square – with biblical revelation. He was a voracious reader and prolific writer, but more than that, he truly cared for people. He certainly was a dear friend of ours.
In the early 1990s, we had a radio program in the Chicago area and asked Richard to be our guest. Joy and I were doing our normal joking around, but Richard was deadpan serious throughout the entire interview. We were at a conference a few months later, and I (Don) mentioned that to him. He smiled and simply said, “I was focused.” That was Richard. He was indeed focused. When we started MCOI, we asked Richard to be on our Advisory Board. He agreed and has been a very valuable asset. We spoke often by phone, sometimes 2-3 times a week, as we were researching and writing on various issues or working through thorny theological issues. Sometimes it was just to encourage and pray with one another. It is amazing how God brings people into our lives who add so much to our lives, understanding of biblical doctrine, and ministry.
Our friendship was not just with Richard. He had a terrific ministry partner in his wife of 60 years, Carol. When we would be at conferences or events with Richard and Carol, we couldn’t help but notice that as they prepared to go anywhere, they would quiz each other in a checklist fashion to be sure they hadn’t forgotten anything important. We teased them about the practice, but then we looked at each other and said, “That will probably be us in fifteen years.” Well, sure enough, it is us. Richard turned 86 this year, but our contact with him had diminished somewhat after Carol went home to be with the Lord on September 16, 2020 – and Richard himself experienced the onset of Alzheimer’s. As his daughter, April Forster noted on his 86th birthday,
Today is my dad’s 86th birthday. I’m choosing to remember him in better days, although it’s hard to believe these pictures were taken just four and five years ago! Alzheimer’s certainly is “the long goodbye,” and it is so very hard.
We know it is very difficult to lose a loved one that way. Yet, Richard is not lost to his loved ones for eternity but for a time. On the brighter side, Richard was reunited with his beloved Carol last Monday, October 24, 2022, when he went to meet his Lord face to face. Certainly, his friends and his family, first and foremost, will miss him terribly, yet it is a temporary separation and not a permanent loss. As Paul wrote, we do not “grieve as others do who have no hope.” We will meet again, and in a far better place. (For those who are interested, the info on his celebration of life is here)Ω
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