Yesterday one of the people who has inspired me over the years died.
His name was Tom.
I moved to Preston as a young student over 25 years ago. I didn’t really know anything about Preston, but I did know some people. These people helped me to find a local church where I could fit in, and I’m still part of that church.
One of the things that attracted me to this community was a set of handshakes. There was a particular set of handshakes from people who had hands that were big, rough and sturdy – hands that had done a solid days work over a number of years.
There was also a set of smiles and twinkles in eyes that talked of a life of purpose and a deep knowledge of the important things.
Tom was one of those people.
Tom’s background was completely different to mine.
He was a farmer and I was young student, the son of an engineer.
He’d lived all his life amongst his extended family. My family was, and still is, scattered all over the world.
He was from a different era. I suppose I’ve always thought of him as old, but your perception of old changes as you get older yourself.
He’d known hardship and heartache that I have never experienced.
Tom was an inspiration.
I’d sit in prayer meetings and listen to Tom pray. He’d talk to his Father God in a way that spoke of an intimacy I craved.
I’d watch Tom in church as he sung praise to his Father God and see his face light up. He wasn’t just singing words he was worshipping.
I’d speak to Tom and he’d show a knowledge about my family’s life that demonstrated deep care for people beyond his immediate concerns.
On one occasion Sue and I joined Tom on a trip to Glasgow where we were to minister to a small church. Tom had taken the young pastor there under his wing showing a commitment to join people in their ventures.
I’ll miss that handshake and I’ll miss that smile and I pray that my life might follow Tom’s inspirational example.