Even though it was nearly 45 years ago, I can still hear his voice: “Joseph Griffin-like Griffin Shoe Polish”.
It was my first pastoral assignment. I was the Associate Pastor and the Senior Pastor was introducing me to the church board. I was very young and it is only as I have gotten older that I realize how very much I did not know-about pastoring, about people, about life-about much of anything.
I was extremely blessed, however, to be assigned to places early in my ministry where people were mostly tolerant of how little I knew. Joseph Griffin was one of a number of people like that in my first pastoral assignment in St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands.
He was one of the elders in the Shiloh SDA Church there. Later on, he became the First Elder, a position he held for many years. He was a stalwart-one of those faithful people around whom you can build a church.
I have been gone from St. Thomas for years and years and some time ago, Elder Griffin left, too-to live in Huntsville with his daughter. But even after all the years I have been gone, I cannot think of Shiloh without thinking of Elder Griffin. They were inextricably linked-like peas and rice (which I learned to eat when I was in St. Thomas-or ”rice and peas”-depending on which island you were from).
Almost every day in my prayer and devotion time, I thank the Lord for all of the privileges that He has seen fit to give me and for all of the nice people who helped me to get those opportunities, or who gave me those opportunities.
Because I have been in ministry 44 years, many of the people who helped me and were kind to me at the beginning of my ministry are now gone. A few days ago, Elder Griffin-that is what I always called him-joined the ranks of those who helped me get started in ministry but have come to the end of their lives on this earth. His family have asked me to be a part of the funeral service and I am honored to do so.
Elder Griffin’s passing reminded me again that-in the words of one of my mentors, Elder Alvin Kibble, I “owe so much, to so many”. And because I am old now, a lot of the people that I owe are either older or gone. And I need to do a better job of reminding them that I have not forgotten what they did for my life and for my ministry-that I have not forgotten their kindness and their encouragement. That I have not forgotten what they gave me -especially in the embryonic stages of my ministry-when I did not have the experience or the expertise to give very much to them.
But that did not seem to matter much to people like Joseph Griffin. He-and a lot of other people in my early years in ministry in St. Thomas, Covington and Frankfort, Kentucky and Memphis, Tennessee, treated me like I was already the Pastor I hoped one day to become.
Is there an individual-some individuals-who have positively impacted your life? Are there people who helped you, become you? Are there people in your life who helped you, to become you, because they believed in you-even beforeyou believed in you?
My Pastor in my late teens at the Southeast SDA church in Cleveland, Ohio, was a man by the name of Elder K.S. Smallwood-“K.S.” stood for King Solomon-that was his name. King Solomon Smallwood.
For reasons known only to him and God, Elder Smallwood saw ministerial possibility in me. In all candor, I felt the call of God on my life, but I was too busy running from God and after one of the young ladies in my church-who shall remain nameless (I was ultimately unsuccessful in running in both directions. But…that actually wound up being a good thing; I ended up being God’s minister and Jill Edmond’s husband-the two best things that ever happened to me!).
In any event, Elder Smallwood decided to make me a Church Elder-even though I was 18 and the other Elders were elderly-very fine men, who I had admired for years-but very old men. He even gave me my first preaching assignment.
I still remember that first sermon-and even though it probably wasn’t very memorable, Elder Smallwood and the rest of the church was very affirming. He helped me to stop running from my calling and years later-here I am.
Elder Griffin’s passing has reminded me again, there are some people like Elder Smallwood that I need to call and thank while they can still hear me thank them. I suspect there are some Joseph Griffins and Elder King Solomon Smallwoods in your life, too. Why don’t you pick up the phone or go to your computer and call, or email or text them and tell them how much you appreciate what they did in your life? I imagine that it will make their day.
Don’t forget to remember to thank your Joseph Griffins and Elder King Solomon Smallwoods while you still can.
Dana Edmond, ORCM Executive Director