I have been extraordinarily blessed in my life and ministry to have known-with a fair degree of closeness-many of the major figures in our church. The late Elder C.D. Brooks was my pastor as a little boy in Cleveland, Ohio. The late Elder E.E. Cleveland’s wife was a good friend of my late mother; Elder Cleveland once told me that while he wasn’t “sure about” me-his wife liked me, so that was enough to at least get me in the door with him. That led to a special relationship with both of them that I cherish to this day.
Elder C.E. Bradford and his wife were friends of my parents and my late aunt was a church school teacher in his school in St. Louis. My parents would stay in the Bradfords home when they would travel to New York and Chicago when the Bradfords lived there. Elder C.E. Dudley’s youngest son is married to my oldest sister. I got to work with Elder E.C. Ward when I was a young Pastor in South Central. One of the greatest thrills of my life-to this day-was as a young Pastor in my twenties being invited to preach at the Oakwood Church and being introduced by Elder Ward.
I thought about that when I heard that another iconic figure-Elder Walter L. Pearson, had passed away. Elder Pearson was also my Pastor in the old Glenville SDA Church in Cleveland, at the very beginning of his ministry.
He came to to Cleveland to work with another towering figure, the late Elder H.L. Cleveland, Sr., (who is profiled-along with Elder Bradford- in our new legacy series that appears later on in this issue), as Elder Cleveland’s Associate Pastor. Later on, Elder Cleveland added Dr. Charles Drake, whom became a Conference President-that was quite a team!
Elder Pearson-who even then was an outstanding preacher-was assigned to the youth of our church. Under his leadership, we had all kinds of activities, socials, basketball games, out of town trips, Youth Days (I had never heard of “Youth Day” prior to Elder Pearson’s arrival).
He had us put on this play. Though that was 1,000 years ago, I still remember it to this day-“The Trial of Mr. TV”. He placed me in the starring role as “Mr.TV”. I am sure I overacted and hammed it up-but it was a big success.
Elder Pearson even organized the young people to go out Ingathering and to help the church reach its Ingathering Goal. Elder Cleveland called the young people “Pearson’s Raiders”. I remember being so proud that I exceeded my goal of $25-which was a lot of money back then.
I remember that if you raised $100, you were a “Jasper Wayne” (you are really an old-fashioned Adventist if you know who he was); Elder Pearson was such an inspiring leader that we had young people who were “Jasper Waynes”.
After a while, I went away to school and Elder Pearson moved on to his next assignment and ultimately to a ministry that took him all over the world as a gifted preacher and evangelist. But he had made an indelible impression on me-even more than I realized. His interest in me sparked my interest in working with young people. Just like him, my first assignment was as a Youth Pastor. I tried to do the same things in that church that I had seen him do. Like him, I became a Conference Youth Director. And once again, what I had seen him do became a guide for the things that I did in that position.
I never became the preacher that he was but he influenced me there as well. And one of my greatest joys as a Pastor was to bring my former Pastor, Elder Pearson, to preach at my church.
For many years, Elder Pearson was the Speaker/Director for Breath of Life Television Ministries, where he was the Lord’s instrument for introducing thousands of men and women around the world to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. When poor health caused him to step down, he was succeeded by the current Speaker/Director, Dr. Carlton P. Byrd.
While I was still in South Central, I had the privilege of bringing Dr. Byrd to his current other responsibility, that as the Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University SDA Church. I never shall forget the day I introduced Dr. Byrd to Oakwood-it was a major event.
As Dr.Byrd was finishing his stirring introductory sermon, Mrs. Edmond and I had to leave for the airport to catch a plane for our next responsibility. As we were rushing to catch our flight, I looked down at my phone. It was a text from Elder Pearson. He told me how proud he was.
Even though I was no longer the young man that he had pastored so many years ago, I was not too old (and-am still not too old) to feel good that the Lord had allowed me to make Elder Pearson proud of me. He was a big part of making me who I was. I am thankful that who I was made him proud.
I thanked him but I am not sure that I ever really told him what a major role he played in my life. Part of that is because until I wrote this article, I never fully realized how great his influence on my life was.
But I plan to tell him that one day very soon. I am sure Elder Pearson would like for you to be there, too.