We spent most of the day on Tuesday remembering and celebrating the life of Dr. Jerry Falwell. For those of you who may not know, Cindy and I live in Lynchburg, VA. We both attended Liberty University and Rev. Falwell has played a role in our lives in many ways. We knew him as a man of great compassion with a keen sense of humorâ€¦and a vision that changed our community and, in many ways, the country at large. He was definitely a controversial figure in the American landscape but he once said, â€œIf itâ€™s not controversial, itâ€™s not worth talking about.â€ Anne Coulter wrote an interesting editorial about Jerry on May 16 that, in itself, is quite controversial.
My morning started with a simple reading, as it does every morning, from a great book entitled MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST. On this particular morning, the subject was â€œexplaining our difficulties.â€ The emphasis of the reading comes from John 17 in the Bible. This writer encourages us to realize that God is aware of everything thatâ€™s happening in the world â€“ including our individual lives. And whatever our circumstances â€“ death of a loved one, unforeseen business conflicts, illness, financial difficulties, etc. â€“ God allows these things to happen for His own purpose. These things are either making us stronger, better people or they are making us more critical and fault-finding, more insistent on having our own way. The direction depends solely on where we are in our relationship with God. In John 17, Jesus asked God for â€œonenessâ€ with Himself and, when we understand Godâ€™s purpose, we will not become small-minded and cynical. Even death has a greater purpose and many lessons for all of us.
Cindy and I were at Thomas Road Baptist Church around 11am. The city was expecting a very large turnout so security (17 law enforcement agencies) was everywhere trying to keep traffic from becoming a problem.
They were expecting many dignitaries as well â€“ a delegation from Israel, a representative from the White House, politicians, entertainers, corporate CEOâ€™s, etc. The people at Virginia Aviation were prepared for an influx of private jets, most scheduled to arrive that morning. Daniel Gibson, supervisor in charge of operations for 20 years, said this is probably â€œthe biggest gathering of corporate planes that I can remember.â€ Planes came from San Diego, Miami, Alabama, Oklahoma, Los Angeles and Europe. Even if the plane carried a politician or move star (Mel Gibson was rumored to be attending), know one would know. In total, there were more than 10,000 people. And yes, even the crazy Phelps clan from Topeka, KS made a protest appearance â€“ anywhere thereâ€™s a camera and a crowd, these guys love to stir it up.
Itâ€™s kind of strange that so many people would show up for one manâ€™s funeral. One of my friends put it best when he wrote to me, â€œFor all his fame, Iâ€™m sure it also seems to be a surprise that youâ€™re now â€˜sharingâ€™ the loss of your pastor with the rest of the world.â€
The church parking lot was full of national media trucks; helicopters were flying overhead and newspaper photographers were everywhere.
The crowd was so large that it wrapped around the building â€“ thousands and thousands of people. Buses were transporting hundreds of people to the overflow location â€“ the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University. As Cindy and I walked the line of people, we found my brother and his family and joined them. We all made it into the main sanctuary and it was very cool to be able to sit together to remember a man who has had a significant impact on our entire family.
As people were streaming in, there was a memorial video being shown on the large screens on each side of the platform â€“ images of Jerry with his family, friends and personal moments in his life. These images emphasized the very normal life he lived in the midst of his â€œfame.â€ Many of his friends shared their stories with the crowd; his daughter spoke for the family and thanked everyone for their prayers and support; and Franklin Graham and Jerry Vines closed the service with comforting and inspiring words.
Dr. Jerry Falwell
August 11, 1933 â€“ May 15, 2007
This faithful servant of God will be remembered most as a beloved husband, father, grandfather, pastor and educator.