I first met Wally Cold when he came to hear me preach back when I was the Pastor of Evangelism and Community Groups at Faith Bible Church. He was part of the Chilli Bible search committee, and he had to come incognito, since I hadn't yet told the church I was looking for another position. After the service was over, Karen and I joined him and the other members of the team at Chili's for a long lunch. I liked them all instantly, but I felt the deepest connection with Wally. He struck me as a wise man who had come to his wisdom the hard way, but who nevertheless had a strong love for Christ and His Word.
For the next several months, I had many other opportunities to speak with him, both in interview contexts as well as later, after I had been offered and accepted the call to CBC. We talked about the church and the hopes and dreams of its people. We talked about fishing. We talked about friends of his that he was hoping I could influence toward Christ. We talked about a lot of the mundane details involved in moving a pastor from one church to another.
In all this talking, we built a friendship. We always talked about going fishing together, catching bass out at some private pond. We never made that trip, but he did take my sons and I for a ride in his bass boat out on Lake Thunderbird, even letting the boys drive sitting on his lap. He always had a kind word and a firm handshake for me each Sunday and always sought to encourage me in my ministry. When criticism came my way, he was quick to gently point out the truth and help me to reject anything that was false. He believed in me, loved me like a brother, and held me up in prayer. Who could ask for more than that?
Two months ago, Wally got cancer. Or more accurately, the doctors discovered cancer after he had been struggling with illness for months. Lately, he had asked me to send him copies of the sermons in the week after I gave them. He and Clarice couldn't come to the services anymore with his health failing, but they would get the sermon and listen to them on Sunday mornings so they could feel like they were worshiping with us. Then he would send me a long email offering critique and encouragement. He worried that I would get puffed up with too many compliments, but he loved me and God's Word, so the criticisms were small and few while the compliments overflowed.
This week, after his 2nd round of chemo, his health failed. He was in and out of consciousness, but I was able to tell him that I loved him and hear "I love you too." When I told him that he would have to tell me what the City looks like, he told me I already knew (it's there in the Scriptures!). Now he knows far better than I do. This good and godly man turned his final lap today. He passed through the door and into the presence of the Savior this afternoon at 1:05 p.m. Rest in peace, my friend.