My grandfather, Willis Reed, always loomed larger than life to me. Whether it was at our house for dinner after church, at their home for the holidays, or seeing him preach at church, Grandpa alway seemed to be a gigantic figure to me. To this day, stories of him are told to me by others as they greet me at church or when I see someone who knew him well. He wasn’t an extraordinary preacher, he didn’t tell the best stories and he wasn’t the life of the party. It was the little things that he did consistently that made him stand out. He would shake every hand after church. He visited two hospitals every day. He had a smile for all he met. And he loved being a pastor. There was no doubt about that. I was assured of that at the viewing of his funeral as thousands came to pay their respects. We stood in line for hour after hour listening to stories of how Grandpa had affected peoples’s lives.
And as large as he had been in life – he grew larger yet.
Willis Reed truly loved Jesus and did all in his power to live like him. That’s why he visited the hospitals every day. That’s why he conducted thousands of weddings and funerals. It’s why people came to him and confided in him and felt like he was part of their family. They loved him because he loved them. Just like Jesus. I was so proud to have him as a grandfather. Even if I had to share him with all of Elgin.
These newspaper clippings are just a couple of the dozens that came out after his death. They embody some of the feelings that the town had for him. As you continue to read his letters and follow along on this journey, you’ll see that his time in the army during World War 2 was forming him into the man God needed him to be. As dark as it was, it was for a purpose. Grandpa had a card written that he passed out to people that he would meet. This is what the card says:
If you are going to be used by God, He will take you thru a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all; they are meant to make you useful in His hands and to enable you to understand what happens in other souls so you will never be surprised at what you come across.
In the letters that follow this post, Grandpa meets with so many men who cannot make sense of all that the world is going through, and they were broken as humanity tore itself apart for six terrible years. During those unimaginable times, Grandpa found his calling to serve others in the name of Christ.
It’s been 20 years since my Grandfather went home. May we all learn to live life with the joy of Christ directing our steps as he did.
September 27, 2017