December 2019 Member Letter
December 5, 2019
Here in the United States, we have a holiday each year called Thanksgiving. The idea of giving God thanks for blessings is certainly a biblical one. Even though the current celebration is often more about self-indulgence, thereby missing the real point of being thankful, it doesn’t take away from the need to express appreciation for what God has given us. This year my wife and I had extended family from El Salvador who joined us for a traditional meal of turkey, dressing and all the trimmings. We enjoyed the food and drink, but above all we enjoyed the time together.
This year, just a few days prior to Thanksgiving, we were informed of the death of Phyllis Gore, wife of longtime minister Bruce Gore. Phyllis died after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. The funeral was on Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving in Buford, Georgia, which is just north of Atlanta. Doug Horchak and I flew to Atlanta the evening before with the desire to encourage and comfort the family. It was a very sad occasion, but, because of our understanding of God’s plan, our grief was tempered by the special hope God has given us. Paul wrote: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). He wrote a few verses later, “So encourage one another with these words” (verse 18, Darby’s translation).
I believe many of us have been in a situation where we desired to give encouragement to those who were suffering and found that instead we were inspired by the example and words of those same people! This was certainly true of the Gore family. Their faith and strength in the face of this profound loss were inspiring. Of course, having known Mr. Gore since 1972, I was not surprised. He displayed what I had always seen from him—faith and humility in the face of trial. I know he is suffering from the loss of his wife of 53 years, but his faith and his words were inspiring to Mr. Horchak and me.
Phyllis Gore, having come into the Church in the early 1960s, was one of those pioneers in the faith who is now awaiting the resurrection. She and Bruce met at Ambassador College and were married in 1966. It was at that time that they began their ministerial journey. Pastoral work took them to churches in a number of states, including Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, Kansas, Louisiana, California, Arizona and Alabama, before they returned finally to Georgia. They had served more than 50 years in the full-time ministry before retirement in 2016.
Loved by so many, Bruce and Phyllis Gore were a very effective ministerial team and willingly went wherever they were asked to serve. The children described their mother in a program that was distributed at the funeral: “Phyllis Gore: wife, mother, grandmother, sister, servant, and friend. She was a gift from God, and we will carry her love and shining example with us for always.”
Phyllis’ death, just a few days prior to Thanksgiving, when so many of us were planning to be with our families, was very sobering to me. I read the tribute written by the children, and I was especially touched by this portion: “Our mom loved to read and camp and enjoy nature. Her favorite time of day was her morning cup of coffee and Bible study. She loved serving in the ministry and she loved listening to people. She genuinely cared and loved others. She attended services even when she was suffering. When it was finally physically impossible for her to attend, she said, ‘Tell the brethren I love them and miss them dearly.’ She would watch webcast services from home.”
Returning home from the funeral to observe Thanksgiving with our three daughters, their husbands, our grandchildren and extended family was especially meaningful to me this year. I love my family and truly believe they are all gifts from God. The things that have greatest value in our lives today are not houses, cars or things that we can buy, but our families, both physical and spiritual.
The Bible is strikingly clear on this point. Paul writes about this in the same chapter quoted earlier: “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). God’s nature is one of love (1 John 4:8, 16), often defined as outgoing concern for others. He instructs us to love one another (John 13:35). Love for God, love for our physical family and love for the brethren—our spiritual family—are all incredibly important. To know the truth of God is the greatest blessing any one of us could ever be given in this lifetime. Sharing that truth with those of like mind creates a bond that cannot easily be broken.
I want to offer condolences to the Gore family on the loss of a remarkable lady, but I also want to thank them for their inspiring example in the face of tragedy. I would ask that we, as brothers and sisters in the faith, pray for God to comfort them, as well as the many others who have lost loved ones in the past few months. Losing a loved one to death is truly one of the most difficult things we have to endure in this life.
I also thank God every day for all of you. We are walking together as children of God in this most incredible journey. We are firstfruits of God’s Kingdom, and we will play a vital role in the future of mankind. We have been called now to become kings and priests in the Millennium (Revelation 5:10), assisting Jesus Christ in creating a new world.
This was a sobering and meaningful Thanksgiving for me. I hope I never take any of my family or any of my brethren for granted. Love for each other is the most valuable gift we can give. To the brethren in the United States, I hope you had a meaningful Thanksgiving! And to those who live outside the United States, I hope you pause each day to give God thanks for the most valuable gifts that we all have, the love of God, our families (both physical and spiritual), and God’s wonderful truth that gives us hope for the future.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,