A Tribute to Jerilyn
Thirty Years ago today I took Jerilyn Gaspard as my wife. Jerilyn and I first met while I was leading music for a Student Led Revival in Pine Prairie, LA. The story is told that Jerilyn came to the revival because she was dating the preacher and her Granny told her that she came to see the wrong guy when I came out on the platform with the choir. This revival was one of many being held in Louisiana to not only raise funds for summer mission opportunities for students but even more importantly it was to allow students to testify of the work Jesus was doing in our life as college students with the hope that many throughout the state would come to Jesus. While we met in Pine Prairie, Louisiana and went to college together we did not start dating until seven years after we first met each other.
Our dating relationship began during the latter part of August of 1980 when I asked her to be my date for a friends wedding. I was now in Seminary with about 18 months left to finish seminary and Jerilyn was a year away from her college graduation. Since we were students and I was serving on a church staff our dating relationship was largely spent with family, friends, church members and classmates. We did have some time together where Jerilyn helped me study for my seminary classes and I spent time listening to her practice the piano which seem to be an encouragement to her because she was a piano performance major and she had to spend hours practicing in preparation for her senior recital. (I will add here that I still enjoy hearing her practice and play the piano.) Jerilyn continues to teach piano today and the Lord has used her to not only teach students piano but has used her to help students grow in their personal relationships with Jesus while developing exceptional piano skills.
We also had some wonderful opportunities on a Saturday to walk along the country roads near her parents or visiting some people that were special to Jerilyn. We also had the opportunity to enjoy walks through the streets of New Orleans where I was in Seminary when she was able to come my way for a weekend.
We dated just a few months before we became engaged. During our dating relationship and engagement we were blessed to enjoy special moments with friends from Oak Park Baptist Church where I was serving on staff and those friends have become life long friends along with friends from the church where her dad served as a pastor and many of our college classmates and my seminary classmates.
Upon marrying we moved into an apartment on the West Bank of New Orleans until we were called to FBC of Pensacola. We were called to FBC Pensacola in the fall of 1981 and I started in January 1982 while at the same time commuting from New Orleans to Pensacola for two month to finish the last of my Seminary classes. I graduated from NOBTS in May 1982.
Our days on staff of FBC Pensacola were foundational to our ministry as we were bless to have people that loved us, cared for us and were willing to help me learn the ropes of working with volunteers. The staff members were a group of loving caring people that enjoyed working and playing together. We thought we would be at this church for the rest of our lives because we loved the people and the city. However, during the late summer we received a knock at our door from a man by the name of Bob Cook who was working with the Florida Baptist Convention and he wanted to visit with us about coming to work with him on the staff of the Florida Baptist Convention. We were also expecting our first child in the fall of 1984 so while the invitation was intriguing we had to weigh a lot of decisions including living people whom we had grown to love, moving further from our family and uprooting within just a few months before our first born entered this world. We went through the process and as we did we believe it was God’s will for us to leave FBC Pensacola and move to Jacksonville, Fla to work with the State Convention.
We were in Jacksonville just two months before our first-born son John Grady came into this world. He was a blessing to us and quickly became a favorite son to many folks, as he and Jerilyn would go with me all over the state of Florida as I worked with churches to develop ministries to Families, Singles and Senior Adults. We were enjoying the opportunities of meeting many new friends and helping churches prepare for the shift in adult population with single adults and prepare for the coming age wave while challenging families to invest in their nuclear family. We were blessed to live in wonderful neighborhood, became members of a church plant and were enjoying everyday God was giving to us when within just two short years we were called away from the convention work.
We left Florida after being called to serve on the staff of Germantown Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. We knew that God was leading us and we continued to use the things we have been learning to build a Single Adult and Young Professional Ministry at GBC. We were also called upon to build a ministry to those who were widowed and divorced and it was through this ministry we became friends with the Hannaford’s who continue to be friends after twenty-five years along with many other friends. The Lord used us here to lead many people to Jesus. In fact the days we were at GBC the Lord was using the faithful preaching of our Senior Pastor and the intentional witnessing and discipleship ministry of the staff and lay leaders to see people baptized and disciple week after week. We were very content with being at GBC when we received a call from Horace Kerr with the Sunday School Board now called LifeWay asking if he could come and have breakfast with us. We knew and loved Horace so we said sure we would love to have breakfast with you. We were not expecting the conversation to go the way it went when he asked us to consider coming to work with him and the larger Sunday School Board team. I was honored by the invitation and at the same time could hardly believe what was happening. The short side of the story we went through the process of being interviewed and joined the staff of the Sunday School Board in August 1988.
We were glad to be in Nashville and serving at the Sunday School Board. We made lots of friends in Nashville and quickly found it to be our home. In 1990 our second son Jody was born and tin 1997 my parents moved in with us after closing up their business and home in New Orleans. Our sons made their Professions of Faith in Jesus in Nashville, made commitments to full time ministry during these years along with them both graduating from High School in Hendersonville, TN. We are grateful the Lord allowed us to live and enjoy Nashville for twenty years before my position at LifeWay was eliminated.
In January 2009 we moved to Louisiana where I serve as the Associate Pastor of FBC Covington. I have responsibilities here for assisting the Senior Pastor in Ministry and Preaching Responsibilities, Supervising the Music and Worship teams, Media Team, Evangelism and Missions Minister and the Congregational Care Minister along with other daily responsibilities as assigned by the Senior Pastor. In addition I am giving pastoral Leadership to the Celebrate Recovery Ministry and involved in one-to-one discipleship ministry.
I share this overview as part of my tribute to Jerilyn. She has been a faithful wife and mother while I served on local church staff and served many churches through my years in denominational work.
First, I can say that on this our thirtieth wedding anniversary we are the best of friends, marriage partners, committed parents and co-laborers in the work of God’s Kingdom. We are blessed to pray together, read god’s Word together, and we often have opportunities to witness to others together about the love of Jesus.
Second, We are grateful to the Lord for blessing us with two sons who walk in truth. We are grateful for Grady’s wife Ann and we continue to pray for the lady God has for Jody. Our sons and daughter-in-law are faithful servants of Jesus through the local church and we thank God for the work He is doing through them.
Third, Jerilyn was a wonderful daughter-in-law to my parents. I will always be grateful for the love and support she gave to my dad and mom. She helped me honor them throughout all of their days on this earth.
Fourth, Jerilyn has been the best encourager a husband could have as I went off to be the breadwinner for our family. She was always supportive my travelling while serving on denominational staff or ready to provide refreshments for any evening meetings I would have while serving on local church staff. She has always been faithful and supportive of the work God had me doing. She was always eager to fix a meal for one or for one hundred people we would have at our home who were in town for business meetings at LifeWay. She would often fix meals at LifeWay Conference Centers that fed fifty to one hundred people.
In addition to her cooking skills one could often find Jerilyn in a group praying for bosses, my co-laborers and me as we served churches through LifeWay.
When I came home to tell her my position was being deleted at LifeWay she wept with me because she knew how much I liked working for LifeWay and their networks and customers we call churches. We will never regret the time spent because we were blessed to meet many people and build some life long friendships. The Lord used me to evangelize and disciple many folks through our twenty years in Nashville.
Upon beginning the search for new work Jerilyn and I prayed for the Lord to open a door where we could take the things God has taught me and be able to use for His glory. In the midst of praying for a new place of ministry Jerilyn was diagnosed with Breast Cancer the very first day I was no longer employed at LifeWay. We thought about the timing and we could say three years removed we have no regrets. She walked through that season with a love for God that challenged all of us in our family.
Jerilyn continues to be used by God to help me be the best that I can be for Jesus. She has a great ear to listen to me, encourage me and serves as my prayer partner and best friend.
She continues to pour into our family as a prayer warrior, a person who trust God and His Word first and foremost, a friend, an encourager, and just simply loves to cook and host family, friends and guest into our home.
She is a friend to my friends and our son’s friends and has made incredible sacrifices for us.
She exemplifies Jesus as a wife and mother. May the Lord continue to pour out on her as she lives her life for Jesus. If the Lord tarries I hope he gives us another 30 or more years together as we live out our life for Him.
Happy Thirtieth Anniversary Jerilyn!
I love you,