He did not set out to be a preacher. He was the first in his family to go to college. Raised in the pine forests of deep East Texas, the son of a falling down drunk, his Mama married again to a career sergeant, Glenn was suddenly on an Army transport to Germany, seasick the whole way there and later back. Later, he lived with his Mama’s parents, deeply pious folks with little formal education but with uncommonly good sense. He worked enough in the lumber mills to know he wanted more. He wore the uniform proudly and hitchhiked several hours each time to and from Texas A&M.
Glenn married my wife’s mother when he was a graduating senior and she among the earliest female students at this formerly all-male, all-military college. He got a social work job at the state penitentiary in Huntsville while working on a master’s degree. Baby Laura came early when her Mama was six months pregnant. Born in the back of their 1967 VW Beetle on the side of a country highway, my wife didn’t weigh three pounds. Baptized the day she was born, Laura was rushed to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
Glenn moved the new family to Dallas, where he went to work for Ross Perot. He flew hither and yon at Perot’s direction. He hired Ken Follett to write the book about rescuing hostages from Iran. Then, Glenn moved the family to Houston where he was very successful selling commercial real estate.
A friend invited him to the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship, and Glenn had a spiritual awakening. He went on mission trips to India, China, and Russia. Somewhere in the midst of a chaotic life with two small children, a series of foster kids, and finally the adoption of a newborn, Glenn heard the call to preach. John Osteen, a former Baptist pastor who always preached the substitutionary atonement of Christ Jesus until the day he died, mentored Glenn and ordained him. Glenn started a mission church.
Because they had no mission or denominational support, Glenn and Joan took out a personal loan to buy a building. They had no insurance, no pension plan, and no safety net. They formed a congregation in Brenham TX and created a lay leadership team. They built and sold picnic tables and eked out a living to make it all work. And, in the end, the people who took none of the risks and bore none of the burdens stabbed them in the back. Glenn and Joan moved to East Texas to serve an established church, and then, shortly after, Joan was diagnosed with lung cancer and died a few weeks later. She was 51. They had been married 31 years. It was hard to keep on preaching for very long after that.
God has two words, “No” and “Yes,” but prideful sinners never want to hear, “No.” We don’t want to hear it from God, and we don’t want to hear it from a preacher… especially when the Truth is trying to kill the old sinner inside us. The Lord Jesus wasn’t nailed to a cross for being a political revolutionary, a socialist seeking equity, or affirmer of those despised by religious folk. The Lord Jesus was crucified for us and our salvation, because we, like Satan himself, want to have things our way. All Jesus’ enemies were not in the Sanhedrin (the religious ruling body in Jerusalem). Some of His greatest enemies were His friends.
Glenn got his heart broken twice. First, by church people. Then, by the cancer that took his wife. He found joy again with Maggie, who was his wife for ten years before Glenn dropped dead suddenly on a Saturday afternoon. Occasionally, Glenn would preach when asked, but God didn’t waste any of Glenn’s prior life. Maggie and he owned trailer parks, and Glenn witnessed to the poor and got many off drugs and booze.
Thank you, dear Father, for Glenn and all those who have the unenviable task of telling church people, “No.” Thank you, that your best word is still the forgiveness of sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Put twenty pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box to feed the poor (Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard).
Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.