As a sports fan and serious, well somewhat serious, golfer, this was one of the best experiences of my life. People ask you , “Have you ever been to the Masters?”, and you can say yes! Well at least I went to the practice round once!
This photo is several years old now. The person standing on my left is Eddie Houk. He and I once flew in his Piper Cherokee airplane from Gainesville to Great Falls Montana for a mission trip. I learned how to navigate in a three hour cram session the night before we took off. That’s only one of many adventures that he and I have shared. And no, I am not at liberty to say what the rest are! He’s retired now and still lives here in Gainesville.
The man on my far right is Bob Halfacre. Bob has been and continues to be a mentor and confidant and dedicated prayer warrior for me. His two boys were just youth when I became the youth and college pastor at Westside way back in 1987 when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and I had permed hair! He later taught college Sunday School for me and is one of the few people I know personally who has the true gift of evangelism. If you don’t know Jesus, better stay away from Bob if you don’t want to! There are hundreds if not thousands who are glad they didn’t follow that advice. He’s retired now and lives over in Crescent Beach. I miss seeing him on a regular basis because I always feel better and a little more like Jesus when I do.
The other man holding the flag is Wassie Griffin. He’s the real reason for the post, the photo, and the change on my facebook cover today. He’s the one who got the tickets for the practice round. He’s the one who invited the young guy, me, to come along with them. He’s the guy who organized the trip, booked the hotel rooms along the way and the golf outing on the way back. He’s also retired for many years and today, he’s pain free and home with Jesus.
Wassie was many things during my time on staff at Westside back in the day. Back then he was an administrator at North Florida Regional Hospital. He loved playing golf and he allowed me to come with him on many occasions. He has always had a keen mind. He was a thinker, a deep thinker, about business, family, politics, religion, and whatever else might be on the front page right up until his death. Wassie was generous with his time, his money, and his wisdom. He was one that you wanted to talk with before you made a major decision. You might not like what he told you, but at least you knew it was for your benefit.
Wassie and Mary his wife are the kind of people you want as neighbors, family, and friends. You smile when you see them and you sigh when you have to say goodbye. It has been hard watching Wassie battle the disease that finally set him free from these earthly bonds, but through it all, he never wavered. His smile remained, his joy endured, his faith grew even stronger. Like so many others before him, his body gave out but his soul remained forever young.
And so those of us who were fortunate enough to know Wassie Griffin sighed this morning and maybe cried a few tears to hear of his death. Those of us who know Jesus await the chance to see his bright smile again when we go to the place where he is today.
I am thankful for the many things Wassie shared with me. I am a better man today because of the opportunity to hang out with men like those pictured above. My prayer is that one day, other younger men will remember me the same way and in so doing I will have honored the legacy of Wassie by pouring my life into those who come after us.