“Hey Rev!”, followed by some humorous tongue-in-cheek remark about either the British or my favorite soccer team. This is how Jim would always greet me when we met each other. Anyone who was standing in the vicinity would just give a little chuckle as they realized that Jim and just respectfully delivered a comedic jab as he greeted another brother. Oh, how I will miss the jovial comradery we shared throughout the years.
Everyone who knew Jim also knew that during any conversation, if you either left a gap in your dialogue or if you gave Jim the conversational reins, you would find yourself in the middle of the African bush being regaled with story after story of God’s miraculous work. So many times I couldn’t figure out how I was in the middle of a Francophone Africa in complete awe of what God just did, but this was what Jim did to you. He had the wondrous works of God residing in his heart and he wanted you to know them all. He knew that you were not there in person but he wanted you to both understand and share in the work of the Gospel in Francophone Africa.
Last week I had a couple of calls with Jim and on one of them, due to other schedule conflicts he was the only one on that call. As I sit here today I understand that it was truly a gift to me that we had that call. Because there was no one else on the call, we were able to dedicate that time to discussing his region. With the ‘floor’ being handed over to Jim he did what he did so very often, he took me on a journey. The joy and passion in his heart as he told me the story of a Voodoo tree that was the center of some dark spiritual worship for centuries was incredible. He told me all about this particular tree that stood inches away from an Assemblies of God church, and how the church had received much persecution due to this tree being so close. However, on April 6th, 2016 this tree came crashing down! Jim’s voice now started to intensify as he marveled that there was not even a storm in sight to uproot this demonic meeting place of worship. He knew that God was at work and he wanted me to feel a part of the work. With every passing day that particular call now grows increasingly more precious.
When we got the news that Jim was not well, we immediately had a prayer meeting at OneHope for him. Oh, the spiritual aroma that must have been lifted up to our Heavenly Father in that moment must have smelt so sweet. The fragrance of those prayers was almost palpable. OneHope truly is a family and in that moment we all needed each other. During that time of prayer, I felt that the Lord showed me a picture of a toy action man. The kind that every boy had when they were growing up. Action men that you could manipulate their stance as you made your impossible dreams and ideas, possible. I felt the Lord saying, “This is Jim”. If ever there was a man that could work in the some of the most impossible places on earth and through the Grace of God make His work possible, it was Jim. Jim was a ‘Man of Action’ if ever there was one. As Philip Mungai mentioned in a previous post, “Jim talked quickly, walked quickly…you got the sense that he was in a rush, and you would understand why; he oversaw one of the most unstable places on the planet”. The Kingdom work was paramount to Jim and as we sat there and prayed for his recovery, we also prayed for the work in Francophone Africa. Jim would gladly receive our caring prayers for his well-being, but his focus was never on himself, it was always on the work of Christ. After all, he was a ‘Man of Action’. Christ was always put first. A lesson that we all should heed and embrace.
You would often hear Jim say, “Hey man, I’m just a simple guy” and there in lay the beauty of the man. Never impressed with the overtly fancy, always practical and fun to hang out with. So many of us have so many stories of how he made us laugh. I remember last year that during some free evening time at Hope Celebration a few of us went out to eat and fellowshipped together. We went to a place that had some pretty great grilled food and burgers. I found out that adjoining this particular restaurant they had a sushi bar. Jim had never eaten sushi before so we ordered some and they were kind enough to bring it through. You could tell that this was not something that excited Jim but in the fun spirit of the evening he was willing to give it a go. He slowly and hesitantly lifted the sushi roll (on a fork) to his mouth and partook. I think sushi fell into the aforementioned ‘overtly fancy’ category for Jim, he was not a fan. What made me crack up so much was here was a guy that had eaten monkey but if he never had sushi again, that would suit him just fine.
Whilst Jim would always light up a room I twice found him in a dark room at the top of a hotel in Beirut. As a few of went up to this roof top room to prepare for the meeting the following morning, who do we find up there with just the light from his laptop to illuminate the room? Jim. When we asked him why he was sitting in the dark, he told us that he decided to come up to a quiet place to listen to some sermons. This was Jim. He was never frivolous with his free time as I am so often guilty of being. If he was not out doing the work or spending time with his beloved family, he was filling that time in communion with God either by prayer or studying his Word. This should challenge us all. Even when you check out Jim’s Facebook page, and you scroll from his last post to the inception of his account you only find pictures and stories about God’s Work or his lovely family. Jim never really spent much energy on anything else. I would encourage every single one of you to visit his Facebook.
Jim, my ‘Man of Action’, has from an earthly perspective departed too soon. We will probably never know this side of eternity the Will of God in this matter but two things I do know. Firstly, we must pray for his family. For his much loved and talked about wife, children and grandchild. And secondly, that the work that Jim has partnered with Christ in must continue. Jim would never want to see the work fade, so we must pray for this special work and its laborers. Jim through his diligent and dutiful work has reached tens of millions of children in Francophone Africa with the Gospel. Not many people have a legacy like that.
James Byh, my friend and A True Action Hero…