A man got to hear the words that lots of us long to hear: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I’m positive that Mike got to hear the words. He went to meet God in person last week. I’d like to tell you about my friend/mentor/pastor, Mike Hill. I babysat his son; he was our neighbor; he took the youth group on a trip to Cade’s Cove; he gave me pre-marital counseling; he told me You can divorce someone, but you can never unmarry them. He got his doctorate, and refused to let anyone, and I mean anyone, call him Dr. Hill. After he moved away, he flew back from his new home in North Carolina to perform my sister’s wedding ceremony.
Mike’s impact on me was and is powerful. When I sign my e-mails “Blessings on you”, I’m quoting Mike. On Sunday mornings, before he gave a powerful exegesis of Scripture to the grown-ups, he would sit his 6’6” frame on the steps and invite the children to join him. His boy, David, would hurry to get the place right beside his dad. I can still see David sitting by his dad’s knee, barely taller than that knee with the long black robe draped over it. And Mike would tell the kids a story; as they went back to their pews, Mike would look at them with unadulterated love, and say, “Blessings on You.” If you know anyone from the country part of North Carolina, you’ll know how it sounded when Mike said it, with the vowels stretched out for miles and the consonants sonorous, and the emphasis on unexpected syllables.
Mike showed me that same kind of love. When I was a high school student, he appointed me to be the youth participant on the search committee for a new senior pastor (Mike was assistant pastor). When I went to Mike for advice on serious matters, he took lots of time with me and gave me sage advice that stays with me to this day. He gave the commencement address at my High School graduation. When I met a friend of another religion, and my mother panicked that I might convert, Mike xeroxed a book by R.C. Sproul and mailed it to me in Germany.
And I can still remember snippets of his sermons. I remember one take-home liner: “Christians are dirty, rusty signposts pointing to God.” I also remember the time he talked about his wife; I was struck by the honor and love he showed her publicly when he said, “She is the best listener I have ever met.” I remember driving behind them one day and my mom pointing out that Connie was telling him a story and using both of her hands to explain.
I do think that he’s received God’s blessings in person because I knew Mike not only in his public role as pastor, but also I received personal counseling from him, and I spent time in his home. I’m grateful for you sharing, Mike. I’m stunned that you had to leave us so soon.