That title could just as easily read, “A Great Man of Godly Influence.” Both are just as true.
When I think of Nelson, I think of a grand ship, sailing the seas. Those of us blessed to have met him were able to get caught up in his wake of grace and mercy. I was one so blessed.
I met Nelson at church during my college years. You see, I had been convicted by the Holy Spirit for not knowing anyone outside of the college group; though I had been a member for well over two years.
One Sunday, I donned my one and only suit. Walked up to the side door to the church, and there was Nelson. He was the greeter, assigned to that door.
“Well, hello!” he said. “Are you just visiting?”
I responded, “No sir, I’ve actually been a member for a couple of years now. And that is the problem. I don’t know anyone in the church. Can I stand here and greet with you, maybe get to know some of the other members?”
Not only did he let me greet with him, but he told me about everyone who came through that door. He seemed to know everyone!
This began a two year long friendship, where he mentored me in ministry.
Nelson was a deacon, and apparently got to take part in hospital visitation per his duties. One day, he asked me to go along.
I was horribly frightened, but jumped at the chance to spend some time with him.
I remember his advice to this day. “Tim, there are two things to remember when visiting in the hospital. First, don’t step on any cords or tubes. Watch where you step. There will be cords and tubes everywhere. Secondly, you don’t have to say a thing.”
You know what, he was right.
I ended up training and working part time as a hospital chaplain for about four years. He was spot on.
When he found out I was friends with another member of our church, and elderly retiree from the mission field. He made sure to invite me to go visit him in the hospital as well.
Nelson taught me what it meant to care for others, by caring for them in front of me. He lived out what it means to be a Christ follower. I can only imagine how many other young men and women got caught up in his wake as well. Each of us touched by God’s grace and mercy, lived out in the life of Nelson Turnbow.