Richard Whitfield Whittington
June 2, 1931 - August 23, 2004
Who was like him in character and strength from the Bible?
He was a pastor's friend. I'm not sure you understand that. Because he had walked on that road I think he understood the journey and was especially thoughtful and especially supportive. As a pastor many times, in the discussions or difficulties of the role as pastor or in situations that demanded certain skills, it seemed like when I turned and looked he was always right . . . right where I needed him to be.
And so I thought of this:
And one of the two who heard John speak followed him. And he was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. And Andrew found first his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Master." John 1:40How many times did he say that? Youíre here because he said it to you in his way and touched your heart.
The other passage I'd like to read to you is very short but it is still very powerful and you will recognize it.
And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, "Master, you have entrusted five to me and see, I have gained five more." And his master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful in a few things and I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master." Matthew 25:20-21Richard has entered into that joy. Well done, good and faithful.
A Glimpse of the Life of Richard Whittington
Richard was born 73 years ago in Port Arthur, Texas, the youngest of six children, four boys and two girls. His father worked for Texaco Oil Company. After he graduated from high school, he entered East Texas Baptist College to major in music. He thought that might be what God was calling him to. After a year, he sensed God calling him to the pastorate, so he transferred to Baylor University, there to study for the pastoral ministry. As he arrived there one of the first persons he met as a young people's outing was Evelyn. He finally screwed up the courage to ask her out on a date on Valentine's Day and she accepted. It didn't take him too long, about a month more, he asked her to marry him and she accepted. And so they were married 53 years ago this August. God gave them three children - Jeannette, Sueann and Brad.
Then he went on to seminary. He squeezed his MDiv into the ten-year plan, primarily because he was working fulltime as a machinist. He didn't know anything about it, but he learned. Always learning is one of the things about Richard. And working fulltime raising 3 kids, he finally got his Masters of Divinity and later on came back to get his Masters in Theology.
One of the things that all of us remember about Richard is that he loved God's word. He was a lifelong learner. I love people like that. Proverbs says "don't ever stop learning."
Have you ever been around people who say, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks"? Well, that may be true about dogs, but it's not true for God's people. Don't ever stop learning. And he never did.
In his lifetime he pastored four churches, most noticeably, Fred, Texas. There is such a place. I'm not making this up. Eight and a half years in East Texas at the thriving metropolis of Fred, where they hunt and fish and brew moonshine, I'm told. He was their shepherd.
He helped pastors out, as Berton said. He served as a counselor to train counselors for the 700 Club, for the Texas Alcohol and Narcotics Education. He spent a term, as you've heard already, in South Africa, teaching in their colleges and theological schools there.
One of the most important things about Richard is that he was a people person. He never met a stranger. Everyone he met, he asked if he could have their card and he kept their card. If he'd never see them again, he kept their card. And he kept in touch. He fought desperately to see that no one fell through the cracks in his churches and he would call and he would visit.
All over the world, he knew folks. There's somebody that's written an anthology about in this highly communicative age in which we live - even though there are 250 million Americans all of us are only five or six connections away from knowing someone. In other words, I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows you. Richard was maybe one connection away from everybody in the world. "Well, I know so-and-so." "Oh, you do? I know him." Even in South Africa, they had people in common. He was a people person.
It took him forever to get away from church. His church was never over. It's one thing to pronounce the benediction, but for the pastor, that's when the ministry starts. The service isn't over when the benediction is announced. The service just begins. And his kids would sit in the car waiting for him. They finally named him "Walkie Talkie" because he'd take a few steps and talk for awhile. Take a few steps and talk for awhile. He just couldn't leave church; he loved people too much.
He was a collector. He collected old books and manuscripts. He collected coins. He collected stamps. He collected clocks. Most of all, he collected people, and he loved them.
He loved his family. He loved singing together with them, serving together with them. And more than anything, he loved his Lord. He was a fervent soul winner who loved to share his faith. If he never saw the person again, he wanted to be found faithful in leaving a good witness. He was a faithful servant, a pastor, a teacher, a counselor. One of his last words that he said was, "If I'm going to pass, I sure hope I've done enough for the Lord." If he hasn't done enough, who has?
The first words he heard as he crossed the bar were, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." And he was.
You said something about when he walked into the gates of heaven he heard, "Well done." That's really backwards. The first thing the Lord heard was, "Lord . . . this is Richard Whittington."
I just wanted to talk about a few things that made my dad who he is and why we all loved him. Many of these are representing my mom, too.
He was a scholar and helped form the 25,000th Lion's Club in the world in Fred, Texas. . . . I just hope the Lord lets him unbutton his top button and get a new car. He was a special man in my life and I look forward to seeing him in heaven.
Richard now is no longer speculating but knows for certain who wrote the book of Hebrews.
I grew up in Fred, Texas. He was my pastor. I have nieces and nephews and they don't know him at all, but theyíre always hearing about Brother Whittington.
For some strange reason, one thing I keep thinking about is the time I lost the key to the church. I'm not real sure why I had a key to the church at age 11, but I did. I remember asking Brother Whittington about it and confessing and he said, "Well, pray about it." That was such a novel concept, that we should pray about little things. He said, "Yeah, God cares about the little things and the big things." And to this day, I pray about everything, losing things, problems in the world, little to big. That is the thing I remember most - is that everything can be prayed about.
Gina McInnis StottI've always kept up with his adventurous life through mom and dad. I have great memories as a child of his time with us in Fred, TX. At 8 or 9, during Vacation Bible School, our challenge was to memorize Romans 10:9-13. It took me the whole week to do it, but when it was my turn to recite it, Brother Whittington gave me that grand smile of his. He told me later he was so very proud of me and that made my week!
I'm one of those representing Mt Olivet in Fred today, along with these lovely people beside me. We bring many love notes from Fred and up and down that highway and those churches. Not only Mt. Olivet but North Hardin and Mt. Nebo. About the time the Whittingtons came to Fort Worth God transplanted me up here and they called me and Iíve had the most wonderful year re-connecting.
Phyllis BallingerMy first meeting with Bro. Whittington was a summons to appear in Parker County court, then he became my pastor and friend. My life will always be changed and blessed because Brother Whittington came to Wheatland Baptist and preached the gospel in his quiet loving manner.
We're here on furlough from South Africa. We served with Richard and Evelyn the last few years. Right now we're a team of 9 missionaries but in our hearts we're still a team of 11.
Richard and Evelyn came back to the states last August and we have missed them so much. It was amazing to see them come to South Africa at a time in their life when most people are retired and looking to just spend time with their children and going fishing and doing things for fun and they came to work. Not just to work, they moved to a new culture where they had to learn how to move and relate to people and not just to one culture, but several cultures and they did it well.
It was a joke on our team that every time a new missionary came or anyone from our team spoke about their pastor or their friend from so-and-so, Richard and Evelyn knew them. It was hilarious to hear that it wasn't just in South Africa that it happened.
Richard was a light in a very dark world. Richard was a lone voice on the campus of Soweto at a time when it was not easy because Richard stood up for the accuracy and the veracity of the word of God. And he was about the only one. Situational ethics are big in South Africa. And while Richard took a very strong stand for what God's word says and that God's word no matter when and where is the way we should live as Christians, he was never disagreeable about it. He was always loving and kind and generous. So while he took a very difficult position and maintained it to the end, he was very well loved. It was a very great privilege for my wife and I to serve alongside Richard and Evelyn.
Ron and Gail DavisRichard enriched the lives of so many missionaries in South Africa, not only with his encouragement but with his stories. He was a great storyteller----but an even greater friend to all of us. He was truly "salt and light"!
Professor David L. Block, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg,South Africa
I shall never forget the first time I met Richard Whittington in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He was immaculately dressed. His hair, combed as if by a master. We enjoyed lunch together at Hofmeyr House on campus. His intellect and deep sense of wonder touched me greatly.
But there was more. Much more.
I became deeply aware that THIS MAN carries the sweet aroma of Jesus, in everything he said and did; both in thought and deed. The presence of His Lord and Master went wherever Richard Whittington went; it pervaded every encounter I was privileged to have with him.
Richard on earth saw things through a glass darkly, as do all of us. But now he has complete answers to all his cosmological and astronomical questions, for he is seeing His Lord and Creator face to face.
We shall NEVER forget the legacy of Richard Whittington... a star given to us, by God.
Theological Education by Extension class
Pastor Richard was indeed an extraordinary man. We remember how he would allow us to get into all sorts of "Biblical" discussions before returning us to the Word of God. How he would challenge us to do the right thing for God.
Beau VincentI want to express my deepest sympathies on the death of Uncle Richard. I cannot begin to imagine how you must feel. I consider the time and relationship that you and he shared with awe and envy. It is one of the strongest desires of my heart to share my life with another person the way that the two of you did. I realize that it may seem like little consolation at this time, but the knowledge that the two of you will be reunited in Heaven must ease the pain.
One of the things that I regret the most about wasting the last twenty years in rebellion to God, is that I was not closer to Uncle Richard. The fault lies entirely with me. I can only imagine the questions that I would love to discuss with him concerning the books and authors of the faith that I have come to love. I know with certainty that I am not the only person who will miss his wisdom and insight.
I would like to share with you my most vivid memory of Uncle Richard. It is from the time when I could barely put his face to his name with certainty. It was when I was in the "hospital" in Houston ten years ago. I was struggling with what people thought about me and how they would react to me when they saw me. My mom and dad came to visit and brought me a pile of cards. As I read them, they only added to the anxiety. As I read each card, I could only imagine what each person really thought behind their platitudes. Then I happened on an envelope with a classic old style slanted script. The name on the envelope said Richard Whittington. Great, there I was worried about what a bunch of people for whom I had only limited respect thought and now Iíve got a letter from someone who was a fundamentalist seminary professor. Even though I barely knew Uncle Richard, I had a tremendous respect for him. I knew that my Dad had a terrific respect for him and that was enough for me.
As I sat at that wooden picnic table on that warm August evening under a small red oak, I dreaded to open that envelope. I could only imagine the rebuke veiled as Scripture I was about to receive. I knew that whatever he had to say in that wise would have been true and I deserved it. If anyone had a right to lecture, he was the one. My heart sank.
I don't remember the exact word of the beginning of the letter. I do remember the lift it was to my spirit. Expecting rebuke and scorn, I found nothing but love and encouragement. The encouragement, praise, and prayers transformed me from the black sheep instantly. At the end of the letter, he told me that he intended to never speak of this matter with me again. he told me that he could not wait to see me again, look me in the eye and firmly shake my hand. Ever since that day, those very words have encouraged me. As I returned to work and school, I felt as if I had "psych ward" tatooed to my forehead. I would take encouragement from those simple words. Even today as I feel shame or self-conscious about the last twenty years, I recall those words.
That was the first time I ever remember someone treating me with true "Christ-like" love. I truly understand how the prodigal son felt. He addressed and obliterated my deepest fears and anxiety. Had it not been for them, I may have tried to hide where I was forever. I pray that I can live up to the sentiments in that letter and his example. I will never forget that day or the beautiful words in that short little letter.
I pray that God brings you comfort and peace during this most difficult of times. What a mighty man of valor in God he was. My heart goes out for you and your children. I shall never forget him. May God Himself wrap you in His love and comfort. My continual love and prayers.
Tom CloudRichard was my uncle -- he was 13 years older than I. My dad was overseas serving in WW-II when I was born, and my uncles, Ed, Mark and Richard, served as my surrogate fathers during that time. We all lived with my grandparents, Dalton and Jessie (Wiess) Whittington, in Port Arthur, Texas. I recall playing with him and one of my favorite things was to lock him in the bathroom closet. I can only imagine the actual events, for my memories are those of a 3 or 4 year old child. But Richard would wail and call for his mother, my grandmother, to let him out. Of course, he would have had to let me lock him in there in the first place, for he was probably 17 and I would have been about 4.
I also remember being intrigued by his crystal radio (but I didn't know what it was at the time) and by his model airplanes. I remember him complaining to mother (grandmother) that Tommy had broken one of his planes. Subsequently, I recall trying to reach the planes from a chair, for he'd hung them from the ceiling of the second-floor bedroom he occupied. Very frustrating for me -- and totally inconsiderate of him. I really wanted to play with them. In the ensuing years, when I was in my teens, I would spend part of the summers at my grandparent's house, and one of my activities there was building model airplanes -- a hobby I'm sure I got from my uncle Richard. I also began to read a book every day during those summer visits, another trait I shared with him and my other uncles, his brothers -- the love of reading and learning.
As the years went by, we often visited Richard's family in Fort Worth. I remember the drill bit that he used for a door stop there (it was a large bit used to drill oil wells). He had invented some sort of improvement to the bit, as I recall.
In the early 1970's, before I had gotten very interested in our family history, Richard published a family history for us. It was very interesting and, in retrospect, very thorough and scholarly, as one would expect of someone with his academic background. In the years since, he and I have worked together on delving further into our heritage, and have found few errors in what he originally gave to us.
EdwinDear Pastor Richard,
I have just heard news from Kurt about your serious illness. I am deeply concerned for you and what you are going through right now.
I always thought of visiting you in the States. In thinking about this message to you, I was thinking of what I need to say to you. I know you would not want to hear about yourself and the impact that you have made on my life. So I thought I would attempt to disguise it (a curve ball) somewhat by saying "that which God has allowed you to do in my life".
I must start with the God organised ripple effect that your short journey in South Africa has had on me. I remember the many conversations that we had outside your home and talking about the Lord and His purpose for our lives. I do believe that you saw in me the little rebel for Jesus that are. I can just see you challenging the church authorities for the advancement of God's Kingdom. Thank you for encouraging me to study further for the purpose of doing God's work
I thought you would be glad to know that I have just received a pass (short of a distinction) on the "Nature and Purpose of the Church." With what you have taught me I still continue with the Evangelism group on a Tuesday evening. On Friday we did a track drive in Westbury, touching shoulders with drug lords and slaves to drugs. A Saturday morning prayer in Westbury has been initiated by this evangelism group.
I have come to realise when I see the many miracles, that God bestows on people, that it comes in small doses- like mole hills compared to a mountain. I have also realised that in order for us to see the miracles, we have to believe in them first- believing is seeing.
By God's grace I continue to preach in different churches, from Baptist to Charasmatic, and eagerly awaiting the invitation from the mosque. After watching a program on Independent African Churches, I must admit that without them in Africa we would not have been able to stem the tide of Islam in Africa. More and more Muslims are coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. I met a pastoress who was once a Muslim. Another young Muslim girl astounded her mother by claiming that Jesus died for all on the cross.
Like you, the ex-gangsters continue to play a positive role in my life - they call me to counsel youth; open meetings in prayer; do wake services and just be around - all for the purpose of doing God's work. I see it as my apprentice training for the work that God is planning for me. So you are in good company- you are standing right next to the ex-gangsters, ex-drug abusers- all the people that Jesus came to this earth for.
The one item that always worries me is when you said to me that I was going to touch many peopleís lives in my ministry. Was that statement prophetic? It certainly has placed an enormous burden on my life. As you know I believe that Jesus will save Fawzia, for His purpose, and for my life to come full circle- believing that "I knew you before you were in your mother's womb" applies to both Fawzia and myself.
I don't want to talk about your illness - I suspected something in South Africa when we prayed for you in classes. I need to encourage you to know that your hard work in me, as well as your prayers for me, through Jesus Christ, is not finished- God continues to work in my life for His Kingdom.
The Lord make His face to shine on you