Tonight there was a very large turnout for the visitation services for Bishop Eugene Weakley. People traveled long distances to spend just a few minutes with the Weakley family to show their love, honor and respect.
I am so thankful that Bishop Weakley looked past my multiple flaws and spend time "pouring" into me his years of experience and wisdom. I am a better man because he touched my life.
Many of you may not know this but let me share a little something with you tonight. I am agonizing over the sermon I will deliver tomorrow to honor Bishop Weakley. I fear that i will not be able to do justice to the giant of a man that he was. Don't get me wrong, I DO believe I have a "word" from the Lord, but I know it comes through the frailty of a human being.
In January 1989, my father, Rev. James T. McKinley was suddenly called home to heaven. Although he had suffered heart failure, his death was still quite unexpected. Only a short-time later my mother Geneva (Mary) McKinley suffered a massive stroke and lingered in an unconscious state for some time.
I was a young pastor (32-years-old) with a young family and at the time I needed my mom and dad the most, they had been called home to be with the Lord. There were days that I would quietly weep in alone times just wishing I could talk to my mother and father again. I needed someone to believe in me, look past my flaws and see the promise of a minister of the Gospel...and to be quite frank with you, I needed the corrective hand of a loving earthly father, and a doting mother. My children needed that type of influence in their life too. Debra's parents were in ministry hours away and the closeness we needed was just not there.
Into the picture, God brings Eugene and Juanita Weakley. They became that influence in my life and into the life of my family. They believed in us, encouraged us and, to be honest with you, saw something in us that we didn't even see ourselves. What a God-send! What a blessing!
Bishop Weakley pulled me close to him and spent eleven years training me, mentoring me and loving me. He once said, "I admire preachers who can cry when they preach...I just don't do that." There were times that I served on his committees that I knew he had to be weeping on the inside, even if we didn't see it.
I watched him balance budgets, try to save ministers who were failing and encouraging us to be better and upgrade our ministries. I watched his heart break for people even though he may not have been overtly emotional in front of us.
He taught me some things. He taught me:
"It was the best of times and the worst of times."
"Perception is Reality"
"God keeps good books"
"The mills of God's justice grind slow but they grind sure."
"Son, if you sat where I sit you would see things differently."
Well Pop? You may not have always known it, but I was listening...and so were a lot of others. We heard you, we still hear you
"I would give ten years of my life to see a real revival." On the night I returned from Panama just a short time before he left for heaven, I sat by his bedside and told him about the move of God I had witnessed in Panama, and that I had seen in Argentina and in Ukraine. He perked up...and called out to the room...he said, "Hey! Hey! You preachers! Come over hear and listen to what this man has to say."
I repeated what I had just said to Pop Weakley and his eyes grew bright and he perked up. Momma Wonnie leaned over him and said, "Daddy, I love you mountains and rivers and oceans." And repeated that to her. Then he said, "Wonnie, I know we're about to see something great. I just know it." Oh, Brother Weakley....if you could only tell us what you are seeing right now...
Just before he passed away, I whispered in his ear and I said, "thank you for always being there for me pop...I love you...tell my mom and dad that I've going to see them soon and that I love them.
Everything that my ministry will ever become, will in large part be because of the love of this man...and the confidence he placed in my heart.
When we talked, whether on the phone or in person, Brother Weakley would always end our conversations the same way....and I will conclude my remarks here today with the same words....."tell the Lord on us, ya' hear?"
I love you Pop....I'll see you in the morning.....