Saturday, April 14, 2012

George Whitman (1925 -2012): A Life Well Lived

In our last entry, “Stewardship of “God’s Economy”, we emphasized that good stewardship requires a disposition of reverent discernment necessary to learn and exercise our individual responsibility toward God, our neighbor, and God’s creation.   An event that occurred this week allows us to “put some skin on” this stewardship quality.  On April 9, a gentleman who demonstrated reverence, discernment, and responsibility; and, who actually bore the title “Reverend” as a pastor and friend of our family, went home to heaven. 

Whitman's celebrating George's 80th Birthday, in 2005.
The Rev. George P. Whitman (1925-2012) devoted 53 years of his life to the pastoral ministry in New York State.   George and his wife Jean, his faithful partner of 64 years, have shepherded five different churches during the past five decades.  During this time Pastor Whitman and Jean nurtured four sons and three daughters who have extended the Whitman family and their heritage of Christian faith through 23 grandchildren and 44 great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

This week, we are remembering the life of George Whitman and keeping Jean and the family in our prayers.   We honor this man as one who exercised stewardship through his God-given responsibilities as a loving husband, father, and pastor.  Pastor Whitman understood the importance of God’s truth as applied to the heart and mind of each child in a godly home through loving parents, reinforced in the classroom, and supported by the fabric of the local church and community which are the life blood of our nation.

George’s own testimony in a Christmas letter, in 2008, echoes the values that he held dear:

I attended eight grades in a One Room Public Country School (Honeywell's Corners) R. D. 1, Broadalbin, NY. (Fulton County) beginning in 1930 when the Pledge of Allegiance was a daily requirement, listening to the reading of a Psalm, and would you believe it, with the One teacher having all 24 of us quote “The Lord's Prayer” which he taught to his disciples.  The Bible and Websters Dictionary had their place on a shelf available for our use, and believe us‑-Noah Webster was "no dumb bunny".  Many of us are still hanging around (by God's Grace) after, at least, a productive life of serving the Lord and seeking to be a blessing to others, raising our families to be honorable citizens in their communities, in our country, and out as well.
Pastor Whitman was also an American patriot and cherished the opportunities he was given on several occasions to deliver the opening session prayer for the New York State Legislature in Albany.  He wrote:

While praying for America, we still say "God Bless America" and are very thankful for the great heritage handed down to us by our founders and leaders. May we never forget it, or them.  
George’s ministry at LBBC was extended through his weekly radio broadcasts called "Echoes of Faith" on radio station WLFH in Little Falls, N.Y. and "Moments With Your Bible" on WHAZ in Troy, N.Y.  Fittingly, one of his son’s, Fred,  with his wife Rachel, have ministered faithfully with Baptist Mid Missions using a radio ministry in Italy.

Pastor Whitman’s fifth church was Latham Bible Baptist Church (LBBC), in Latham, NY, where he established the Latham Christian Academy in 1979.   It was during this pastorate, in 1992, that our family was privileged to make the acquaintance of George and Jean.   That Spring, our son Brad, had been accepted by Rensselear Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in nearby Troy, NY for graduate studies and we were assisting him to in locating off-campus housing.  We called several churches including LBBC to enlist their prayers and any leads they might have concerning apartments for rent.

We received no leads.  But God’s people did pray and the answer came through the willingness of George and Jean Whitman to open their home to Brad.  They treated him as one of their own sons during the months to follow.  They also involved Brad in the ministry of LBBC and Latham Christian Academy where he was able to teach a course in computers and assist Pastor Whitman in clearing the parking lots after each upstate New York snow.  Brad wrote home many times to share accounts of the special informal times he had spent with Pastor Whitman whose vibrant, unassuming love of Jesus Christ and His creation was contagious.

George & Jean Whitman, with friends, at LBBC & LCA, 199

In 1999, the Whitman’s retired and spent winters at Sleepy Hollow Mobile Estates,  Zephyrhills, Florida.   There, George served as Chaplain and he and Jean continued to bring a sweet aroma of Christ to the local residents for over another decade.  Of course they still migrated north to beloved upstate New York during the warm seasons.

As his obituary in the Oneonta Daily Star states:  

A life dedicated in service to his Lord and Savior, he counseled many people to know Christ as their Savior.  He will be lovingly remembered and missed by his beloved family, cherished friends and those whom he pastored. 
Perhaps our son Brad’s recent tribute to Pastor Whitman is a fitting affirmation of what it means to be a faithful steward of providential opportunities to love and serve God, neighbor, community, and creation: 
I went to New York as a young man and was taken in (and fed well) by two of the most wonderful human beings I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I am forever changed by their influence in my life...and forever challenged by their example. Thank you, Pastor and Mrs. Whitman.

This week Heaven decided it was time to bring Pastor George P Whitman home (personally, I feel like things were getting a bit boring up there....).  Truly, truly....our loss is heaven's gain. Thank you, Pastor, for being a true man of faith.  Thank you.

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