Ever since I was a young boy, there was a man who invested in me and believed in me more than any other. I wish I could say this person was my dad, but it wasn’t. It was Keith Gibson.
I met Keith when I was in elementary school. He was an associate pastor at the church my family attended. A year later, he started a new church in a town about 12 miles away, and when my parents divorced that summer, my mom began attending Word of Life Community Church, which at the time was a thriving six-member congregation. Consequently, I started attending when I visited my mom every other weekend.
Keith knew our situation and quickly started treating me like his own son. He was only 15 years older than me, but his affection was that of a loving father. Whenever I came to church, he made a point to spend time with me, and as I grew older, he started inviting me to participate in the church, once telling my mom I had the ability to lead worship on Sunday mornings. I was in high school at the time, and I thought he was crazy.
Upon returning from college and a one-year stint in Eugene, Oregon (on the other side of the world, at the time), Keith and I started meeting every week over lunch at Mama China, a small Chinese buffet close to where I was working, and we just started living life together. We would talk about our struggles, our victories, who I was dating at the time, and what we were learning from the Bible. It was refreshing and one of the greatest memories of my life.
When I married, Keith counseled me on being a husband, and he performed a beautiful wedding ceremony with incredibly kind words for my wife and I. If he wasn’t officiating our wedding, he definitely would have been my best man. When the Bible speaks of a friend who sticks closer than a brother, it is speaking of Keith.
When my marriage went through a difficult stretch (which was totally do to my mistakes), Keith walked me through the process of repentance, forgiveness and restoration with my wife. He has always been a rock I can lean on for wisdom and advice in my adult life. In many ways, I don’t know what my life would be like if Keith and I had never cultivated our friendship, but I’m sure I wouldn’t be half the man I am now.
During this time, Keith has been a bi-vocational pastor, working whatever jobs he needed in order to provide for his family. He has delivered newspapers & sold advertising for newspapers, a 100%-commission gig. He managed a Burger King, and once experienced a robbery in which a man pointed a gun at him. He has worked in numerous sales position, one that let him go because they didn’t need him anymore. He filled the senior living community to full capacity, and since they were full, decided they didn’t need him any longer. How about that for doing a great job? Needless to say, it’s been a difficult, Job-like road for Keith for many years. However, none of these struggles compare to what he’s walking through right now.
For the past few weeks, Keith has been living through the nightmare of his daughter’s fight for her life. A few weeks ago, she started having symptoms that concerned Keith and his wife, so they took her to the doctor to find out what was going on. Fifteen years ago, Keith’s daughter had brain surgery, and has struggled to recover all of her physical abilities since. She is the sweetest young woman you will ever meet, overcoming so many obstacles over the past decade to graduate from high school and pursue a college degree. She is like a sister to me, and I am so proud of her for the beautiful, godly young woman she has become.
This morning, I learned from a friend that after her recent surgery to remove a new tumor from her brain, the doctor’s have diagnosed her with stage 4 terminal cancer. As I write this morning, tears have come to my eyes, and I can help but wish I was there to walk through this difficult time with my dear friend and his family. My thoughts and prayers go out to Keith and his family, especially his beautiful daughter, and I know he will make it through this difficult time because Keith Gibson is a warrior, and I love him very much.