A Real Hero....


(This devotion is in memory of a 97 year old gentleman, Leo Edward Weatherman. July 11, 1924 – November 22, 2021.  Leo was a member of my church and  was buried last week, but his life was not properly celebrated at the graveside service.  He deserved better…)

 

Romans 12: 1-21

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you…..

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”   Romans 12:1-21, NIV)

These are charges for a missionary—-in any generation and of any nationality.  I have had a little experience with mission work, and I had hoped to be a missionary when I began in ministry.  But after having traveled to South America, Africa and Asia to assist with, speak and observe, I would tell you that that American missionaries are well-prepared, educated, able to speak the native tongue, focused and, from what I could see, truly called to missions.

But I can also tell you categorically that what was lacking was humility.  That might shock you or upset you if you support missions, but I was there and I know a bit about pride and the self-serving urge to be in control.  It’s unbecoming and creates long term problems even after the missionary departs. So, are all missionaries arrogant?  No, and neither are all priests or pastors.  But  we’ve all seen a lot of conceit in pulpits and Paul must have seen it as well because he began his passage by addressing conceit.  For some reason some of us in that preach believe that  everyone  has right to their own opinion …unless it’s different from ours!  The pastor and the missionary needs to know that  it’s possible to hear—and love— something you don’t agree with.   I’ve seen pastors and evangelists yell from the pulpit about right and wrong, but just because someone has a different opinion from you doesn’t mean you have to scream at them and tell them they’re wrong.  The man whose life we’re celebrating today (Leo Weatherman) did not yell or scream.  Neither did Jesus—-neither does God.

In am not trying to throw cold water on foreign missions on clergymen. We need them!  But there’s a danger, as we cross the oceans, to see ourselves as God’s special gift to mankind.  No!  Jesus was God’s special gift to mankind and the missionary is there to preach that and be forgotten. He’s not called to establish institutions, overthrow governments or change the customs of the natives.  He’s there to love those people as God has loved him and to share the good news about what Jesus did at Calvary.  I think that sometimes we forget this.  Evidently, Brother Leo Weatherman did not forget his call or his place.

Leo was born on July 11, 1924 in Sioux City,  Iowa. His family moved to Pueblo, Colorado where he grew up and met Dorothy Mae Hiler, who eventually became his wife. Leo grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. Upon graduation from high school, he joined the United States Navy and served in the South Pacific. That was 1942.  Upon his discharge from the Navy three years later, Leo and Dorothy were married and returned to Pueblo, Colorado to establish a home. Like his Savior, Leo was a carpenter, building homes with his father-in-law’s contracting business.  He continued employment at the CF&I Steel Mill in Pueblo, one of the largest steel mills at that time.

 

But Leo loved his family and wanted to find a better place to raise them, so moved to Albuquerque New Mexico in 1950. He was now 26 years old.  He took a position with Swift & Company, a large meat processing company, until he retired in 1975 at the age of 51. 

 

After retiring, Leo and Dorothy moved to Durango, Colorado where he worked as a master custom carpenter for a contractor, building million dollar mountain cabins in the 1970s. He built many homes for his family, in Colorado during this time. 

 

Leo and Dorothy were dedicated followers of Jesus and had dreams of becoming missionaries to Brazil.  In their mid-fifties they left the mountains of Southern Colorado for the plains of Texas, to attend Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. They graduated and received an assignment in Brazil.  Prior to leaving, they moved to Richmond, Virginia where they attended Language School to learn Portuguese. 

 

They served in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for more than 15 years. Leo was responsible for carpentry. He oversaw the construction of pre-fab chapels that were taken into remote areas of Brazil and assembled by his crew and members of the chapel. They built more than 100 of these chapels. 

When not building chapels, as a couple, they would manage the children's camp as see to the needs of all. Dorothy was the manager of the main camp.

 

Upon retirement from the Mission Board, Leo and Dorothy moved to Tucson, Arizona and worked as volunteers with ministries serving the needs of Mexican families coming to the United States. In their late 70’s,  they moved to North Carolina to live close to their daughter Diana and her family.  Leo helped construct a home for his daughter and family—in his 79th year.

 

The love of his life, Dorothy,  passed away in 2004 and Leo moved in with Diana’s family for years until she placed him into an Assisted Living Home in Winston Salem. 

 

His son told me that he was one of the best carpenters that lived. Leo will be missed here on earth, having outlived many of his family and friends, has now joined them happily in Heaven.

 

But let me sum up what I can about Leo Weatherman’s  life and why it matters that we celebrate it. First, the man never quit. He determined that his life was a redeemed life to be spent, not preserved in a bottle or placed on a shelf. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”  His body, his talents, his time were God’s.  He cared not how he was used.  Leo had more a formal, and lengthy theological education than most pastors in this area and most  of the men that have pastored most churches—it’s a fact.  He spoke two languages fluently—-how many pastors in your church can do that?  And yet he was never really recognized for his abilities or training as he might have been. I don’t point my finger at anyone—that’s not my point.  But note that although he was not invited to be a key-note speaker at local, state or national meetings, it did not deter him or bother him. The man was not into tooting his own horn and was not a self promotor.  He was a sweet, humble, self-effacing man, and, sadly, those folks aren’t key-note speakers at most Christian gatherings. We want to hear from folks that make us laugh or tell us spine-tingling tales of bravery or incredible miraculous intervention. 

 

Do you know why Leo was so loved?  He did not brag or try to bring attention to himself, and neither was he a bully or easily upset.  If you are a Christian leader, and you are constantly being “offended”, it doesn’t mean you’re right—it means you’re a baby. 

 

From I witnessed and have heard, Leo Weatherman lived a life of not being noticed or applauded.  And I think he was fine with that.  I am disappointed that we had a saint in our state that was overlooked because he was too gentle and humble. What a pity.  Here’s what Paul said: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you…..”  The man never thought he deserved anything more than what he got.  He deserved better.  I wish he had written a biography.  Why don’t we beat the drum more for men like this?

 

Most obviously, Brother Leo was a man that loved other people.   I think he “out-loved” others, in general.   Paul said this to the missionary:  “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”  

I never fellowshipped with Leo when he was free to move about.   But I hear that he loved some that did not show much love back to him. Yet, the man never spoke ill of anyone, I am told.  Speaking bad about others was not a part of his new nature in Jesus Christ. He loved like a one-way street—-he was not concerned about being loved back. And that’s what a pastor and missionary must remember. It’s not about us being popular or loved, but about caring for and loving the flock.

Finally, an essential trait for the missionary is found in these words:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.”

Brother Leo represented a Christian gentleman and a missionary determined to be used by God.  And I don’t mean to harp on this, but it’s that lack of conceit that stands out in his life! Where is it today our denominational and  national assemblies and our leadership in our national capitals?  Do you know that of 100 U. S.  Senators, 83 are Protestant or Catholic? There are 3 Mormon, 9  Jews, and 5 that refuse to tell their religious affiliation.  Except for the 5, and perhaps the Mormon, why do Christian in power fail to tell the truth, keep their promises and live like true missionaries for Jesus Christ?

As I think of what I have learned about Leo Weatherman,  I think that he would agree that what is sorely missing today on the mission field, from our leaders and in our pulpits is the ability to listen to the other, forget about oneself and to allow Jesus to shine in our lives as we decide to be true ambassadors for Jesus Christ.   Friends, everyone is entitled to their opinion but no one is entitled to belittle someone else’s—Leo knew this and lived it.  From the pulpit I have an obligation to express truth and at times to even state my opinion, but at no time is it right to be rude coarse or rude.

The day I wrote this devotion Mr. Bob Dole died. Again, here was a real hero and a man of modesty and faith.  He ran for U.S. President as a true hero and had much he could  have bragged about, but he would not. The man that beat him had nothing to brag about (in my opinion) and did his best to not serve in the U.S. Military—-and is still known for his conceit and lack of character—-and he won the election. It was, of course. Bill Clinton.

May God send us more Leo Weathermen and Bob Doles—-even if we don’t deserve them.

 


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