Pastor Tom Paino, in his 90s, is one of the men I'd like to emulate. My good friend, his son Tommy, died that I might know his father. Jesus died that I might know His father.
Tom told me of his wonderful heritage. I have a wonderful heritage. Tom's mother and father erected a tent from town to town preaching the gospel. My dad preached at mission shelters.
One day Tom's parents erected the tent in Indianapolis. The meetings lasted for weeks, as long as each night someone was saved or filled with the Spirit. This was the beginning of Westside Gospel Tabernacle.
Eventually Tom went into the ministry and the church grew. He needed a large facility. He said God also put on his heart to build a convalescent home to meet the needs of the elderly.
His dad challenged him and told Tom that he would ask two people who didn't attend church for $1,000. A funeral director and another man each gave $1,000, and Tom's dad told him, "You're to buy the land and build."
So Tom, with no credit history, secured the loans and put up the two structures. But his back was against the wall. He owed nearly $150,000 - by the end of the month - and he didn't know where it would come from.
A man offered to buy the convalescent home, and Tom invited dozens of men to help him decide. He said that to a man, they recommended selling it...
...until a man - who didn't go to church - stood up and asked, "Did God put the convalescent home on your heart?"
"Is your God big enough?"
Tom fell under conviction, dismissed the meeting and pressed on successfully with both projects.
Since then, God led him to raise funds for well over 100 global missions projects before he retired and twice that many after he retired. Most recently he took funds into Cuba to build a Bible school. He raises upward to $1 million a year for these projects.
He said his greatest joy is seeing young men he mentored - some whom he dedicated as wee ones - now pastoring thriving churches, some with congregations over 1,000.
I greatly miss his son Tommy, my mentor, with whom I ran the Indianapolis 500 mini-marathon in the early 1980s. He died of Lou Gehrig's Disease in the late 1990s. We had moved to Poulsbo, Washington, where we met and loved Pastor Marc Pearson. Too soon Marc died of Lou Gehrig's Disease. He had been praying for Tommy.
Both kept their humor to the end. My mother-in-law, Helen McMillin, wanted to meet again with Tommy in his wheelchair. Tommy told her, "Helen, some day soon, you and I will be dancing partners in Heaven!"
Tommy had told of his visit to the dentist. Two strong men helped him stumble past the empty waiting room in to have his teeth cleaned. When they helped him out, the waiting room was full.
He shouted, haltingly, "When...I...went...in..there, I...was...perfectly healthy!"
Near the end, Pastor Marc called his family together, looked at each one and whispered, "I love you."
Then he whispered, "I...have...to...go."
His son reassured Marc that this day was what he looked forward to his whole life and, of course, his family releases him. He may go to meet his Lord.
Graciously, God replaced my Thomas Paino III with Thomas Duchemin and Marc Pearson with Mark Vroegop.
The Lord taketh away. The Lord giveth.