I left church on Sunday morning and walked the short distance to the square. The sun felt good and the steeple atop the courthouse still glistened from the morning dew. Despite the traffic it was quiet. 

I sat down on the steps of the courthouse. There is something you may not know. There has been a magic secret around Stephenville for a long time. It is a secret of love and giving and that flame wavered yesterday (last Saturday).        

The heaviness in my heart was my own pain but I knew, in my heart, the Magic Secret would continue in ways I could never imagine. I stared up at the steeple and wondered if it could reach heaven.  There was a new angel knocking on God’s door.

He called me “Mama” despite being 10-plus years my senior. He found out I had a fondness for chocolate chip cookies so he’d sneak me a few during our ESL classes at church. 

But this story is about the Magic Secret.  It’s about Burma, Korea, Mexico, Indonesia or Africa to name only a few.  It’s about all those families he fed and ministered to.  He found them a bed and housed dozens in his own home as the need arose.  It’s about those he shuttled from the campus of Tarleton to Walmart so they wouldn’t have to walk.  It was about a 13-year-old girl who lived in a boarding school and never had any real family until he and his wife, LaNiece, took her in and gave her a new outlook on love and family.

The stories are endless about the love he shared as he depicted being God’s messenger here on earth. Many of those he ministered to and taught, are now in high up jobs and making success stories in their own lives.  The entire world had come to a little town in North Texas called Stephenville as he showed them there was real love in the world and God was alive and well. It was, in many ways, an international distribution on our doorstep.

The Magic Secret is, Jerry made a difference to everyone in some form or fashion. He had the tenacity of a bulldog and a sense of humor that made everyone smile.

A family from Burma came and one child sang at “Papa’s” funeral because Jerry took the time to show he cared. The Magic Secret is that each family, including his own, will forever remember him and the difference he made in their lives.

We all make a difference in ways we don’t realize. Jerry took each and every one and their families as the need arose, and showed them the love and compassion and giving in a town called Stephenville.

He showed them that despite problems, there is still joy, peace, love, compassion and a way to give back and grow despite struggles and adversity.

Despite language barriers and cultural differences people are the same.  Jerry knew with a smile and a pat on the back we could conquer the world. Jerry knew that nothing stands in the way of giving, in the ways Christ taught, through his word, to give and to forgive.  Everyone had potential in Jerry’s eyes. He always asked, “Do you know Jesus?”

I don’t know the magic Jerry had. Perhaps, that is why it is a secret of sorts.  I know I want to take a lesson.  I want to open my heart and give of my time and show love when it’s the hardest thing in the world to do.

Jerry saw no color, no culture, no adversity, and no dilemma in love.  He gave unconditionally and openly and language was no barrier.  If he saw a need, he answered the call and rose to the occasion.  The stories about the man are never ending, and if you knew him, you smiled because, he just touched your heart. His little smirk and grin just made you wonder what he was going to come up with next.  It was a language we all could understand.

The Magic Secret? There is no formula, no patent, no potion or fairy dust. The Magic Secret is Jerry, and the legacy of living and giving, and loving and helping and making disciples to continue the work Jesus left us to do. 

Melinda Clements is an E-T community columnist. She can be reached at melinda_clements@centurylink.net.