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Have you ever stepped onto an empty elevator and immediately become aware of the scent of either perfume or aftershave lotion? Someone had gotten off the elevator before you entered, but they left behind a lingering fragrance.

In my filing cabinet at home I have a very special folder which contains letters that I have never been able to throw away no matter how many times I have gone through all my files and shredded documents. Why? What is the reason for my reluctance to discard these letters written many years ago? It is primarily because these particular letters represent a lingering fragrance of individual lives who profoundly influenced and shaped my life over the years.

II Corinthians 2:15 & 16 --"For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.

To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?"

One such person in my life who bore the savour of life unto life to me was a young man by the name of Theron Pearl, undoubtedly one of the godliest students to ever walk the halls of Crown College, then called, St. Paul Bible Institute. He was my best friend. During college days and afterwards there existed a powerful spiritual bond between us. God would lay burdens upon our hearts at precisely the same times whether we were geographically close or distant from each other. From time to time we would meet and spend hours in intercessory prayer together. At St. Paul, with the blessing of the pastor, Rev. C. J. Mason, on Sunday evenings we would enter the private study of brother Mason without anyone else knowing, and spend the entire time of the service on our faces in prayer while Pastor Mason led the service and preached. After graduation, I, in Chicago attending a C&MA Council, and he, at his home in Flint, Michigan, felt constrained to make contact. I phoned him long distance and we agreed to come together for prayer. I arrived at his home and we went down by a riverside and cried out to God in fervent intercessory prayer throughout the night. At one point it seemed that Heaven bent so low over us that we dared not to stretch forth our hands lest we touch God and die! It is an incident concerning which I have rarely spoken to anyone throughout the remainder of my life because it was so holy. Theron and I were giving serious consideration to going to Ireland with Young Ireland for Christ to engage in evangelistic work. He was the kind of friend that whenever I faced a genuine problem he would spend hours in prayer for me until the problem was resolved.

Then one day I received the news that while pastoring his first small church in Richmond, Indiana, and while driving on a highway, a drunken driver came speeding around a bend and crashed head-on into Theron's car, tearing away the whole driver's side of his vehicle. Theron was killed instantly. I received letters from people in his congregation as well as from Theron's father. They all knew how close we had been. Later, Theron's father sent me some of Theron's library which had been in the back seat of his vehicle at the time of the accident. Theron's blood was still visible on the books and pieces of shattered windshield glass were imbedded between the pages. All who had known of his godly life were absolutely stunned! Like Enoch of old, he walked with God, and now, he was not! Half a century has gone by since then, but there remains a lingering fragrance at every remembrance of his saintly life.

There were others, whose saintly example helped to shape my life. Dr. Jack Shepherd was indeed my favourite teacher. He had a brilliant mind but what astounded me the most was the way he invited, and appeared to value, his students' input in class. He was intellectually honest and at the same time intellectually curious to hear our opinion of the subject at hand. It was a delight to sit under his tutelage. But his influence extended far beyond the lessons he taught in class. One day, as I sat with my legs crossed exposing the soles of my shoes to him, he took note of my feet ventilation system. My socks were showing through the bottom of my shoes. I was among those students who were from a non-Christian family, a broken home, and had no financial backing. He knew that I was living from week to week by working nights and praying in the rest of my support. Later in the day he took me downtown and bought me a pair of shoes! But his kindness and the kindness of his wife, Jean, did not end there. Years later when we had to return from missionary service in Viet Nam with our Down's Syndrome daughter, Virginia Jewel, they graciously received us into their home while our baby was undergoing diagnostic tests in New York City. Jack Shepherd is now in the presence of Christ, and as I write these lines his dear wife, Jean, is facing serious physical challenges. Frankly, I cannot remember the actual lessons which he and other professors taught at college, but the example that Jack and others set, remain with me to this day as a lingering fragrance.

One of the letters which I found in my folder this morning entitled "Correspondence: Treasured Letters" was dated October 9, 1982. It was from Rev. Irving G. Peterson, another highly regarded teacher in my college days. His teaching was well-researched and a delight. He learned that while I was completing my senior year I was also traveling interstate to northern Wisconsin every weekend to pastor a small country church. I desperately needed a car but had no funds to make a purchase, and moreover, I was totally ignorant of what to look for when purchasing a used vehicle. One Saturday morning, Rev. Peterson personally took me to a used car lot and taught me how to wisely choose a used car. He climbed in and out of vehicles, walked around them, kicked the tires, examined this and that, teaching me all the while. Then, after deciding which car was probably the best choice, he turned around and loaned me the money to make the purchase. I was shocked! I asked myself, "How can a teacher who has hundreds of students pass through his classrooms possibly do this for one student. And for a student who was as poor as I was -- hence a high risk?!" In the following weeks and months I worked like a Trojan to pay off the debt and managed to do it early. In his letter to me he wrote:

"You mentioned my helping you with the purchase of a used car while we were together at St. Paul. I might have forgotten about that except for the fact that you so promptly made the monthly payments. As I recall, you were always a month in advance. Then, too, after helping you, I found a used car for myself which proved to be the best second-hand auto I ever purchased. It was a "rose" if there ever was one, and I linked my good fortune to my helping you first.

If you are ever out our way, do us the favor of stopping by. We have ample room to keep you and yours over-night.

Best regards to you and your wife,


And there are many more who could be mentioned, but suffice it to say, although I cannot remember the specifics of any of the lessons taught by my teachers of long ago, I can still sense the sweet fragrance that lingers on throughout the years . . . the fragrance of their godly example, their kindness, and their caring. They were the savor of "life unto life" to me and I am deeply grateful to God for their influence upon my life in my more youthful years.