Earlier this month, I joined hundreds of others in a celebration of life for a world changer…and walked away challenged anew to make every moment count as I pursue my calling.
I first met Pastor Russ Frase when he moved his family from Texas to help plant a new satellite church in the Denver area in conjunction with the church body where my dad was a pastor. His daughter was a year older than me and we were later roommates on a ministry trip to Israel as teenagers.
My earliest memories were of an often-smiling man with a hearty laugh that made his eyes almost crinkle shut. And a man who preached the Word of God with strong conviction.
Fast forward a few years and Pastor Russ founded Rocky Mountain Bible Institute and served as the Dean of Students with the mission to train ministers. After all, he could only physically plant one church at a time…but inside a classroom, the effect was multiplied.
As a relative newlywed pregnant with our first child, I had the opportunity to fill in for six weeks as his regular secretary underwent and recovered from a surgery. During that time, he spent hours daily in Bible study poring over commentaries and preparing lessons before bringing me pages of handwritten notes to be deciphered and typed alongside the other administrative duties I had to do.
I wish I could remember the specifics of those pages…but I do recall feeling like I was a part of something bigger that would impact the world. And I suppose I was, for over the course of 13 years in operation, many of the students went on to pastor churches, served as lay ministers in other churches, and went into full-time missions.
In 2005, Dr. Frase retired. Well, he actually transitioned from one kind of full time ministry into another because he and his wife founded Joshua Nations and went on to plant 7685 Bible Training Centers around the world.
By the end of 2019, they were operating in at least 58 different nations, had 172,000 students, 40,000 graduates, and curriculum translated into 60 languages. As part of that work, Pastor Russ personally traveled to and ministered in over 92 nations, training leaders to start more Bible Training Centers.
In December of 2020, after turning in the manuscript for a book on the Fight for Integrity, he took a trip to Tanzania, Africa where his team–including one of his grandsons–ministered among the Maasai people. (Since that trip just two months ago, they reported that at least three Bible Training Centers have already started.)
However, for Pastor Russ, that was his final trip. He was hospitalized with COVID-Pneumonia right before Christmas and after a valiant battle and being on a ventilator for several weeks, he succumbed to live-threatening complications and graduated into the loving arms of his Savior. Well done, good and faithful servant.
Hence the celebration of life… A three hour worship service and memorial tribute to the life and ministry of a world changer. In addition to family memories and video montages, six different pastors shared about the impact of one man who left a lasting legacy.
Many people shared the same memory both my father and I had of Pastor Russ: his ever present Bible with more highlights, underlines, circles, and notes than there were printed words. Over and over, stories told of him with the Word open during every free moment. When one friend had asked why, Pastor Russ had responded that he felt the weight of his calling and did not want to waste an idle moment.
Wow. Let that soak in.
What am I doing with my idle moments? Am I using them to advance and perfect my calling…or wasting them on things that don’t make an impact on eternity?
One of the speakers told of Pastor Russ’ personal library of over 7000 volumes and guessed that he had likely read them all because he was always recommending books to friends. One in particular was called Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus and I have to admit that I purchased it before we were halfway home after the service.
So, while I’ll admit I’m not as dedicated to Bible study as a pastor would be, I am committed to making the most of every opportunity to share the truth of God’s love through story and getting those books into the hands of readers.
Stories of faith, hope, and love that can change hearts…and maybe even a small corner of the world. Just by learning to seize every moment.