This article was originally published in the October 2023 edition of ITMI Monthly.
I lost a dear friend and partner this last month.
We had 30+ years of serving, mentoring, and teaching together, whether under the same roof or on different paths that God so wonderfully directed. Gary Howell was one unique Ambassador of Christ. His quick wit and instantaneous yet good-natured sarcasm were always drenched with a twinkle in his eye, a controlled smile, or an even quicker follow-up to ensure you knew he was messing with you.
Gary was always learning to be more beneficial to the next person who needed his wisdom and insight on a difficult life subject. Gary underlined and marked up books passionately, which made borrowing his books all the more enjoyable and valuable.
Gary pre-digested and extracted the valued nuggets of many godly men and women's wisdom, experience, and Biblical perspective as presented in his vast and inclusive library of truth, in order to better walk people through their hurts and brokenness.
It was always fun to watch Gary squirm when you introduced him to a new author or new book that tweaked his attention. He would always say that his Amazon account and its ability to quickly get him his next book, which would go on his personal stack of books queued to be read, was causing Candie to restrict him from buying more books until he reduced the size of his to-be-read-stack.
Gary loved to keep his mental closet full of items and pieces of truth shared through the experiences of the many who had already been led through dark and hurtful places and come out on the other side. Gary wanted to help others progress so deeply that continuing education was Gary’s favorite and most practiced life hobby.
Everyone reacts differently to that heavy emptiness that comes when someone we value dearly is no longer accessible. Gary would tell us to accept the reality of our hurt and loss and then gently nudge us to always “reframe” it into something that draws us closer to God’s intent for our lives and health.
I find great comfort in the Psalmist’s reminder, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15) We can rest assured that there was a lot of precious sighting when Gary stepped into glory.
Our hearts are heavy with the understanding that we will not again hear Gary’s wisdom or ribbing, but to the Lord, Gary’s graduation brought a sense of great value and sweetness as Gary was finally made whole. Gary would want you and me to make sure that we “reframe” this hurt and sorrow into an amazing celebration that one more of God’s dear ones is now home, where we all want to be.
Let us remember what John Taylor said, “While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet him behind the veil.”
In His Service,
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About the Author
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.
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