This beautiful expressive letter to God was written by Amy Gerla. She and her husband, Dan, had worked shoulder to shoulder with my parents for over fifteen years.
An oak toppled today, Lord; just like that! No big storm, just instantly felled. God, how could it be? Oaks live hundreds of years. There were no marks from the blows of an adept woodsman. It was instantaneous ... JUST LIKE THAT!
You said, "He shall be like a tree planted by the water" and he was ... not just a run of the mill type tree like ash, poplar, willow or yellow pine, susceptible to all sorts of struggles with nature and swayed by every wind. But no, he was solid, a mighty oak. Oh, yes, he'd suffered enough in this life to give him marks of character, only to enhance a life loved and respected by so many; he stood tall and strong in the eyes of our family and friends and before thousands of others.
We leaned on this tower of strength; probably more than we realized. We could easily have lost our balance but for You, Lord. You were here when that great tree was uprooted, to be planted in that beautiful eternal place where he is now basking in Your presence. I can just see him totally taken up with You! That's how he was here.
You've assured us that the same power ... the person of Jesus Christ on whom he depended entirely, would remain with us forever. From Him we can continue to draw love, comfort, wisdom and strength.
Daddy was physically weary, but his spirit was invigorated when Alan and I and the children went out to the airport to pick him up when he returned from his speaking engagements in Louisiana. He had ministered with Pastor Ronsisvalle, a young pastor of a huge complex in Birmingham, Alabama. Daddy felt like the Lord really had His hand on this young man. He had found a true kindred spirit in Pastor Gorman from New Orleans. Daddy had laughingly told the congregation there that he had hit the top when he came to speak to them, and he didn't know where he could go from the New Orleans church. The frosting on the cake was spending several hours with Jimmy Swaggart. He told me later that he was thrilled as he sensed the warmth and humility in this man. He came back to Boise more stimulated than he had ever been before.
He was eagerly looking forward to ministering in Lakeland, Florida, with Rev. Carl Strader, and then going to Washington DC to be with Rev. Benny Harris. Reverend Harris had made arrangements for every Senator, every Congressman, and every government leader to receive a copy of the book, Angels on Assignment.
My brother, Ted, and his wife, Linda, had gone to New York for their vacation, and were planning to meet daddy in Washington DC, to be with him during his meeting there.
It was a beautiful fall morning, November 6. The sun was shining and the air was crisp outside. Inside, the atmosphere was electric with excitement. It was staff meeting day, and we could hardly wait to hear the reports of victory we knew dad would be sharing with us.
This particular day, daddy spent the majority of the time talking about love and loving one another. He talked over and over again about how God had told him very specifically thru the angel not to defend the message God had given him to share. He told us that it was God's message, and it was up to God to defend it. He urged all of us just to love! We were not to get angry at what people said about him, but we were to love those people. Love seemed so alive in his heart that day, a love that just oozed out of every pore. The supernatural love of God was so very evident in his life.
It seemed like daddy literally glowed with health as he ministered to all of us that morning. I was so glad because earlier I had told Alan that I hoped God wouldn't be lonesome for dad, and take him on a visit to heaven and not let him return.
Early that morning my grandfather, Arthur Jacobson, who had been ill for many years, had gone to be with the Lord. Arrangements had already been made for the funeral to be held after daddy returned from Washington DC.
After the staff meeting, I went to an ice skating lesson, and was planning to go to lunch with a friend. There was a delay in leaving the rink, which allowed Alan to reach me and tell me that my mother wanted the whole family to have lunch together.
Later I was so thankful to God for allowing me this last lunch with my dad!
Lunch was really fun. The family was sad that Grandpa Jacobson had died, but we all knew that he was with the Lord and released from the binds of illness he had experienced for so long.
Everyone was laughing and talking at once. Mother's brother, Maurice, and sister-in-law, Margaret, were here because of Grandpa's illness. Marilyn was able to take time off from her job, and daddy was home from all his traveling. It seemed good to all to be together. Marilyn was especially full of fun and really got daddy to laughing.
When it was time for dad to return to the office, Marilyn and I both gave him a big hug and kiss. Then mother, as always, sent him back to work with a good bye hug and kiss, not knowing that this would be the last time she would see him alive.
Daddy had an appointment with a lady who hadn't been able to stop crying for several days. He prayed with her and then said, "I just want you to look up in the face of Jesus and give Him a great big smile, tell him how much you love Him!" She did and the tears turned to laughter which just bubbled out of her innermost being, as she began to praise the Lord. Then she looked at daddy. His head was back and his arms were relaxed on the chair. At first she thought he was praying and smiling up at the Lord too, but he was so still. Suddenly she realized that he was too still!
She quickly called Joyce, dad's secretary. Joyce screamed for Alan and told him pastor must have had a heart attack!
Alan shared later that when he ran into the room and saw him in that relaxed position, totally at peace, he knew in his spirit that daddy was gone. Alan laid him on the floor as a standard precaution and started giving him CPR. Sue Carpenter came in and assisted by giving simultaneous mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Joyce called the emergency unit at the Fire Department.
I had stopped by Maranatha School and was talking with Warren Merkel who had been with Living Sound, and had just settled in Boise. I wanted to introduce Warren to my dad because dad's ministry had been so interwoven with Living Sound and Terry Law.
We were walking towards dad's office when Angela, my daughter, came running toward me crying, "Mommy, Mommy, Grandpa has had a heart attack!"
I said, "Honey, you're kidding!" but I knew that my daughter would never joke about something like that.
I ran to the church all the time praying, "Oh, God, don't let this be, at the peak of dad's beautiful ministry. Oh, God, please!" There lay my precious father on the floor like a fallen giant. Gentle hands led me from the room. It seemed like it took forever for the Fire Department to get there. I could hear people praying everywhere. Many of the students of Maranatha dropped to their knees where they stood to pray for their beloved pastor.
Mother arrived shortly with grandma, and Marilyn was close behind having driven top speed across town from her office. Marilyn came bursting in with tears streaming down her face. We all joined hands and hearts in prayer for dad.
The funeral home had already been called, but there was the very smallest sign of life on the emergency equipment, when it was turned all the way up, so the call was canceled and an ambulance sent instead. The people prayed earnestly because they knew that daddy had been healed before.
The ambulance finally arrived and dad was rushed to the hospital, followed by family, staff members, and friends.
The hospital was so flooded with calls as people became aware of what had happened that the switchboard became completely jammed. He had become such a well-known and beloved figure in the community.
Everyone was sitting in the waiting room praying when the door opened and the attending physician walked in. He went over to my mother, took her by the hand and said, "We did everything we could, but he's with God now! I want you to know that this man affected many lives, including mine!" The nurse who was there told how much she had been blessed by Pastor Buck. One of the nuns came over to me and enfolded me in her arms telling me that "Pastor had baptized me in water, and had enriched my life."
Mother was a beautiful tower of strength. She said, "Let's have a word of prayer together."
Mother shared later that she felt like every single day that she had daddy was a very special gift from God. She had made up her mind after his last heart attack that she was going to live every day with him to the fullest, but live it just one day at a time. The Lord gave her immediate peace and a sense of His presence the day she lost both her father and her husband of thirty-seven years.
"One of the things my husband spoke of often was that God is righteous! He has the unfailing ability to always do the right thing! This helped me so much following the time when the Father called Roland home. How could I say 'Why God?' when I knew he was in the Father's hands all along."
The hospital had to send out a news release thru the media to relieve their switchboard. Many of the congregation heard on television the news that their beloved pastor had gone to be with the Lord.
A special choir practice had already been scheduled for that Tuesday night. The musical for that year's Christmas presentation was based on a chapter out of my dad's book, "He Tasted Death." The program had been given to me in the middle of the night by the Lord, and daddy had been so excited about the presentation. There was no way to get word to all the choir members, so they came, many of them not knowing that their precious pastor had gone to be with the Lord.
Something really special took place that night. The people when they heard the news wanted to come to the church. They couldn't think of any place they would rather go. So that night as the choir came to practice, people started coming into the church until it was completely full. There was a beautiful spirit of praise and love. The strong foundation of trust in God that daddy had endeavored to build all these years was very evident as his people came quietly walking into their church and sat in the presence of the Lord the night my daddy went to be with God.
One of my dad's goals had been to see the mid-week service completely full of people praising God. The Wednesday following his death the church was full to the rafters. Many people came forward and shared what he had meant in their lives. It was wonderful. The congregation seemed to band together with a very special love and unity.
The Lord cares about his children so very much . His care was in evidence in His making sure that I was able to be at that last lunch with dad.
My sister, Charm, was also included in God's comforting plan.
"I'll never forget the day when my little sister, Marilyn, called with the news that dad's heart had stopped. She said that he hadn't been breathing for about five or ten minutes. I felt like my heart quit beating. It was like when your legs turn to water.
"Bryan was working on the new building. My first feeling was panic. I felt like screaming, but I went out in the yard, and called Bryan over and I told him what had taken place. Thru a miracle the Lord had worked out before, we were in Boise about twenty minutes after the family left the hospital. I believe it was a miracle the Lord performed to show how much He really cares for us.
"Naomi arranged for me and the children to fly to Boise the next day. When I found out that grandpa had passed away, and that dad wasn't going to be able to preach the funeral until the following Tuesday, we planned to cancel our tickets and go when the funeral was held. I thought I could be of more help then. In the meantime, I had packed suitcases for the family. Bryan's folks were at our house at the time, so when the call came about dad, I called the airport, changed our reservations, and Bryan and I were on the plane within forty-five minutes. We were home almost immediately after dad passed away. This was a real blessing to me."
Everyone was worried about Ted and his reaction to the news since he was so far away from home. Ted had been so close to dad, and Linda had been totally adopted as a daughter by him and held a very special place in his heart as Ted's wife.
Ted: The last time I talked with my dad was Monday night, November 5. Linda and I were on vacation on the East Coast, and we had been alternating calling her folks, then mine, just to say, 'Hi,' and see what was going on.
To give you a idea of the balance in dad's life, he wasn't an overgrown spirit, he was someone who was interested in things they were going on here, even with all the angelic visitations. The previous Saturday, Linda and I had given our tickets to the Bronco football game to dad, since we were going to be out of town. He had gone to the game with Sharon and Alan and watched Boise State play. Most of our last conversation was how much he enjoyed himself. He had watched the quarterback do a lot of passing, and it had been an exciting game. We shared for a while then I hung up, little realizing that this would be the last time I would talk to him on this earth.
We were in Philadelphia. We had gone to see the Liberty Bell, and then had driven down to Washington DC. I said to Linda, 'Why don't we call your folks tonight since we called mine last night?' She called her mom and talked to her. Finally her mom said, 'Linda, there's something I have to tell you.' Linda hung up and turned to me with a strange look on her face. She said, 'Ted, your grandpa died this morning,' and without stopping she added softly, 'And your father had a heart attack and died this afternoon.' I looked at her with unbelief, and said, 'You mean dad's dead?' Dad was so full of life I could not picture him not walking on this earth. She said, 'Yes, we'd better call your mom.' It was as if I was numb for a second, and then I dialed the phone number. Alan answered and called mom to the phone. I asked her how she was, and then I told her that I had such a strange peace in my heart that shouldn't be there. It didn't make sense. But I knew where dad was and I felt a peace about it. If there had been one thing in life that I really feared, it was when I would lose my father because of how much he had taught me and how much I had leaned on him. He was my earthly father and my spiritual leader, and he was gone! I felt a tranquility inside me like a storm had occurred in some way, but yet a calm came. There was no crying out, or striking out at God because I knew it had to be God's plan. I said, 'Linda, I need to go out for a while and do a little praying and talking to God.'
I went out for about a half hour. As I was walking down a very busy street in Washington DC, I prayed, 'God, somehow I would like to be able to talk to dad.' Then I began to share just like I was talking to dad. Of course he didn't answer, but I thanked him for what he had meant in my life. I thanked him for the picture of God that he had shown me, for the time he had invested in me, for the heritage he had given me. I poured out my heart to him and let him know how much I loved him. I told dad that I didn't want him to be ashamed of how I conducted myself now that he was gone. Then I talked to the Lord about the church. The was part of mom and dad. They had spent so many years pouring their very lives into it. I saw the church as a ripe plum to be picked by someone, not necessarily a bad person, but someone who saw it as a stepping stone, or a place to get away to, or maybe for someone a nice place to retire. Or maybe someone would come who would take the ministry that Pastor and Mrs. Buck had developed and turn it into a program.
As I was out under the stars walking in the cool night air, cars were whizzing by, there was a frenzy of activity all around. In the midst of this noise in downtown Washington DC, I set my spiritual jaw. I began to think, 'What if God would let me take my father's place?' Then I thought about the fact that I didn't have any seminary training. I had attended the Roland Buck University for 28 1/2 years, though, and I began to wonder if there would be any way that I could be a pastor, although I didn't think I would be able to in my own strength. I went to bed still thinking about these things.
We cut our vacation short, and the next day caught a plane home. I began to come back to reality and to realize that it would be very difficult for me to be able to be pastor of this church. I told Linda this, and she said, 'Ted, remember what your Dad always said, "If God is in something, it will happen with no strain or stress or human manipulation."" We both were able to relax in this truth.
By the time I got home, I had nearly resolved that there would be no way it would work for me to pastor. But I did determine that as a life-time member of this church, I would stand up and have a say in what occurred in the future.
The day after we had arrived, mom and I were at the church talking, and Johnny Hisel, the senior deacon, came in. I told him that I would take a one-month leave of absence from my business, and work with my mom in the interim period. Three days later the board asked us to be co-pastors. I hadn't even thought about this but when I did, any hesitancy seemed to melt away because of my confidence in mom's spiritual maturity.
At home, our whole family moved in with mother. We all wanted to be just as close to each other as possible. The Lord wrapped mother in His love, and she emanated peace and serenity.
The board of the church met, and felt that daddy was the kind of man who would want the work of the Lord to keep going no matter what happened. They knew he would say, "Sic em! Life is for living!" They felt very definitely led that all scheduled activities should go on as planned. Then something special took place. The board unanimously decided that there were no two people better qualified to take over the leadership of the church than my mother, Charm, and my brother, Ted. They would carry on the ministry the way it had been begun.
Ted had been one of the four owners of a new real estate company, Alpha and Omega Realty, which throughout the four years since its inception had become on of the largest real estate firms in Boise. There was not even a question in my brother's mind about quitting a successful career in real estate to become pastor of Central Assembly Christian Life Center.
The warm love of the congregation has been exhibited in their acceptance of my mother, "Pastor Charm," and my brother, "Pastor Ted."
Next: Coronation Day