If ever there were a person whom I held in high esteem and whose life we should all attempt to emulate … that person would be Bob Walters.
A friend for 40+ years, I was blessed to be the first attempt at child rearing for he and his bride Teri. As a teenager, they graciously opened their home, and their hearts, to me during a struggle in my own family life. And it opened up a whole world of service that I still attempt to follow today.
Because I didn’t know him as a child, I’ll begin with what I do know: Bob served. When I met him, he was serving his country as a United States Marine Helicopter pilot. He served as a husband and provider to Teri. He served as a father and mentor to his children Taylor and Robbie. But above all of these, Bob served his Savior.
And oh, how he served Him. From his position as a Youth Leader at Blue Creek Baptist Church in Jacksonville NC where I met him, until the day 40 years later when we lost him, Bob served Him.
There are any number of ways that our service can be offered and applied … from positions within the church to opportunities in our communities. But Bob went further … further than anyone I have ever personally known. And whenever and wherever he was called, Bob served Him.
And his service was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. I followed along via social media as he willingly obeyed His calling. From ministering locally in churches near his home and working in his community, to the furtherest and dangerous locations in the war torn interior of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), he never failed to go where his talents were needed. Because Bob served Him.
As I followed his treks around the globe from the comfort of my home, I saw the austere conditions which Bob willingly faced. There was frequently no infrastructure on his journeys. Because of this, his travels of hundreds of miles were undertaken by bicycle due to the lack of improved roads. There were no creature comforts … no air conditioning in the stifling heat, few indoor toilets, seldom any running water, little electricity, at times no roof over his head at night, and (gasp) no wifi … truly harsh conditions by our standards. But in nearly every photo I can recall seeing of Bob on these missions, his face is bright with a smile. He truly loved what he was doing … what he was called to do. Because Bob served Him.
Just reading of his journeys from Indiana to Africa left me exhausted. Now I will say this about myself; I served 28 years in the United States Air Force (mostly because I wasn’t tough enough to be a Marine), but I have always hated flying. My family finds humor in that statement. But his travels left me anxious. Most were well over 20-30 hours over 2 or more days. After the stop in London, he was routed to cities I have only ever read about. And some I had never heard of. On airlines that … let’s just say … might not meet the standards for reliable maintenance and hospitality that we normally enjoy. But Bob went and he went willingly. Because Bob served Him.
His mission was to provide assistance … enhancements. Ways to take what was readily available and to teach the population how to maximize its use to the best potential. He shared knowledge. Because of the severe conditions with traveling, Bob helped with the acquisition of a boat and motor to travel up and down the Congo River basin. This allowed for the reaching of additional villages needing assistance. Another example of how Bob served Him.
With little to no roads in the country, Bob researched and located a provider in nearby Zambia making bikes of bamboo. These bikes were provided to local pastors in the DR Congo allowing them the opportunity to reach their outlying congregations who desperately needed His word. it was just another example of how Bob served Him.
There were many trips back and forth over the years. None were easy. But all were needed. And thankfully, after so many of these trips, Bob put some of his experiences down on paper in his book “The Last Missionary.” It was another way for him to share with the masses. Because Bob served Him.
There are so many other examples just like these … but I trust you get the gist of my post. Bob was obedient. He was dutiful. He was submissive to the needs of others. But most of all, in every act he performed, Bob served Him.
I read through many of the tributes left online for Bob. I think he would have been embarrassed of them because of his humbleness. But one recurring phrase I read over and over was that he was taken from us too soon. But on that I disagree. No one is taken too soon. He calls us home when our service here is complete … whether it be the hours old child or the centenarian. It is His timing and not ours.
If there is one thing for which I am grateful in all of this … it is that Bob was allowed to leave us while performing an act that he dearly loved … cycling. We should all be so blessed. I will always think this was God’s way of rewarding his life of service.
My heart grieves mightily today as I put these words down. I have shed more than a few tears already. And no doubt will shed more. But in the Bible, 2 Peter 3:8 tells us, “… with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” So because of our mutual faith and knowing it’s doubtful I will live a thousand years, I will see Bob again … and it will just be later today. And at that time I will hear the glorious words told to us in the Gospel of Matthew 25:21 that Bob has now heard, “… Well done, good and faithful servant; … enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Semper Fi, Marine.
Bob Walters, D.Th
September 1953 – July 2017
If you would like to help further the service of Bob, I invite you to make a donation in his memory to his charitable organization, Friendly Planet Missiology. Just copy and paste the link provided below into your browser. And while you’re there, please take just a moment to read over the work this organization has done, and is still doing, in His service. It’s just another way that Bob served Him.