He was not a pastor. He was not an evangelist. He never wrote a book or published a song. I don’t think he ever wrote a weekly article like this one and he wasn’t “on staff” at some large church. I doubt that any of you who live in the London, Ohio area know him and yet … he was the godliest man I have ever known.
I am writing about our much loved family member and cousin, Michael D. Salmons. Michael lived with his wife, Helen Ann and son Aaron in Hurricane, West Virginia. Do you know where that is? Neither did I until about 35 years ago. The first time Beth (my girlfriend at that time) took me to meet her “West Virginia family” I had never driven on roads that were so narrow and turned as sharply as the roads to Hurricane did. We drove on roads where you could see your rear fender when making a right-handed turn. They were so sharp! And narrow. You had to pull over so an oncoming car could go by first and then you could proceed on your way. Her family live in out of the way places called “hollers.”
Michael loaned me his suit so I could marry Beth. (I didn’t own a suit so I had to borrow his.) And since then, for the last 35 years, he has lived out what a really devout Christian man’s life ought to look like. Given the choice to live for the world, or live for the Lord, Michael chose the Lord every time. He and his wife provided the Christian home environment that Aaron needed in order to grow up loving the Lord too and today Aaron leads the Praise Team at his home church every Sunday morning. Michael wasn’t a perfect man — he had some faults — but he made a determined effort to run the race that the Lord had set before him with as much persistence as anyone I have seen.
So it wasn’t strange that when, in December, Michael was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic, liver and brain cancer, his faith didn’t falter. He went through a very serious battery of chemotherapy treatments, hoping that the strength of the treatments would cause the cancer to be halted. But in spite of all efforts, the cancer grew more rapidly. Michael refused to have radiation treatment, because his doctor told him it really wouldn’t help since the cancer had such a head start in his body. So Michael chose to have quality of life instead of quantity of life. And in the six months that followed, he did exactly that. He continued to teach his Sunday school class. He continued to sing with the Praise Team at his church. He didn’t miss on Sunday mornings or Sunday night and even went to Wednesday night services too. His ministry at the nursing home continued and during his chemo treatments, he witnessed to the nurses and to the doctors.
On Father’s day, Sunday, June 18, 2017, Michael won his battle with cancer. He went home to be with his Heavenly Father and on Wednesday, June 21 we observed a Celebration of Life Service for him. During visitation on Tuesday night, some 700 plus people stopped by to pay their respects and for his Memorial Service, the Sanctuary was standing room only and the Fellowship Hall was completely packed also. Probably close to 350-400 people came out for his Celebration of Life Service.
Why did I say that Michael “won” his battle with cancer on June 18? Because he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior many years ago and his faith was mature and strong enough that Michael told me this, “If the Lord chooses to heal me, I’m OK and if the Lord chooses to take me home, I’m OK too. I’m trusting the Lord in this.” And he did. He trusted the Lord right up to the moment that he drew his last breath here on earth and took his next one in Heaven.
Today, he has begun his eternity in Heaven with the Father and with Jesus and with all of his family members who have gone on before him and with the Old Testament and New Testament saints. He’s met the biblical characters that he studied about and taught about for all of these years. He’s seen Paul and Timothy and David and Moses. He’s also seen his Savior — Jesus Christ — face to face and he knows that Heaven is real. He’s there. And if Michael could say one thing to you today, it would be this: “Accept Jesus as your Savior before you draw your last breath.” Michael is right if we expect to go to Heaven when we die, we have to have accepted Jesus as our Savior. (John 3:1-7, 16 and Romans 10:9-13)
If you would like to be saved and spend your eternity in Heaven, would you pray this prayer to God right now? “Dear God. I know I am a sinner. I believe that. And I also believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sin debt. I accept Jesus as my Savior. Come and live in my life today and save me from my sins. I accept the free gift of eternal life. Thank You for saving me and help me to live for you. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.”
Thank you for the life that you lived, Michael. You have given those of us who knew you an example of what a Christian life should look like and for that we are grateful. And one day, we will see you again.
And that is Something to Think About for this week.
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Pastor Thad Gifford is the founding and lead pastor of the Crossroads Community Church, 62 E. Second St., London. He can be reached at 740-852-7800, email him at email@example.com, www.3C-Church.org or visit the church’s Facebook page at Crossroadslondon.