“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs, the people who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”
These powerful and inspirational words were handwritten in a thank you card to me by Minister Christine (Gail) Blanchard.
Her words reminded me of my late brother-in-law and pastor, Hayes Long, who passed at the beginning of 2021. We were not related by blood, but he was family. He was married to my sister, Valerie, for 50 years. He often boasted that when he saw Valerie, he knew that she was going to be his wife. His niece, Jenci said, “He was unapologetically in love with her! His expression of love towards her became an earthly example of how Christ loved His church – unconditional and without end.” He was a family man who loved his children and grandchildren.
My mother was a single parent due to the death of my father a few months after Hayes and Valerie married. Whatever Mama needed, he was there to help in any situation (painting and repairs, fixing Mama’s car, taking her to the doctor, etc.). As a little girl, I grew up watching him being a son to my mother and a brother to my siblings. He was a big brother to me – helping me through my teenage years by offering sound advice. He was community-oriented, and a neighbor who didn’t mind helping anyone.
I know he loved the Lord. In 1976, he received the gift of the Holy Ghost and began his quest for wisdom and knowledge of the manifestation of the Spirit. He was called into the ministry and later became a Pastor. Jeremiah 3:15 says, “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” For 32 years, I was fully fed under Pastor Long’s leadership at Jesus New Testament Holiness Church.
Pastor Long helped me through so many difficult moments in my life. He never judged me. He always prayed and encouraged me throughout my professional career; the dissolution of my marriage; the raising of my children as a single parent; so many losses in our family and church, etc.
At his visitation, so many spoke of his kindness and caring toward them. Members talked about his wisdom in how he helped them with problems, and him always saying, “Let’s pray about it”. One nephew said Pastor Long stepped in as a father to him. His sister, Lynda said, “You were my brother first and you became my pastor. I couldn’t have asked for a better leader. You reminded me of a tree planted by the river – unmovable.” One said, “Whatever secrets you told him – they went to the grave with him.”
It read on his obituary that he transitioned from mortal to immortality and left the testimony, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith...”
In thinking about Pastor Long and his legacy ask yourself: What have I done with my time on earth? Have I impacted lives? What testimony will I leave behind? You be the judge.