Not very often in life, you will come across someone that changes not only your life, but the way you look at life. If you are lucky, you will meet someone that makes you want to become a better human being. But if you are incredibly lucky, you will meet someone that not only makes you want to be better, but is so encouraging, and loving, and instructive that you actually believe you can be a better person, and have the courage to try. Buddy Suitor was that kind of man.
Bud met me when I was very young, and in that way he has, made me feel instantly at home. I wasn't a strange young man he just met, but like a distant cousin welcomed into a family. He and his own pastor Butch Pluimer, took me under their wing and trained me to be a minister of Jesus to a hurting world. Everything I learned, I learned from Buddy. It was Bud that not only taught me how to preach, but gave me my first opportunity. It was at Bud's side that I learned to comfort and pray for the sick. Buddy helped me prepare for my first funeral. He taught me how to do weddings, and was the one to marry my wife and I. He taught me to be a good husband and father, and encouraged me to be a good pastor. Probably the most important lesson in my life, I learned from bud, that people matter more than anything else. People matter more than programs, more than success, or tasks, people are important to God. Especially the people that are not important to the powers that be in this world.
If it wasn't for Buddy my wife and I would never have taken in homeless teenagers, cared for mentally ill people in our neighborhood or helped people escape the bondage of drugs or alcohol. Hosted weekly bbq's for homeless punk rockers, or breakfasts for hung over ravers. Bud started us on a journey, that has lead us to question everything, and measure it by the idea "is this good news for the poor, and marginalized".
Bud also gave me a great love and respect for the scriptures. He loved the bible, and whenever I told a story or quoted a verse he could give me its address, and vice versa. He almost memorized the whole thing. And when I would come to him for council, he would almost always tell a story straight from its pages, and it always gave me direction and encouragement.
He taught me to trust God's leading, and be in tune with the Spirit.
Bud pastored a relatively small church, in a smaller community in Southern California, but his influence is far far greater. Many of the pastors in Corona would probably call buddy their pastor, if not one of their primary counselors. Buddy worked with the police department and mayors office on a number of issues. And headed up the homeless ministries and soup kitchen in the city. In addition to this, many of the men he inspired at camps, retreats or even directly discipled like myself, are serving the Lord all over the country. So I guess that's another lesson, do not despise small things. This mans influence was huge.
I look at his passing with much sadness. I also must admit to some guilt and regret that I did not take advantage of seeing him as much as I could have, especially in the last year. I will miss him so much. But there are two things that give me hope, the one is I believe that I will see him again "though I am not planning on it being soon". The second is, that his life lives on in my heart, and in the hearts of all he touched.
I also realize two responsibilities. The first is to take better advantage of the opportunities to love and cherish the people in our life. The second is to continue on in the way Bud showed me, to be a light to the world. Jesus came not only to save us for heaven, but to save us in the now, and buddy walked out his salvation, I hope I can do it even half as well as he did.
Finally I would like to share a story, which shows what a great man Bud was:
I was a youth pastor, trying to save the youth of Corona and figured the best way was with music. So I talked to Bud and the elders of our church and got them to finance a concert featuring one of the more popular Christian rock bands of the time. I explained how I expected their money to be earned back by ticket sales, and how this was a great opportunity to minister to the kids. The elders agreed to put up the cash and the concert went on. It was an amazing night but we lost about $400 or $500 dollars. At the next elders meeting I came in very sheepishly, and embarrassed, informed them all that we had not recouped all of the money, and had lost about $400. Buddy said, "no we didn't"
"yes we did, I have all the figures right here"
"no we did not lose $400 john, we have invested $400 in the youth of this city"
Buddy, I love you, I will see you again probably before I am ready, until then I will try and live up to your example.