At Parkway Baptist Church, a lighthouse stands for much more than a place’s history, purpose, or presence. It is not a beacon to warn of physical peril or a tourist attraction. For the members of this church, the word lighthouse holds a significance that very few people know.
At Parkway, the music ministry was one of my favorite aspects of church. As a choir member, I was able to use my musical talents to reach other people’s hearts. Our worship leader, Craig Stamper, never seemed weighed down by his duties; he just embraced them. With eyes shining and a hand raised high toward heaven, he would exclaim, “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!”
The tragedy of September 11, 2001, struck close to home. For Craig and his wife, Susan, it was with heavy hearts that they headed north to be with family who had lost one of their own. The next day, our senior pastor broke the sad news. They did not make it to New York. A rainy evening and bad road conditions were to blame for Craig’s car spiraling out of control and hitting a tractor trailer head on. Craig didn’t stand a chance.
Our heads spun as our hearts cried out to God. Why would God allow so many people to die on 9/11? Then how could God allow such a godly person as Craig to lose his life so horribly in a tragic car accident? Answers did not come immediately; but they did come.
Craig’s family, members of the community, and the entire congregation of Parkway Church gathered to say goodbye. God be praised, Craig’s wife, Susan, had been spared in the accident. With her broken arm in a cast and sling, she stood bravely near her husband’s closed casket. Her eyes glistened as she greeted people who came down the aisle. My heart ached for her.
The senior pastor spoke, then stood on the platform steps. That is when we heard it. Craig’s voice! It rang out over the sound system, singing his favorite song: “There’s a lighthouse on the hillside that overlooks life’s sea . . . And I thank God for the lighthouse, I owe my life to Him.” His voice was strong and clear as if he were right there, just like before; and one by one, people came to the altar.
What was intended to be a memorial service turned out to be a day of salvation. Thirteen people accepted Jesus into their hearts. We began to understand. There was more involved than our losing such a great leader; more even than his family’s unimaginable grief.
No one was being punished for anything. God used Craig to be our lighthouse, beckoning lost people to salvation. I could almost hear Craig’s voice one last time calling out to us: “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!”