Most girls aren’t blessed to have the love of two fathers in their lifetime. I, however, am one of the lucky ones.
My spiritual father, Jerry Linhares (aka Brother Jerry), often reminded me that he and his wife, Susan, were there the day I was born and for forty-four years he was faithful to love me like his own. He prayed me through every single one of my spiritual milestones, ranging from my own dedication and baptism, to the joy of premarital counseling with my husband Adams, to heavy grief counseling after losing my brother, Jeremy. He dedicated both of my daughters to the Lord as infants and years later prayed over them at their individual baptisms. I vividly remember the day that Jerry gently took my arm and told me that I would be a great teacher of the Word to women. How had he known that I had been praying about this very path and was asking the Lord for confirmation? That was just Brother Jerry for you. He could see things in others so clearly and the Lord used that gift to affirm the plans that He had already set in motion.
Feeling inadequate for the task at hand, I promptly signed up for seminary and asked Brother Jerry if he would again counsel me through this new season. He graciously obliged and week after week we sat sipping coffee and discussing the deep things of God. I recall one day lamenting that seminary was harder than I expected and Brother Jerry said to me, “Honey, don’t cry to me. I never told you to go to seminary. I just told you that you would be a minister to women.” That was information that would have been good to know three semesters ago, Brother Jerry!
There are countless lessons that this “Holy Man” taught me, and I thought it would be fitting that on the day we celebrate his life and legacy, I would share with you a few of my favorites. My prayer is that they will bless your life as they have mine and perhaps you will want to pass along such wisdom to others.
In marriage, if you both keep growing closer to God, you will grow closer to each other. In one of our premarital counseling sessions, Brother Jerry drew a triangle and put “God” at the top of it and subsequently, “Adams” in the bottom left and “April” in the bottom right. He said that even though we were certain to experience bumps in the road, if we both were diligent to keep reaching for Jesus, then we would always be moving toward each other’s hearts too. Intimacy with the Lord leads to intimacy within a marriage.
God is not astonished by our weaknesses. The days that followed the death of my brother were dark to say the least. I didn’t understand how a good and loving God could allow this to happen and I was angry with Him, which scared me. When I told Brother Jerry about this struggle, he said, “April, don’t be afraid to bring all your hurts and disappoints to God. He wants you to. He is not astonished by your weakness. In fact, He says that His power is made perfect in your weakness (paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 12:9). Give it to Him, child.” Brother Jerry taught me a great deal about the sovereignty of God through this time and it is still what I cling to when faced with seasons such as these. God is FAITHFUL!
Lastly, Brother Jerry taught me to ALWAYS PRAISE! I remember the day that I excitedly slid into the booth at the coffee shop and was talking ninety-to-nothing to Brother Jerry about a prayer that the Lord had answered for me. He patiently listened and then looked at me with his kind eyes as he said, “That’s wonderful news! However, did you take the time to praise God for answering you? The appropriate response is always praise.” I never forgot that lesson, but more importantly, I will never forget Jerry’s visual example of praise and worship. Every Tuesday morning at our church prayer meeting I would find him in one of two postures: either with his hands raised high or with his face bowed low. There was only one response for Jerry Linhares and that was to always praise!
I never met a man more in love with Jesus than Jerry. And because of that deep, abiding love he reflected what I imagine Jesus to look like, and I want that for my own life as well. God blessed him with a ministry of power and of wisdom and the great responsibility to shepherd His sheep. He was anointed. He was chosen.
After years of mentorship, I unabashedly asked if he would be willing to transfer his anointing onto me when he passed into eternal life. He unreservedly agreed. It is not a charge that I take lightly and I am aware that with the anointing comes much responsibility as well as hardships to endure. But therein also lies the opportunity to lead others to experience something that Jerry knew intimately, the unconditional love of a Savior.
So today, I honor my spiritual father as I proudly continue his ministry to God and to others. May the Father be glorified just as He always was in the life and the legacy of Jerry Linhares.