Today, we went to another funeral. On Saturday morning, Reverend Tom Offutt died instantly of what appeared to be a heart attack. He was at home and his wife literally caught him and eased him to the floor where he died in her arms. He was 72 years old.
Tom graduated from our seminary with honors a couple of years ago with the Master of Divinity degree. He had come to Cleveland to work for the Church of God Chaplains Commission.
I didn’t know Tom well. His office was in the same building on campus as mine. We crossed paths in the hallways often and greeted each other, but we only had one extended conversation when we were seated next to each other at a meal function. In that conversation the pieces began to come together.
What I had known about him was that he came to Cleveland to work with the chaplains program because of his commitment to help hurting people. He was retired from some kind of business, having accumulated considerable wealth. He didn’t look, talk, or dress like a wealthy man. He had the appearance of a retired Drill Sergeant or factory foreman.
I had heard that he donated large amounts to ministries of compassion, but I never heard any dollar figures. I didn’t know if people were talking about tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. I still don’t know except that someone mentioned yesterday that he once gave two hundred thousand to a local church to complete a benevolence building. I also knew he would quietly cover expenses for students.
Frankly, it just didn’t add up. He didn’t look or act wealthy. (He refused to fly business class because it was a waste of money.) He didn’t have a gregarious personality; his demeanor was more “matter of fact, let’s get down to business.” His donations were always anonymous.
What I heard at that meal was the story of his salvation in 1976 when a Catholic Priest prayed with him. I also heard how his wife was miraculously healed about a decade ago and how that led to their seeking for and receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They shared how their lives were changed and how they had entered into ministries of compassion.
In short, I didn’t know Tom well but I knew him well enough to know I respected him greatly. He was a man of integrity. He wanted his life to glorify God and he wanted to help people. He wanted to be his best and do his best because that was the right thing. He was a Christian who didn’t bury his talents; he used them well for the cause of Christ.
October 27, 2010