Have you ever missed someone you’ve never met? You hear stories about them from people you love, and you feel like you missed out on so much having never met the person. Bill Eyerly is not a common household name…unless you live in the neighborhood near Lenox Ave. That is where my father-in-law poured out his life as an offering to the Lord. Today is the 20th anniversary of Bill’s passing, but his legacy continues to live on.
When Bill bought the “fixer-upper” on Lenox Avenue more than 40 years ago, he never intended to stay there. It wasn’t exactly in a neighborhood that people aspire to live in; in fact, it’s a neighborhood that people dream of leaving. Bill soon found out that life happens. He met and married Suzy, and at the time, it made sense just to live in the house he already owned (with the intention of moving someday). The move never happened, and they raised their family in the house Bill intended to purchase only as an investment. Little did he know, the house would be an investment, but not the insignificant, earthly, temporary kind.
The Eyerly home became a “bubble” in the community. Bill’s green thumb ensured the landscaping was always immaculate, and people often commented on the beauty of the curb appeal. However, as my wife told me several weeks ago, that’s not what made his house beautiful. You see, the children in the neighborhood did not grow up in the greatest conditions, but the nice house on Lenox Ave, seemed to be a haven, and Bill Eyerly—the man with the pretty flowers and big garden—was the father they always wanted.
Bill was a light in his community. The food in his garden would often go to neighbors and kids who had no food. The groceries they purchased every week were frequently devoured by children who couldn’t find food in their own homes. Bill and Suzy bought a van they used to take the neighborhood children to church so they could know about the God who loved them. Ironically, they didn’t need a Sunday School teacher to tell them about God’s love; they experienced it daily in the form of a farmer-turned-factory-laborer named Bill Eyerly. It’s no wonder the community mourned his loss or that his children still have a soft spot for the less fortunate; because Bill didn’t help those who could repay him or help him achieve some form of notoriety or prestige. Bill obeyed Jesus words in Luke 14:12-14, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” He was exactly what Jesus intended all of us to be—his hands and feet.
Unlike Bill, I often find myself wanting to help those who can repay me. I want a nice house in the suburbs that will impress people I don’t even like. I want a vehicle that is nice and smells clean—one that I would never allow poor, dirty children to ride in. I want to make good earthly investments and store up treasures on earth and feel the security of having enough money. Frankly, I find myself wanting the very things the Apostle Paul said he considers to be “dung.” Are you like me? Do you find yourself sacrificing everything that is truly important to pursue dung? Lord, help me to be more like Bill Eyerly. Help us all to be more like Bill Eyerly.
Bill never intended this investment property to be a mission field, but he realized 20 years ago today, that the return on his investment was far greater than he ever bargained for, and I look forward to the day I get to meet this incredible man that I have missed for so many years.