“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it, if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:26
Celebrating the holidays is often a mixture of both joy and sadness especially for those who have suffered loss during the previous year. Such has been the case in the Cincinnati Church of Christ. Several of our members suffered loss in their families, and three of our members went on to be with the Lord. All of these losses were challenging but none hit as hard as the tragic and sudden death of Pete McCreary. Pete was only 53 years old, and he was killed in a motorcycle accident on July 13 while returning home from his business. Pete had been a pillar in the Cincinnati Church as well as in the community. In the church, he had served in the ministry, he had worked as the church administrator, and at his passing he was a small group leader and a member of the board. He was a servant until the very end. On his last Sunday on this earth, he and his wife Judy were ushers at ICMC 2018, helping serve communion to the 3,000 in attendance. In the community, he was very respected as the owner of the Cincinnati area Junk King franchise. His passing was a tremendous blow to his family, friends, church, and community. It was also a personal blow, as I had known both Pete and Judy since our days together at The Ohio State University in the early 1980’s. And yet out of this tragedy have come tremendous victories.
Just one month before his death, Pete walked his oldest daughter Ryan down the aisle when she married Tyler Kwasniewski. What joy, followed by such a tough loss. Pete left behind his wife Judy and three other children, Allie, Cami, and Josh. Pete’s passing has continued to have a major impact on them all, for they miss him dearly. They know that Pete is with the Lord, yet nothing can fill his place in their lives. But their faith and devotion inspires and moves us, even as we seek to comfort, strengthen, and care for them. Judy continues to devote herself to the Lord, while comforted by many friends in the church. Their daughter Ryan dances with the Boston Ballet and her husband Tyler serves in the ministry in the Boston Church. Their daughters, Allie (campus) and Cami (teen), are disciples in the Cincinnati Church, and their son Josh is studying the Bible. Pete’s love, and the example he set provides ongoing strength and encouragement.
HOPE worldwide ImpactA year ago, Pete traveled with his entire family to the Philippines to serve HOPE worldwide. Judy is half-Filipino, and their son Josh was adopted from the Philippines. They were so impacted by the work of HOPEww that Pete began exploring long-term options for a partnership between his business and HOPEww’s work in the Philippines. This past week, Judy and her children returned to volunteer in an orphanage in the Philippines, using the very tools Pete had collected in his business and shipped to the Philippines before he died. When Pete died, in response to the outpouring of those asking how they could honor Pete’s love for HOPEww, the Pete McCreary Memorial HOPE Youth Corps Scholarship Fund was created. To date almost $6,000 has been given to this fund, allowing deserving students to participate in HOPE Youth Corps projects.
Pete’s funeral was attended by hundreds of family members, people from the community, disciples from near and far, as well as large numbers of former members. His sudden passing reminded us all that our life is “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We were reminded that being right with the Lord is all that matters. Much like in Acts 8:1-4 where “godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him” the disciples in Cincinnati have been spurred to preach the word like never before. This fall, we have had our largest number of baptisms and restorations in recent years. Perhaps most impactful, this December, three men who were close to Pete but had wandered away from the Lord and his church all “came to their senses” like the prodigal son and were restored to God and his family. One of those was Scott McCreary, Pete’s younger brother. Steve Ryan and Steve Sidoti were the other two who came home. All three pointed to Pete’s passing as their wake up call.
As my wife Jennifer often points out, in the Christian life it is possible to simultaneously experience both joy and sorrow, victory and defeat, tragedy and triumph.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-12