The Loss of my Friend and Mentor

Above my church office door is a quote, “Preach faithfully & Love genuinely.”- John Gibson, jr.
 I recall the very first professor I met and sat under at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, It was Dr. John Gibson. This bald man, with a crooked walk and crooked nose grabbed my hand shook it firmly saying, “Hi I’m the ugliest, bald headed preacher you’ll ever meet, How ya feelin’”?
            Little did I know that this strange man with a very crooked nose would be the closest thing that I would encounter to a Rabbi-Disciple relationship in New Orleans. If memory serves correctly, I took 28 hours of courses with Dr. Gibson. I would even sit in on courses that I had already taken just to refine my understanding of hermeneutics and preaching. One day, as I continued my path of taking courses Dr. Gibson, pulled me aside and said, “Mario, you have the potential to be a great preacher, let me help you.” This simple request of a loving professor became a ten year long relationship of encouragement and wisdom.
Through our time together Dr. Gibson not only encouraged me in preaching, but in academics. Long before I finished my Bachelors Dr. Gibson began calling me Dr. Melendez… “You gotta admit it’s got a ring.” “We need more people like you to be docs, sound in doctrine and multi-ethnic to speak to more peoples.” When I struggled through my dating life He encouraged me to leave one girl and date what would ultimately become my wife. When I struggled with the call of ministry, he pulled me aside and reminded me of the potential of preaching he originally heard in me. As time went on, and I obeyed his urging to pursue Rebekah, he urged me to study at the Stephen Olford Center of Preaching at Union University. The means in which he told me to go to Memphis was by dancing and singing a song in the middle of his driveway, “Either be with the one you love, or you’ll love someone you can be with…” – A memory not easily forgotten. Every time I’d voyage back to New Orleans I’d be sure to swing by the Gibson’s to hug John, tell him that I love him and ask his wisdom on whatever the life’s current issue. In 2015 I struggled to remain in a particular PhD program, so Dr. Gibson suggested I return to NOBTS, for they had opened up a new program that He thought was “up my bayou.” I looked forward to renewing our weekly sessions of wisdom.
Sadly the beginning of the 2015 fall semester opened up with a tragedy. I was notified late on a Monday night, my beloved professor, mentor and friend took his own life. In the past, I have mourned the loss of a mentor, the firing of a professor, and the suicide of a friend, but I have never mourned all three at once. I have fluctuated from moments of tears, to moments of terror. As you can imagine my mind wondered… if a spiritual great in my life lost hope, then how do I maintain?
Of course I knew the answer to my question, but Dr. Gibson’s son said it eloquently at his funeral, “Dad’s identity was not found in the brokenness of sin, but in the redeeming love of Jesus.” This is how we young preacher boys maintain… our earthly mentor is gone, but our eternal savior remains. Ed Stetzer recently said, "God reigns and His authority is not threatened when His children fail... God's grace is sufficient for the shepherd who falls, and the flock left vulnerable."

I and other mentee’s of Gibson, have in recent gotten together to drink coffee in his honor. Our parting reflection was on Dr. Gibson’s last lesson to us boys, in his death. - best quoted from a Gospel song…
Sin will take you farther than you wanna go
Slowly but wholly taking control
Sin will leave you longer than you wanna stay
Sin will cost you far more than you wanna pay.

His honest love of people and relentless positive nature pushed me to remain in ministry, marry my bride, attend Union University, and now pursue a doctorate. Though his faith failed on earth, he undoubtedly got the strongest "well done good and faithful servant" that heaven has heard in a long time.

I continue in his honor, “Preaching faithfully and loving genuinely.”

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