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R.I.P. Ed McAteer

“Is this Kevan Barley? Yes sir, Mr. Barley, I got your name from John Shelton. I’ve heard that you’re the finest plumber in Memphis and I need your help.” The voice on the telephone fairly danced with dynamism and enthusiasm. After a few minutes I said “You’re Ed McAteer, aren’t you?” He seemed a little taken aback and asked if we’d done business before. After all, at his age, memory isn’t what it used to be. I answered “No, sir, it’s just that you are a public figure and nobody else I’ve ever heard speaks with such leadership in his voice. It’s hard NOT to know that it’s Ed McAteer.”

That’s how I met him: I cleaned out his sewer line. As time passed, I’d do several other plumbing jobs at his house. He called once and began by saying “I told someone just the other day that Kevan Barley cannot quite walk on water, but I’ve never seen him more than two inches deep, and he knows where all the rocks are!” I could tell that it was a line he’d used many times before, but I still appreciated the compliment.

Ed was famous for the coalitions he built. He was a “natural salesman” who believed deeply in the fundamentals of the Christian faith and the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy, particularly the prophecies about the nation Israel. He therefore created and led organizations dedicated to advancing those beliefs. I never heard anyone question his integrity, and I never saw anything in him that fell short of absolute commitment to truth. From where I sat, I believe that he had one passion: Jesus Christ as savior of the world.

The Left despised him, called him “the godfather of the religious right.” Who knows what dreams passed through their minds of how beneficial he’d be if only he were on their side instead of on ours? Ed was a man of rare abilities and rare commitment. He made a powerful impact upon his generation.

He collapsed at his home here in Memphis this past Tuesday; died “all at once,” as it were. He was only 78, but at the speed at which he thought and talked and worked, he probably got 120 years of living crammed into those 78.

His funeral is Friday, 10 AM, at the 28,000-member Bellevue Baptist Church, which is in sight of my home. I won’t make it, though. I’ve made too many promises to customers and will be gone plumbing.

But he’ll do fine without me. I suspect that the huge auditorium will be packed with his other friends. I’ll just wait and catch up with him later.

Shalom, Ed.

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