I have just found out that an old friend and mentor has died.
One report informed us: “Counties Evangelist, Geoff Carr passed peacefully into the presence of his Lord and Saviour yesterday – a release for him. Our Love and sympathy to all the family. Geoff was a great guy and one of Counties best. He was a great encourager to us when we first joined and over the years that followed. Many were blessed through his ministry and he will indeed receive his “well done, good and faithful servant“”
I understand Geoff died peacefully after being unwell for some time. His wife, Isobel, died last year. His three daughters and Bramble (Geoff’s dog) were there with him at the end. As a Christian, I rejoice with Geoff and his family that for him life after death is far better, and part of that would have been the prospect of being re-united with his beloved Isobel. As I was thinking of this, I smiled, as I recall one of Geoff’s many gems of wisdom: “to live above with those we love, that will be glory; to live below with those we know, that’s a different story”. Let me rewind with some of my own recollections concerning him, who significantly influenced me and, no doubt, many others beside, who can likely tell so much more.
Geoff was an evangelist, that is someone whose job it was to preach the gospel of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, urging his listeners to give their lives over to him. I first came across Geoff (I think) in 1972 shortly after he began his career as an evangelist working with an organization I have supported ever since: Counties. I believe before that he was a teacher. Me and a friend, both of us students at the same college, assisted him in one of his campaigns. For those who know anything about Counties, an organisation Geoff was to remain a member of until his death; in those days its central activity was to run tent missions, trying to reach out to the local community and holding gospel preaching related meetings for people of all ages. This Geoff did and was the archetypal exponent. These days tent missions hardly ever happen, and many other forms of outreach are employed, in keeping with the times. While I saw him more as “old school”, he adapted well to new ways of doing things and yet the message was the same – the old fashioned gospel narrative. I was to cross paths with Geoff many times after and I was always struck by his positivity and stickability. As part of a church which supported him, we took a keen interest in and prayed for him.
There are many adjectives that can be used to describe Geoff and all of them have positive associations. One that sprung to mind was “winsome”. I don’t recall him being over profound in his talking but when he did share there was humanity, warmth and passion and an ability to empathise with the different sorts he dealt with. He was a great example of one who practiced “by all means save some“. I still remembers snippets from his sermons on Euodias and Onesimus. There was an earthiness and humour in his presentation along with a sense of the divine and that he was the Lord’s servant. His words were invariably seasoned with salt and while he was not afraid to speak hard truths there was a kindness and compassion when he did speak. I never recall him getting embroiled in controversy: political, religious or other. It struck me the most controversial thing he did was to preach the gospel. There was a practical side to Geoff and this often shone through, invariably without fuss. He mentored many. There are those around today who see him as their spiritual father.
I can remember his fantastic sense of humour, a natural wisdom, an ability to make people feel they mattered, and his warm smile and hearty laugh. He was musical (in his early days he played the guitar) and loved sport; he supported Sheffield Wednesday football club, and this sometimes cropped up when we spoke. One of the things I recently found out about Geoff was that he was a windsurfing instructor, which he managed to combine with his work as an evangelist. Talking about Sheffield, his native town, despite living 45+ years in Essex, he never lost his distinctive Sheffield accent. He was a hard worker and I recall he usually had a full diary and found many, sometimes unlikely, avenues to ply his trade, and there is so much evidence that he was effective in so doing. Part of his winsomeness was he got on with those across the ecclesiological spectrum, despite being a Plymouth brother. I am sure that would extend to those of all faiths and none. I have little doubt he influenced to the good and will be much missed by many.
I am sad and thankful at the same time, knowing Geoff has left a lasting legacy. Even as I write, I cannot help but smile at one who has finished his course. Geoff was very much his own man but he was God’s man first, who fought the good fight and ran the straight race, raised up for such a time as this. My thoughts and prayers are with Geoff’s family. I hope to be at his funeral and pay my respects.
Addendum 17/06/17: I am at an age now that opportunities to attend funeral services of people I have had a fair bit of dealings with are coming in thick and fast. Yet I felt, despite having to travel some distance, that attending Geoff’s thanksgiving service (his funeral service was held earlier) was something I needed to do, and I am glad me and my wife went. While I knew a few of the 300 odd people who attended, most I didn’t know, but all it seemed had been profoundly affected by Geoff. It was a time of reminiscing, laughter and gratitude as various folk reflected on Geoff’s life. I could then fill in some of the gaps, all of which was consistent with my earlier thoughts. It was a time to praise, and to thank God for Geoff, his servant. May there be Elishas to pick up the mantle from this Elijah.