Near the end of my first New Shepherds Orientation Workshop, an elder asked, “Who is one of the best elders you have ever served with?”. My mind went to Ed Riadon in Madisonville, Kentucky.
We met first when Gail, Jerrie Wayne, and I stayed in their home in November, 1968. We were in Madisonville to “try out” as the next preacher. During a diaper change, Jerrie Wayne, two months old, deposited a high amount of humidity on their couch. I thought that would be the end of my consideration. But Ed and Sarah were understanding, telling us they were grandparents and that had happened before.
This was my first impression of a great shepherd and his wife. Ed worked at the Post Office and introduced us to disposable diaper samples recently delivered through the mail.
I passed the “try out.” We started working with the Madisonville church in December, 1968. He invited me to go with him on visits with members, visitors, sick, new parents, bereaved, and discouraged.
One of my favorite Ed stories occurred on one of our first nights visiting. As we were finishing, he asked, “Do you like ice cream?”. When I replied in the affirmative, he pointed me to a Kwik-Pik Market. Ed bought a half-gallon box of cherry-almond-vanilla ice cream. He went into the kitchen, placed the box of ice cream on the table, retrieved a serrated edge knife from a drawer and cut the box of ice cream in two. He handed me a spoon, half the ice cream, took another for himself, and said, “I never like to eat ice cream unless I can eat all I want.” We finished the half-gallon. I knew this would be a great relationship. From the first meeting until his death, April 11, 1976, I was able to observe a good shepherd in action.
Some of the admirable characteristics I saw:
- He was firm. When the elders asked me to speak on a difficult topic, an elder would go to the pulpit before me and say, “We asked Jerrie to speak on this topic. We encourage those who need to make changes in their lives to do it today.” After the sermon, an elder would publicly thank me for the sermon and commend those who responded.
- He was compassionate. His tone was gentle, even with those who were upset with him. He gave hope and encouragement to a man we visited one night who was drunk. I was a young preacher who made mistakes. When Ed discussed those with me, he always expressed confidence I would learn and do better.
- His priorities were obvious. He spent more time with sheep than in meetings talking about “the members.” His leadership was demonstrated then in the lives of his children and decades later it is still there.
- He was approachable. Ed and Sarah often invited my family and others into their home. They were “given to hospitality.” I felt free to drop in anytime I wanted to talk.
When I think of good shepherds, I think of Ed Riadon.
Who are good shepherds you have known?