Arnold, Missouri — Ron Greene loved everybody.
He built relationships with people – often the downtrodden or shunned – by meeting their everyday needs. Once those were met, he would faithfully introduce them to Jesus.
"Ron never had a penny because he always shared whatever he had with other people," said Jerry Field, evangelism initiative coordinator for the Missouri Baptist Convention. "He was a real piece of art, one of those types of guys who are deeply passionate about reaching people for Christ. His prayer life was an integral part of his ministry, too, particularly his prayers for disadvantaged people."
A friend once said that Greene was just as comfortable witnessing to a homeless man sleeping under a bridge as he was to a soccer mom in her mini-van. No wonder a steady line of mourners filed by the casket bearing Greene’s body at Lang-Fendler Funeral Home in his hometown of Arnold for more than four hours, offering condolences to the family of a humble man who had obviously touched many lives.
Greene, 61, suddenly passed away April 21, leaving a testimony that should inspire all Missouri Baptists to tell others about Jesus, state evangelism leaders say.
Born in Evansville, Ind., Greene attended William Jewell College, later becoming that institution’s evangelism coordinator. It was during Greene’s time in that ministry that he befriended a student — ultimately leading him to the Lord and then watching him become an aspiring young evangelist.
The student was David Ring.
Ring was discouraged from pursuing a ministry in evangelism by some people at the college who felt his cerebral palsy would limit his witness. Greene looked beyond Ring’s affliction and saw something else.
"He literally took David under his wings," said Frank Pratt, a Nehemiah Project church planter who served with Greene during Greene’s last eight months on earth.
So it seemed appropriate for Ring to have the opportunity to stand above Greene’s casket and eulogize him in a most personal way — just as he did April 25.
"If it wasn’t for the man in that casket, I wouldn’t be here today," said Ring, now a highly respected world-class evangelist himself.
Greene was affectionately known as "The Rose Man" because of his penchant for witnessing to restaurant workers and his habit of drawing a rose on a napkin in which he always left their tip.
"In all the time I knew him Ron never failed to witness at every opportunity," said long-time pal Bill Curp, director of missions for Jefferson Baptist Association. "He loved everybody equally and treated them equally.
"He’d tell people, ‘You’re a rose in God’s garden, but you have the opportunity to be a rose in God’s bouquet – that is His family — by receiving Jesus as your savior.’"
Pratt recalls traveling with Greene to St. Louis for an evangelism meeting about four weeks before Greene’s death. Upon entering the First Watch Restaurant, Greene noticed one waitress in particular.
"Excuse me, you look familiar. Have we met?" Greene asked the lady.
"You look familiar, too," she replied. "Where are you from?"
"Arnold," Greene answered.
"Oh, you’re The Rose Man!" she cried.
Turns out two years earlier Greene had led the lady to Jesus while she waited on his table at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. She could hardly contain her excitement as she told him how God had been working in her life since that day and how happy she was being involved in church.
"He had more zeal for evangelism than anybody I have ever met," Pratt said.
Greene always managed a smile across a face that sat beneath a collection of silver hair.
Noting the burly Greene’s sense of humor, Pratt quoted an often-used phrase by his friend: "I’m married to Pat, buy I live with Frank," Greene would quip to folks, referring to his wife of 40 years and his evangelistic work in the area with Pratt.
Greene understood the down side of life by having gone through a bankruptcy, a heart attack and his constant struggle with diabetes. Yet through it all he never wavered in his commitment to lead others to Jesus.
Field remembered his first face-to-face meeting with Greene.
"He came to a church planter basic training meeting. He came in all out of breath, saying, ‘Well the Lord brought me here. I left at 5 a.m., but my heart kept racing and I got dizzy. So I had to pull off on the side of the road for a bit.’
"I asked him if he was ok and if we should wait and he said, ‘Oh no, no. Let’s go! I’ve got to learn this stuff.’ I mean he had such a sweet, positive attitude. He was just a tremendous guy," Field said.
Greene was a multi-housing missionary and his primary field was the 61 mobile home parks in Jefferson County. That seemed appropriate given the fact that he had spent more than 20 years selling mobile homes.
"He spent more hours than I even know working the mobile homes, developing groups of volunteers for children’s’ ministry and starting Bible studies," Pratt said. "He went 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What drove him was trying to help someone so he could share the Gospel."
Pratt also saw Greene operate in a way that struck close to home.
"Even though Ron was a diabetic, he was an excellent baker," Pratt noted. "He had promised to bake a birthday cake for my 12-year-old daughter, Kayli. Sure enough, the day before he died he showed up with a vanilla sheet cake with white, green and red icing."
What design did Greene create with the icing?
"A bunch of red roses," Pratt said.
Editor’s note: A member of Canaan Baptist Church, Greene is survived by his wife, Patricia (Vogel) Greene; his mother, Anne Mills; four children, two sisters and 10 grandchildren. His father, Herschel Greene, preceded him in death. Memorials may be made to Canaan Baptist Church.