God brings happiness after deaths
Missouri Baptists find marital bliss after losing spouses
KANSAS CITY—Serving God runs in Gary Taylor’s family. He is the 14th member of his family to be called to the ministry. It was his calling that led Taylor to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS), where he earned his master of divinity degree in 1967 and was made to dig and find out what he really believed and became stronger in his faith because of it.
Most recently, Taylor served as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon for 18 years. Under his leadership, the church grew from an average weekly attendance of 328 to 840, with high attendance days of more than 2,000. During this time, the church baptized more than 1,000 individuals.
Earlier this year, Taylor was selected to serve as the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) state evangelism director. Together with directors of missions, evangelism strategy partners and pastors, Taylor helps develop strategy and resources for approximately 2,000 churches across Missouri, with the ultimate goal of fulfilling the Great Commission in Missouri.
It is a great challenge, but Taylor, who has overcome several trials in his life, is up for it.
In 1994, Taylor was involved in a head-on collision on Interstate 70. He had to be hospitalized for 16 days and spent four months recovering from his injuries. He is also a cancer survivor.
In May 2004, his wife Joyce was diagnosed with cancer. The surgeon gave a two-week prognosis, but miraculously, she lived almost two more years, dying on April 24, 2006.
Though it was an extremely difficult time, Taylor said he would not change a thing.
“I would not take anything for the blessing of knowing God’s grace and being able to serve my dear wife during those months,” he recalled. “First Baptist O’Fallon became a true church family to us. I was allowed to stay at home to study and be by her side most days.”
Among the many believers providing prayer, emotional and physical support to the Taylors were Keith and Cindy Snyder. The couples met while both men were serving on the evangelism committee for the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association. The two men soon became friends. Keith had also attended Midwestern, earning two degrees.
When Gary was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, Keith frequently checked on and prayed for him. Later, it was Keith who needed to lean on Gary when they found out that he had brain cancer.
“He [Keith] told me I would need to coach him through that since I’d had my experience and now Joyce’s experience with cancer,” he remembered. “So I began to call him and pray for him as he had done for me.”
After Joyce’s death, Gary took a month-long leave of absence. In June, Cindy called to say that Keith was near death and had requested that Gary officiate at his funeral.
The death of her life partner forever changed Cindy’s life, but instead of dwelling on her loss, Cindy counted her blessings.
“I was honored by God to be married to one of His called out servants,” Cindy said. “When Keith got sick God gave me the privilege of taking care of him and loving him all the way through until the day Keith went home to be with the Lord.”
Since Keith’s death, Cindy said she has found comfort in God’s Word and fellow believers. She also decided to give a monetary gift to Midwestern in memory of her husband and his love for the seminary.
“I wanted to do something special for my husband after his passing,” she said. “Many people gave money at his funeral to go into a scholarship fund. After much prayer I knew where I would be comfortable to send the money. He loved Midwestern and I believe this is where he would want me to send the money I received for him.”
Cindy said that through this difficult time, God gave her a song in her heart.
God was at work in Gary’s heart as well through a series of promises from His Word, beginning with Isaiah 43:18-19, “Don’t remember the former days for I’m going to do a new thing. I’ll make a road in the wilderness and a river in the desert.”
He was later led to Ezekiel 44:22, which says that if a priest marries, he is not to marry a divorced woman but a virgin or the widow of another priest.
Although he had not spoken to Cindy since the funeral, Gary continued praying for her and wondered if these verses applied to them. He told God that if it was His plan, Cindy would call him. When he returned home from the Missouri Baptist Convention, he had a voicemail from Cindy. Gary did not know that Cindy, too, had attended the Convention.
He returned the call, and, over the course of the next several months, acquaintance grew to friendship and then deeper.
While meditating on John 3:16, Gary was reminded of God’s love for him, and realized his own love for Cindy. He prayed that God would give him the words to express his feelings for her. When he did, Gary found that Cindy shared his feelings.
Cindy prayed that, if God wanted her to marry again, He would provide the right person and enlarge her heart to love him and his family. It was while attending the Convention that she saw Gary for the first time since Keith’s funeral.
When she returned home, Cindy felt prompted to call Gary. “Our relationship began to grow after that phone call,” she said.
They spent the next several months getting to know each other. During this time God confirmed His plans for them. They resolved that it was God’s will for them to marry.
Gary and Cindy were married in September in a simple, brief ceremony for family. Then in October they were commissioned as a missionary couple, starting a new family tradition.
(This article first appeared in The Midwestern, the official newsmagazine of MBTS.)