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Not ready to say goodbye to beloved minister

Update: Don Vinzant died March 10. He “peacefully passed from this life surrounded by the songs and prayers of his beloved family.” Read his full obituary.

EDMOND, Okla. — “Don is sick.”

These are the words of his wife, Carol. The message is small and short, quite unlike the man himself. Yet I dare say thousands of people are walking the earth right now with this sentence hanging over them like a dark cloud.
Don is Don Vinzant, one of our ministers at the Edmond Church of Christ, where my family worships and serves. He has been there forever, and before that he worked with another congregation forever. And before that he was a missionary in Brazil forever.
Sick is really, really ill. Don has a rare form of cancer and a little-diagnosed and untreatable type of leukemia — which, when you think about it, is probably about all that could knock Don down. Add to that a staph infection and you’ve got a man who has been hit hard.
Had this been anyone else in our spiritual family, Don would be doing the comforting. He’d be driving his big sedan over right away to sit with their loved ones and pray over the wounded while they lay in bed. He’d be comforting the rest of us, administering the bear hugs for which he is famous. He’d be reassuring us, putting it all into the proper, eternal perspective.
But he can’t.
So in his physical absence, we’re floundering some.  Sure, we’re trying to be there for one another and follow Don’s example, but it’s pretty clear that we’re nowhere near as good at this as he is.
For example, some of us simply cannot follow the procedures and protocol of Don’s hospital stay. Someone who shall remain nameless recently decided she would drop off some soup and chocolate at the hospital for Don and Carol, because it was a cold, rainy day and really, any day is a good day for chocolate (which this unnamed female knows Don likes a lot).
Before this person knows it, she is inside room 409, a privilege reserved for family only, sheepishly looking across at another rule-breaker.
The Vinzants are loved. They are quirky and funny, with servant hearts and self-deprecating ways, which of course means we don’t want Don to leave us. We don’t want Carol and their four children to experience that kind of loss. We as a spiritual family don’t want to hurt that way and feel such a giant void in our personal lives and our community of faith.
It’s a contradiction, really – a big group of Christ-followers who all want to go to heaven selfishly praying for God to let a beloved minister stay with them a while longer.  But we are. We can’t help it. 

Last November, Don talked to us about this subject in a message he delivered on suffering and glory based on the eighth chapter of Romans (incidentally, Don’s favorite verse in the Bible is Romans 8:28). He didn’t know what was coming exactly three months to the day later as he and Carol talked with doctors about the possibility of Don having advanced-stage bone and blood cancer. But God did.
“You don’t have to go far … any of the big emergency rooms in town, the big hospitals in town, there’s groaning, crying and weeping. And yet because of that suffering, there are all kinds of opportunities that God gives us to minister to people. And it’s been my limited experience in life that if you help people when they’re suffering, when they’re at their wits end, and you help them with a ministering word from Christ, from Scripture, they never forget that word and they may never forget you … and they never forget the church that ministers to people.”
Sign Don Vinzant’s guestbook on his Caring Bridge page.

  • Feedback
    One more of God’s singers gets home. What a marvelous breakfast we shared at the Abundant Living work shop in Branson, Mo. in October. Thanks for the memories.
    Jim Hollingsworth
    Tallahassee, FL
    March, 12 2011

    Bud and I first met Don and Carol when they first came to Edmond. We took them out to lunch after church and from there we four formed a friendship. To me they were both people of God and Don a big teddy bear who loved everyone with a Christ like love. When we got to Edmond we always went out to lunch and Don would pick Bud’s brain on things he wanted to know. He will be miss but we know where he’s gone to be with Jesus. Many people have been eternally blessed by both Don and Carol.
    Bettty Wilcox
    Willow Park Church of Christ
    Benbrook, Texas
    March, 11 2011

    I am praying with all my heart for Don and his family. He has been a tower of strength and a great example for my family for years and years. He baptized my daddy in 1985 and my dad was truly reborn! Through Don, God has worked many wonderful works. It seems way to soon to see Don cross over, and it is my prayer that he is left here, healthy, for a long time, to be God’s vessel. Love you Don and Carol!
    Roxie Prescott
    church of Christ
    Marshalltown, IA
    March, 9 2011

    What a precious brother and equally precious sister is Carol. I am writing this from Singapore visiting our son Dave who ministers to the Moulmein Road church of Christ and is sponsored by the Edmond congregation. Don has encouraged Dave & Debbie as well as all the Hogan clan. We love and appreciate you.
    Gordon & Jane Hogan
    College church of Christ
    Searcy, Arkansas
    March, 9 2011

    I’ve known Don since we were students together at Abilene Christian College. He’s one of the most genuine, caring persons I know. My wife, Ann and I are praying for both Don and Carol
    Norman Bales
    Cedar Rapids Central
    Marion, Iowa
    March, 9 2011

    Don has always been a great encourager and I’m sure he’s doing that now, as much as he can. Thank you, Don Vinzant, for all your work in building up the kingdom of God on this earth! And thank you, too, Carol, for your tireless labor alongside Don. Our prayers are with you and your family.
    Chris Stinnett
    Seminole Church of Christ
    Seminole, OK
    March, 9 2011

    Don is one of the finest human beings that I have ever known. He encouraged me to go into preaching, and the day I preached my first sermon as a new preaching minister in Liberty, Missouri, he called me and prayed for me that day.
    I pray that God gives him healing. He is such a good man.
    James Nored
    High Pointe Church of Christ
    McKinney, Texas
    United States
    March, 9 2011

    My prayer is that–instead of viewing Don’s precious qualities as a “gift” that few if any can duplicate–more of us give our lives to trying to do just that!
    Not only has his life thus far been the proverbial “open book” for all to see, but the love he and Carol have shared–their fun-loving(and my family and I have seen that first-hand!) roles as a team even in the oddest of settings(Halloween parties come to mind!), the demonstration of “Wherever one is, the other is(in heart, if not physically)!”, and so many other things that others could mention, will never be forgotten.
    Where will this world be if such people are revered but not imitated(in our own imperfect way), respected but not taken on as true role models?
    Russ Sharp
    Edmond church of Christ
    Edmond, Oklahoma
    March, 9 2011

    So sorry to hear this news. I don’t this this man personally, but as his fellow sister in Christ I can’t help but feel for his immediate family and hid church family. Our congregation suffered a similar loss recently. This man was a pillar in our congregation and seemed very much like Bro. Vinzant. His church “family” would sneak in to see him in the hospital too. You just wanted to be there with him and his wife to comfort them and they were the ones comforting us. Praise God for “family” like them. May God’s will be done and have grace on those who are close to him.
    Gail Harris
    Greater Springfield church oh Christ
    chicopee, ma
    March, 9 2011

    Don is so many things to so many people. He is my source for answers to the tough questions and a secret key to a hidden library of unnumbered books! Thanks for your special thoughts.
    Brent Keck
    Edmond, OK
    March, 8 2011

    My parents, Joe and Edith Giallombardo, faithful Christians-now members of Buckingham Road Church of Christ, Garland,TX celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary March 1. My in-laws, Odis and Nelda Walker, faithful members at Hyde Park Church of Christ, Austin, TX also celebrate their 70th anniversary March 15. What wonderful examples they have been to their 7 children, 15 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren!
    Sue Walker
    Waterview Church of Christ
    Richardson, TX
    March, 8 2011

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