“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
That powerful opening to the Psalms is an apt description of Don Vinzant who passed from this life on March 10.
My first memory of Don dates back to 1973, when he moved to Oklahoma City to preach for the Village Church of Christ (now the Quail Springs Church). He was visiting the campus of Oklahoma Christian and we met in the library, where he was looking for a book and I was walking to my office. His big grin and warm handshake created a strong bond.
I knew that Don had once been part of the Sao Paulo mission that established a new trend in mission efforts among Churches of Christ. We visited about mutual friends who had gone with him to Sao Paulo and about the books for which he was looking.
Don never met a person that he did not welcome as a dear friend. His warm greeting and smile were trademarks of his ministry. When the Village church outgrew its facilities, Don was part of the group that began dreaming about relocating the congregation to the site where the Quail Springs church now meets.
Don was a serious student of the Bible. I rarely saw him without a Bible in his hands. He always was ready to talk about spiritual issues. He not only knew the text, but he understood how to use the ideas to help shape lives.
From 1976 to 1989, Don ministered for churches in Austin and Granbury, Texas. During that time, he followed his passion and earned a doctorate in ministry.
In the early 80s I met his two younger children, Gene and Caroline, when they attended Oklahoma Christian University. Their great character and spiritual maturity reminded me of Don and Carol.
In 1989 the couple moved to Edmond, where Don joined the Bible faculty at Oklahoma Christian. He was a strong teacher and mentor to college-age students. He gladly took any assignment as part of his duties. He brought to his work a global perspective about the church and the way Christianity could impact secular attitudes and values. Don and I often had coffee to talk about families and church problems. He had a keen sense of humor that often helped me put matters in perspective, and I loved that time with him.
In 1997 the Edmond Church of Christ hired Don to be its full-time preacher. He mentored an amazing group of young ministers, helping them move to greater leadership responsibilities.
Don was ill less than a month before his death. The loss touched the Oklahoma church community deeply. His funeral was conducted by his younger brother James, his cousin Howard Norton and his longtime associate Kent Risley. He was praised as husband, father, missionary, Bible student, preacher, friend and soul-winner.
After the funeral, Joyce and I ate at a nearby restaurant. A man named Ray Davis came to our table and asked if we had been at the funeral. He said Don had taught him the Gospel and baptized him. He shared a poem he had written for Don:
If ever such a little time, for just a little while, his caring, sharing handshake, his ever-loving smile. I got to know, the way he walked, the narrow path he trod, as he led me, and others, on their way to God. I never knew his coming, or just when it would end, only that I loved him, and I would call him friend. And by God’s grace, sent to my friend, from heaven up above, will always surround my friend with love.
Don Vinzant left his indelible mark on the world and the church as he served God.
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