It's not often in one's life that he has the chance to meet a legend. I've never met a really famous person. Someone asked me this just a few days ago. I can think of three close encounters with marginally famous people in my life.
I met Alan Trammell at a baseball clinic when I was in high school. I think the words he said to me were something like "You gotta hold the baseball [such-and-such a way] for me to sign it." Wow. Awesome.
When I was entering eighth grade Chris Webber was entering Michigan as a freshman. He and Jalen Rose came to a summer basketball camp I was attending. Each of the kids got to go one-on-one against one of them. I went against Webber and tried a fade-away jumper. He blocked it. Of course, he was too nice to block everyone's shot, so I like to think he looked at me and thought I had a chance to hit a 18-footer, so he'd better block it. Or so I like to think.
My other brush with "fame" was when Fernando Ortega visited Hope College and was about to play at an event. I was closest to the piano, and he said, "Can you help me move this over a little bit?" I did a great job too.
So none of those people are really all that famous. If you're not a sports fan or follower of great Christian music you may not know who any of these people are. But in the last few weeks I got to spend time with a legend.
"Abu Billy" is the founder of the institution which I now lead (although he never imagined it becoming what it is today). His picture is displayed in my office. Several times recently I've been asked if he's still alive. "You bet!" I say, "He's probably in better shape than I am." Recently I've been able to tell them that he's coming to visit.
Almost three weeks ago Abu Billy did come to visit our country, the place he called home for over forty years. We met him once before, but meeting him here was even more special. We got to see him with people who look to him as a spiritual father, people who worked closely with him for decades, people who grew up under his caring eye.
He is going on eighty years old and I was sad to observe a sign of decline in that his hearing is getting bad... until I learned that he's been deaf in one ear since contracting scarlet fever in childhood. So much for decline!
It's hard to express how it feels to now be leading the institution he founded. Humbling... certainly. But it's a blessing too, knowing the concern and prayer he put into his work. And it's an encouragement to see all that can be accomplished for the Lord by a life fully surrendered to Him.