Recently, Dr. Garland Owensby of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, passed away. Dallas wanted to take a moment remember his teacher and mentor, and bring some hope to a community that is grieving today.

Written Version

Today is an interesting day for me. While checking emails and my Facebook feed this morning, I discovered a post from my Alma Mater, Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU), that Dr. Garland Owensby had run his race of faith and had received his reward in heaven. For those of you not in the know, Dr. Owensby was one of the critical professors at SAGU that truly inspired how I see ministry and life. Garland had served the SAGU campus faithfully since 1998 as the Youth and Student Ministries Professor and Coordinator. He taught countless individuals not just how to teach young people but how to love them where they were and inspire them to walk Christ-centered lives.

But he wasn’t just a professor. There’s a stigma that those who can’t do, teach. That wasn’t Garland. He was active in ministry both on campus and in the local body. He lived what he taught. He encouraged and inspired the students of SAGU and championed them well after they left campus. I had the great privilege of being one of those students. Garland’s investment in my life inspires many aspects of how this ministry, Geek Devotions, runs. In fact, as of the writing of this, I’m in preparation to return to the world of student ministry in my local church, which has led me to pull out old note books from his classes in recent weeks.

When I heard of his passing, I was in shock, like so many others. I have genuinely been grieving his passing. I have been reflecting on the hours of class time I spent with him. I find myself recalling fantastic conversations I’ve had with him since leaving SAGU. He was always encouraging; he was always inspiring. Even a year ago, when I brought him on as a guest on the Bible Study podcast I do for my church, Midweek Move, while I was attempting to speak highly of him, he took the time to encourage me and let me know how proud he was of the ministry I’ve been able to do.

So today, many are grieving. I’m thankful that we don’t have to grieve like those with no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is no question in my mind that Garland stood before the Lord and heard God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

So where does that leave us? Those who are left here? I have a few thoughts.

We grieve.

Yes, we indeed take comfort in the knowledge that Garland is with the Lord, but we still struggle with feelings of loss. We’ve discussed this topic here before and I’ll provide a link to our article on things to remember while grieving and How to Grieve. But I want to encourage you in this:

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18 English Standard Version (ESV)

It’s so easy to feel abandoned when we go through the grieving process. But remember that the Lord is very near to you at this moment. So reach out to Him in prayer and through His word, and allow Holy Spirit to minister to you.

We live the legacy

One of the most complex parts of the grieving process is moving forward and living your life. But unfortunately, some feel that being ok is somehow dishonoring to the person who has passed. But the biggest dishonor to someone who has passed is not living out the legacy they’ve left behind. Dr. Garland Owensby has left a tremendous legacy behind. As I said before, portions of how I do ministry are inspired by his teachings. Meaning portions of Geek Devotions is a part of his legacy. As I transition back into Student Ministry, every student I get to minister to, every school campus I step on, and every parent conversation, is marked as a portion of the legacy he has left behind.

I am thankful for everything he taught me. In addition, I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to call Garland Owensby my teacher, mentor, and friend.

To the SAGU family, I’m praying for all of us as we walk this legacy left for us.

To the family of Garland, please know that grieving with you is a community of individuals who love not just your husband, father, and son but love you. He taught us that. He taught us the principles of Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” That is yet another aspect of his legacy left behind. I can tell you from my conversations with him that he truly loved you more than anything. His source of joy and happiness was in Christ, but he understood that outside of his salvation, his greatest gift from the Lord; were you.

Podcast Version