My great friend Howard Griffin, the pastor at First Presbyterian in Amarillo and my across-the-street neighbor for ten years, drove down to his hometown of Midland today to visit his mom and to take me to lunch at La Bodega. Howard was the first pastor in Amarillo to call me up and take me to lunch when we first moved there in 2011. That friendship quickly expanded to Burt and Howie and blossomed into what we called “4 Amarillo.” And that worship and service partnership between our four downtown churches has been the absolute highlight of my nearly 15 years in congregational ministry.
So, of course, we reminisced about “4 Amarillo” over chicken and cheese enchiladas. We prayed for each other’s families and churches, just like we’ve done together for a decade.
And then Howard took me for a ride back to his childhood. He drove me by Midland Memorial Hospital where he was born and then by First Pres here in Midland where he was born again. He showed me the house where he grew up and the high school where he played ball, the McDonald’s where he ate and the Whataburger where he hung out. He showed me the churches that had changed names and the restaurants that have become something else. I got a lot of “where the so-and-so used to be” today. And then we went back to GCR to see the church gym.
Back when Howard was in high school, the Golf Course Road Church of Christ opened up their gym for pick up basketball several nights a week, but especially on Friday nights in the fall after the high school football games. Some of Howard’s best teenage memories are of late night hoops in the GCR gym. It’s not carpeted anymore like it was back then – we have a nice professional sports floor in there now – but as soon as we walked in, Howard went straight for a couple of almost-fully-inflated basketballs in the corner and started shooting baskets. We shot baskets together for almost 15-minutes, talking about Amarillo church leagues, Tuesday night pickup at the DAC, and his long ago Friday nights at GCR.
I am thankful to God for a great couple of hours today. I got some additional insight into what makes this faithful Christian minister friend of mine tick. And I got a pretty good history lesson on our new city and even on our new church. Howard has fond memories of GCR and of his friends who were members here back in the 80s. I’m pretty sure we’re making some pretty fond memories here right now.