Remembering John Ransom (1939-2006)

Two weeks ago, John and Lorelei’s granddaughter, Kaylee, was brushing her teeth, when out of the blue she turned and said to her grandmother, “Mommy was telling me how when Grandpa was very sick and he was just skin and bone, he talked to a group at church (Thanksgiving Service). He told them, ‘My body is very sick, but I am fine,'” Then, Kaylee added, “Know why he said that–because he is in Heaven.”

Lorelei emailed, “I fought back the tears.  As we approach yet another anniversary of God calling John home, it was such a blessing to know that his legacy of faith was being shared!!!”

John Ransom was a close friend of mine. He died of pancreatic cancer six years ago, February 25, 2006. The other day I was thinking I wish I could visit with him about something. In remembrance of John and his life, I shared the following comments at John’s memorial service.

I first met John at the bus station in Joplin, Missouri, August, 1957. I had ridden a bus from Indiana to Joplin to come to Ozark Bible College. John came with someone else to pick me up and take me to the college. We were both beginning our freshman year.

In some ways we were quite different. He was from the city; I was from rural Indiana. We had to learn each other language.  He said, “Soda.” And I said, “Pop.” He found it hilarious that I called a pot-luck dinner, a “pitch-in.” But we managed to communicate. He helped me learn some of the finer points of etiquette. John was an excellent musician with a broad appreciation of all kinds of music. My expertise in music is limited to playing classical music on the radio and CD player.

 

We had a lot in common too. We both were serious students. We were interested in learning the Bible and serving the Lord by preaching and teaching His Word.

 

Our first semester, we lived in rooms on the second floor of Brother Williamson’s house. I remember coming in late one night. I guess I was feeling ornery. I moved  John’s clocks and watch ahead to near the time for his alarm to go off. I prepared breakfast. His alarm went off. John got up and said it felt like he had just gone to sleep. I can’t remember how long it took him to catch on to the gag. I think he finally forgave me of my dirty trick.

 

John came home to Indiana with me during one of our school breaks. John and I liked to discuss and debate things–some would even call it arguing. My Dad sat us both down in our living room and read to us the passages in Timothy and Titus warning against endless quarreling and useless questioning. I’m not sure we were very repentant of our crime. Actually I think we sharpened each other as we challenged each other’s ideas.

 

For a while, John and I roomed together in a little house behind our landlord, Wayne Coggins. This worked out fine for me till John kicked me out and married Lorelei.

 

We had many classes together and studied together. We reviewed each other for tests. We both had weekend ministries and frequently worked on sermons together.

 

Often in college we form some of our closest and longest lasting friendships. This is certainly true of my friendship with John. We have visited and kept in touch through the years. I can remember visits to Rhinehart, where he had a student ministry. We visited in Russell, Kansas where he ministered and worked at a radio station and completed his master’s degree at Hays State. I remember his giving me a tour of his radio station at Bartlesville, Oklahoma. We visited the Ransoms here in Edmond. He talked of his jobs in business administration and human resource development and lately at Edmond Christian Church.

 

We talked about the beginning of Edmond Christian Church, which John and Lorelei helped start. This was a priority in their lives. John and I had many discussions about some serious difficulties the church has faced. One thing that impressed me was that when problems arose, John’s spirit was not so much to cast blame, but to ask “What can we, as leaders, do to help the church through this crisis?” He and others were driven to self-examination and study of the Scriptures in order to be leaders of the church. I have watched this church since its birth and our brother John was a tower of strength in this congregation. I am thankful for the contribution he made to the church through his selfless and faithful service.

 

In 2000, I was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. My only hope of surviving this disease was a lung transplant. I prepared for my death. John and many others prayed for me. God gave me a new lease on life when I received a double lung transplant a year and half before John’s death. The Ransoms visited me in the hospital in St. Louis. John came to Joplin to visit me and another time we met half-way at Tulsa. Our personal visits and phone visits meant a lot to me through my difficult times. In times of suffering close friends are invaluable.

 

In July, 2005, when Barbara and I learned of the seriousness of John’s illness we came to Edmond. Our conversation was unlike any other I have had. Barbara and Lorelei went out on their back patio to talk and left John and I alone. We both commented that it looked like I would be the first to leave this life. Now, I was doing well and barring a miracle from God it looked like he might be the first one to heaven. John said he had thought a lot about the fact that in a few weeks or months he would step through the gates and be in the very presence of God. We were good friends who had faced the real prospect of death sharing our deepest feelings about eternal matters.

 

About six weeks before his death, I was privileged to visit with John for a few hours. We reminisced about old times and many things. It was a precious time. I’m not a letter writer but these last few months John and I have shared our thoughts together over the phone.

 

In my study at home above my computer is a picture of a lighthouse at Portland, Maine. John took the picture when he and Lorelei were on a trip back east. The printing below the picture reads: “Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’ ‘You are the light of the world.’” I like the symbolism of lighthouses. This picture is more precious to me because John gave it to me. John has been a clear and steady lighthouse to many during his sojourn in this world.

 

The legacy of a life lived well is to be seen in the influence for God in people’s life. I’m sure those who knew John appreciate the legacy he left in their lives. As an old friend and brother in Christ, I am deeply grateful for the legacy of John Ransom in my life.

 

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