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The Top Guns in My Life – Disciples Who Discipled Me. Episode #3: Glodys St-Phard

Let me tell you about Glodys (pronounced “Glow-deese”). He was the discipler, I was the disciple.

Glodys and his wife Barbara walked into a class I was leading at our church one Sunday morning in 2006. His 5’6” frame told you he had been an athlete in his younger days. When Glodys talks you’re sure you’re with a French edition of James Earl Jones – a deep, resonating bass voice, and every sentence a wonder.  You would have thought his voice training was with Darth Vader.

 

Glodys was always professional in dress, demeanor and discussions. How odd. Most of us in the church have so much to say, and so little time to listen. Yet he listened with patience, while I bumbled along through my content. He asked questions. Penetrating and though-provoking questions. He stretched you every time he brought something up. And you had this nagging sense he already had a solid grasp of anything you tossed at him, and likewise, whatever he tossed to you. A father and husband, a psychiatrist, and an athlete, Glodys was the Haitian Ambassador to the United Nations in 1988, before the coup and return of the infamous “Baby-Doc Duvalier” regime. Glodys spoke, fluently, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, French and English. Born in Haiti, Glodys was educated in top schools, his medical schooling was in Port-Au-Prince, and then on to be an attending physician at prestigious US hospitals, like Harlem in New York, Kansas City, Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama. And I hit the jackpot having him walk into my life.

 

That first Sunday I joked with Glodys that I really liked his tie – a crisp blue tie with Hebrew words in gold all over it.  He gave it to me. But it came with a price. “I want you to spend time with me”, he said, “so I can get to know you better.” Uh, ok. A few folks had suggested that over the years, most just as friendly conversation, and it rarely went past a first meetup for coffee. I figured it was either my breath or their boredom. That was not Glodys. He stuck.

Glodys looked at you, as a person, not through you. You were someone he really wanted to get to know, to converse with – to challenge. I don’t mean the usual morality audits when men get together for “discipling”. He wanted to hear your story, where you had been. He wanted to know what was happening right now in your life – real-world, real-time, real issues. He probed where you intended to go from here forward in your life. He wanted to come alongside me and discuss the real stuff in our lives and the real stuff in the world that needed a reckoning in a believer’s mind. It wasn’t tiring. He was sharp – he was conversational – it was his unique way of pulling believers alongside him. Glodys and Barbara were front and center in our wedding in Charleston in 2008 – his picture here was taken at the wedding dinner, when Karen and I were married. He read passages from the Song of Solomon in Hebrew, in that sonorous beautiful Haitian voice of his.

 

Not every week, but most weeks Glodys would call me. “Daynis” he would pronounce my name, in that booming voice, “we need to meet up!” Eventually he had me trained to stay in touch. In three short years of wonder in walking along through life with Glodys, we talked about everything that make disciples better: his family, his work, my life and stumbles, my work, theology, worldviews, events, politics and philosophy. When you went into his house he’d take you through rooms of books and journals – like a library of them. I asked him if he actually read all that stuff. “Of course, which one would you like to test me on?” he teased as his hand waved magisterially. I took him up on a couple of pop quizzes – picking stuff at random off shelves. He nailed it. I quit testing.

 

Glodys would always point any world or personal event back to Christ and the resurrection, no matter how far out of the orbit I’d try to take things. He made sure you didn’t get lost “in some form of existential crap” as he would term it. He wasn’t a “bible-thumper, yet he could always point you to a biblical concept to tie to any issue or problem you might bring up, from war to sex to life with teenagers to taxes. Philosophy? Sure. Economics, medicine, ethics and theology – check. I could occasionally wrestle equally with him about my turf – business – but it was never easy – he was simply too curious, too experienced and too much a learning disciple to let life go by without gaining from the people around him.

Glodys was open about his failures and foibles in life. Really honest. It was easy to open up after hearing him talk. He made me love him that way, and he made me love Christ more that way. I knew I could call on him anytime – whether I just wanted to unload, or to deep dive something I’d screwed up, or was puzzled about. And I loved him for another thing that disciples benefit from: he loved talking to others – teaching me how to talk to others – taking me outdoors to meet people and talk to them. Not to score a convert – to really know people. And they reciprocated, just like the Bible called it. When you really get into someone else’s story they want to ask you about yours. Discipleship works that way, being one, making one.

We lost Glodys from this world back in 2016. But my time is coming – I’ll get right back in that beautiful smiling face of his again and he will bellow “Day-nis, let’s meet!” And it will be heaven. Literally.

 

You do not have to be a celebrity, a famous politician, pastor or professor to be a disciple. But as disciples – we’re all commanded to reach out to people like Glodys did, to be with them and love them and be ready to offer to them “Come check out Christ” as an invitation. A lot of people will opt out. A few will take you up on that deal. It’s a biblical thing. Every disciple is called to live life alongside a few people – all through our lives. So, whether you’re a pastor, parent, plumber or proctologist, you’re called to be a disciple, and to make disciples – which literally means to “make yourself and others progress as disciples”. This discipling thing is not an optional gig. Nor is it perfection-first then get started discipling. It is not a job reserved for the amazing few, and it is not waived off for you because you just don’t feel like it. Team up with others, run the race set before you, and invite people to “come check out Jesus with me” like Glodys did for me.

 

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 28.19 (ESV)

 

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