Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When the Student Becomes the Teacher: Remembering Izzy Gomez

Source: tumblr.com via Denise on Pinterest




One of the many hats that I seem to wear is that of a Bible teacher.  I teach in a small Bible school once a night here in Lubbock, and over the last 8 years of teaching one of my greatest delights is connecting with students and watching as God develops and grows them into amazing leaders.  I am a teacher - I try to challenge - to help others see God and His Word in truth and perhaps with new eyes.

I love teaching students...and yet, so often I find that in my journey with certain students I look up to realize that in fact, they are the teacher and I the student.  This is the case with a student I had a few years ago who became a dear friend.

I’ll never forget the first conversation I had with Izzy Gomez about taking classes through our Bible school.  I had known Izzy at a distance - he was the maintenance man at the church, and I had been working there for a couple of years.  Izzy was always joyful - a true servant by every definition and a man who obviously had a genuine relationship with the Lord.

He walked into my office with the humility and peace that always seemed to follow him and he timidly asked if there might be a chance for him to start taking classes.  I immediately said “Of course!” and then Izzy held up his hand beckoning me to pause as he continued.

Izzy explained that he had not graduated from high school and wasn’t sure if he could handle the academic portion of the program, but then he started to share his heart.  The hunger deep inside to learn more about his maker.  To delve deeper into Scripture that had become his constant companion, and I was mesmerized.  We talked for quite a while that day and came up with a plan for Izzy to succeed in our Bible School.

He would work hard and at times turn in assignments via a tape recorder, and I must say I never once regretted that decision.  Even without the education that we so often laud, Izzy was my star student.  He turned in assignments early and although the grammar was not perfect, the depth to his papers and the depth to his relationship with God was astounding.

And yesterday, as I wiped the tears from my eyes at the news that Izzy had gone to be with Jesus - the Lord he loved so dearly after a ferocious battle with cancer - I couldn’t help but think of the many ways he truly had become my teacher.  Here are just a handful of truths that Izzy taught me...

Izzy taught me that there is strength in humility.  Moses describes himself as the most humble man that ever lived, and I realized yesterday that if I had to give that title to any man that I have personally known, I would say Izzy was the most humble man I’ve had the privilege to know.  And yet...Izzy was strong.  Izzy was a leader.  Izzy was a hero.  He taught me through his life that humility is strength that emanates from a dependence on the Lord.

Izzy taught me that doing your work unto the Lord really is enough.  Whether Izzy was sweeping, fixing a project that I had messed up, or cleaning toilets, he was joyful.  He saw purpose behind the tasks he was given to do, and he did them with excellence.

Izzy taught me that ministry can happen in a simple hello or acknowledgement.  Around the church, Izzy was never too busy to stop and say hello or even take an hour to talk with someone who had just walked in off the street.  I cannot count how many times I would walk down the hallway to see Izzy in a heartfelt conversation or in prayer with someone.  At times it was a staff member that Izzy was encouraging and other times it was a lonely soul who had entered our church doors looking for answers...I was always so thankful that they had found Izzy...because he always pointed people simply yet clearly to Jesus.

Izzy taught me that justice should be fought for.  I only saw Izzy get angry once, but it was a situation in which justice had been overlooked and someone had been slighted.  I learned that being humble and a servant does not mean you have to lie down - that there are moments in which justice needs a voice.

And Izzy taught me that to be a pastor one does not need a title.  Izzy was a pastor...a shepherd to so many people.  He listened, he comforted, he gave wisdom and guidance, and he loved.  He was a pastor even though that title never preceded his name. 

And he loved his pastors - he prayed for us.  I’ll never forget one day when he came into my office and asked to take a picture of me.  I was busy (as is too often the case) so I obliged but didn’t pry as to why he wanted a quick snapshot of me.  And then about a month later I was down in Izzy’s office asking for help with something that I had once again botched when I noticed that picture.  There I was smiling a goofy smile behind my desk - next to pictures of my dad and another pastor at our church...pinned up neatly on a bulletin board.  And above our faces was a simple note card that said “Pray.”

I stared at the picture...and I remember at this moment as tears spring to my eyes...Izzy was praying for ME!  And I’m so thankful for those prayers.  I’m going to miss those prayers.  I’m going to miss the lessons he taught me - not with eloquent words or long lectures - but with a life of humble obedience to the One he knew so well.

I’m going to miss Izzy, but my heart also rejoices because I know now that he is with the ultimate teacher - One who will impart to him all that he longed to understand. 

Did Izzy teach you something?  Would you take a minute and share in the comments a lesson that you learned from Izzy?  I’d love to compile a list for his wife Janie and kids, Fabian & Ivy.



14 comments:

Keviana Elliot said...

Your post was forwarded to me by a friend. Izzy showed me what it means to see God, not the circumstances. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

He was so full of joy and friendly all the time...i never saw him upset!!! He was there to greet you early in the morning...and walk you to your car late at night!!!

He always serving...serving is the greatest form of leadership!!! Thanks Izzy...we love you

Break my Heart for what Breaks yours. said...

I dont know if Izzy and I ever had a conversation or if he even knew who I was but I knew who he was. He smiled at me everytime we would pass and he just always seemed so peaceful. The last thing I remember Izzy doing is praying of South America. It was during a missions service and Paige asked for someone that could speak spanish to come pray. Izzy walked accross the church and I know it was not easy for him to get around. He looked very weak, but he prayed with all of his heart. I dont have any personal stories with Izzy but when I think of Izzy I will think of him praying for South America. Praying for people he didnt know, and praying with all of his heart for them. Nothing says selflessness to me more than a very sick man praying for others.

Break my Heart for what Breaks yours. said...

-- Kimberly Matthews

lisa thomas said...

Because of Izzy I have seen the love that God has for each and every one of us because of Izzy I have an incredible relationship with God. Izzy showed me what it meant to have patience compassion and to be a servant for the kingdom of God and friend.He will be greatly missed but my heart is happy for I know he is with person he loved to live for.

Shanna Hargrave said...

Izzy taught me that relationships were more important that activitiy. Izzy would treat what most of us would consider an "interruption" as opportunity. It did not matter how busy he was, if someone needed anything...a hug, a listening ear, or prayer he was there. He had a way of making you feel that at that moment of need you were more important than any task that needed to be done. He lived a life that mattered...a life that influenced everyone that knew him. Izzy will be missed by everyone that had the privelege of crossing his path.

Liz said...

he always had a kind and uplifting word

Anonymous said...

For 45 minutes one day, my path crossed Izzy's. I had taken some clothing to the Dream Center ministry and, as usual, I was in a rush to get to my next stop. When I returned to my car, my battery was dead. Even before I could panic, here came Jesus-with-skin-on! Suddenly I was the most important person in Lubbock; at least I felt that way. Within a short time Izzy got the help I needed. Moments in time I will never forget. After all, it's not every day you see Jesus!! Thanks, Izzy!

Linda White said...

Izzy taught me what real ministry is... It is seeing others, making others feel special, listening to them, praying for them, encouraging them and turning their eyes toward Jesus. He had such a hunger for God's Word!!! I have to agree with Paige that he is the most humble person I know. I will truly miss Izzy!!!!!

Tony and Carrie said...

So true. Anyway who ever met Izzy was changed by him. He had a kind and gentle spirit. It was easy to see his love for the Lord. He always had a glow about him. When I went to church at COTR I always wanted to be sure and see Izzy and Janie, two very precious people.

Lukáš Targosz said...

Izzy was very kind to strangers, I mean real strangers from different countries, just like me. Every time I visited, he always came to si hi joyfully and kindly. I wish to have such an attitude like he did. Will always remember him.

Sarah said...

Izzy was a joy to be around! I hadn't seen him for a few years and I saw him this summer at COTR Dream Center and he remembered me and made an appoint to come over and say hello. He warms your heart! He was so humble and had a strength that can only come from the Lord. What a privilege it was to know him while he was living on earth. I am certain he has a crown in heaven for the time he spent on this earth serving the Lord and loving people. I was blessed by him although I didn't know him very well.

Sarah said...

Paige, this post made me cry! I am sitting at my desk trying to hold my tears back. You are an incredible writer and I loved the way you honored Izzy.

Anonymous said...

My heart breaks and my spirit rejoices everytime I talk about Izzy , A man I looked up too and admired how he talked, his personalty was something that could be imatated. Izzy you taught me with prayer anything is possible and was a strong man of faith and for a long time I felt like I was riding life off of your faith because of how much you prayed for me and things would always go my way because of the strong man of faith I had praying for me. I will miss you everyday of my life until I see you again my friend and we can play texas holdem again this time there will be no pain and we will never have to say goodbye. I love you Izzy and my only regret is not letting you know how strong I felt towards you. Izzy thought because of his education that he was not able to do alot of things but he was wrong, this was a man that did more than alot of men wish they could do in there life i just pray to God I can be half the man you were Izzy "Great father, grandfather, son , brother, man of God.. Love you Izzy
your good friend, Raymond Charles

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