Stewarts leave legacy of grace
Life as pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Thomasville was good. It was a journey for Randy Stewart to get to this place, one in which he felt God’s calling along the way. It was a path that began on the family’s farm with his widowed mom Geraldine and his three sisters.
“There were two things that were stressed in our home—school and church,” he says. “I studied hard in school and grew up in Christ attending Oakboro First Baptist Church.”
Randy’s understanding of God began in the absence of his dad. He recalls uncles who “stepped in and loved” on him, took him to ball games, and encouraged him. But he remembers his heart opening to God as a boy, seeing Him as his Heavenly Father, full of love and grace.
Music played a big part in Randy’s life. He loves music and can strike up almost any tune upon request. He met his wife of 44 years at a piano recital where the 12 year old's both performed. He recalls watching Diane on the stage of the auditorium playing and
thinking, “She is the one for me.” He says she was the best there and so cute.
The couple dated in high school and married on February 26, 1977. They were active in church and, at 25 years of age, Randy felt a calling to become a minister. In 1981, they moved to Wake Forest and he began Southeastern Seminary, graduating with a divinity degree in 1984.
“We began our family. I worked and served in churches,” Randy recalls. “I was involved in children and youth work, music, and church education. When I think of all that I did with children and families, I see how God was at work in my life.”
Diane and Randy served as North American Mission Board church planters in Georgia, and much of the work involved children. Then,
Randy served at Cedar Hill Baptist Church in Chattanooga before beginning his ministry on August 1, 1987 at Liberty Baptist Church. While serving there, he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1991.
“We loved serving at Liberty,” Randy asserts. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine being approached about becoming the pastor of Mills Home Baptist Church.”
Randy knew about Baptist Children’s Homes and supported the ministry. He had preached one night of a revival held on the campus. On August 1, 1992, he became pastor of the 130-year-old church. The next day, a Sunday, he stepped to the pulpit to proclaim a message of grace.
“For me, the message to the children at Mills Home has always been simple,” he says. “Every child needs to know that no matter what they have done or what may have happened them, God loves them—and will always love them. His grace is unconditional.”
On September 7, Diane passed, leaving Randy, their three children—Meredith, Matthew, and Mark—and four grandchildren to cherish her memory. Randy retires as pastor on December 31.
Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children.