Along the Way with Pastor Vic
For much of my life I have viewed the world through the lens of a camera. By my own choice or at the request of others, I have focused it at an uncountable list of events for the last fifty years. Weddings, senior pictures, sporting events, public shows and even a few moments out in nature. Throughout my life I have photographed and filmed about everything that has passed by my life.
Why tell you this when those of you who read my stories are aware that I view the world through a glass lens? I guess because somewhere along the way, I found by looking through my lens, I saw truth in people’s faces. Sometimes it is just a moment I would have missed in everyday life.
Recently, I focused my camera on a friend as he said good-bye to his congregation. Pastor Vic Hunter and his wife, Lynette are returning to Colorado to begin a well-deserved retirement. This journey began fifty-four years ago in the early sixties. It is unlikely at that time they could have known they would touch so many lives. In my conversations with Vic, I don’t believe he set out on some grand mission. But, he knew bringing the words of faith to those who would listen was the way he wanted to dedicate his life.
You may not know, Vic is a lifelong writer. He has shared his love of words with his brother, Lanny. Together they have penned several books over the last four decades. Although they have sometimes been half a world apart, they managed to share their writing. Vic’s mission to teach and learn about the words in the Bible have taken him many places in his life. His brother has practiced medicine in Arizona for the same years. Lanny also has decided to retire and move to Denver. Maybe their next book can be written while enjoying each other’s company.
Each brother set out to make a difference for others along the way. They chose two very different paths towards those goals. Vic followed his faith to help people on the streets and mission houses in parts of old London. He brought hope to those who needed not only a kind spiritual word, but a place to find peace from the outside world. As for Lanny, he set out to heal with medicine in the mountains of South Vietnam as a doctor with the Army’s Special Forces. His journey took him to work with the Montagnard people. The indigenous people of the central highlands. In the turbulent sixties, one brother went into the world to help those with the pain of being lost in the streets, homeless and hungry, without hope. The other went into the jungles to help those with no medical care in dealing with the physical pain of war. They too needed hope. Two brothers, two directions in life, both bringing help and hope to those that may not have had any without their help.
Six years ago, Vic came into our community, putting aside an earlier retirement. For whatever reason, he and his wife decided to postpone that retirement for a few more years after being invited by the First Christen Church to be their pastor. Maybe Vic realized, retirement was not what he had thought it would be. Or maybe after visiting our community, he saw a town with friendly warm people. With such hospitality offered, he and his wife decided to move retirement down the road a few more years.
Now to be truthful with you, I met Vic, not through his ministry, but at a breakfast with friends. I felt an immediate kinship with this outgoing man. It simply may have been the fact we were both interested in writing. Or maybe we just enjoyed hearing each other’s stories that morning. Whatever the reason, we formed what I will call a writers bond over the next few years. For me, talking with someone who is comfortable in the words of Melville, Hemingway, or Tom Clancy was enjoyable. He most likely would have even had an opinion about Jackie Collins. That is, if I spoke of her writing style. Honesty and a willingness to listen is something I value greatly in my friends.
Shortly after that meeting, he gave me a copy of his first book. It was titled, Living Dogs and Dead Lions. It was a combined effort with his brother. I remember looking at the cover, and trying to tie it with a man who taught from the Bible. I know that was narrow minded of me to think that way. One other thing caught my attention as I turned to the back cover. There I saw the black and white image of two young men standing alongside a fence post next to an open Kansas prairie. It was clear to me from their youthful image, it must have been a lifetime ago for both men. I doubted they knew where the road would lead them when they posed for that picture.
After becoming friends with Vic, I came to understand he was a man whose life was clearly guided by the teachings in the Bible. But, I also came to understand, he was a man who had spent a lifetime studying the reality of mankind in a changing world. That education came not in a classroom, but from the streets and towns around our country and abroad.
During his last sermon he spoke of the places his life’s work has taken him. To say he has been a great many places would not do the list justice. Throughout that long journey, his wife has always been there. I wondered when they got married if she realized the journey she was about to undertake. About a year after finishing at Abilene Christen College, they left for England. While they were there, they began a family. Two daughters, Heather Lea and Charisa Laurel, doubled the size of their family. Then, a few years later, they returned to America. Vic continued his studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. A couple years later, he took a position as editor of the Mission Magazine in Dallas, Texas. This position in many ways influenced the rest of his life. While there, the Hunter family grew once again, Lance Justin.
A year ago, Vic showed me a draft of his latest book. We talked, and exchanged ideas about the subject matter written by him and his brother. Recently at breakfast, I showed him a few pages from the book I am working on. After we talked, it struck me our two very different books in many ways defines our friendship. His non-fiction book tells of man and science, and how the Bible can help to understand them both. My book is a work of fiction. It tells of man’s quest to go beyond the Bible to find those same answers. Different writers, and very different views, but I believed we traveled a similar road towards a greater understanding of man.
I will miss my friend Vic Hunter. I enjoyed his humor and boisterous approach toward life. I also saw him as someone with a quiet gentleness in understanding when a person needed someone to talk with. I once told him of a legendary being known as a Sin Eater – a person who has the ability to absorb sins and the pain of others to help ease their burden. I will remember Vic as a man who spent his life easing the burden of those he ministered too. I wish good luck to Vic and Lynette on their retirement as I look Through the Lens.