I can't think of another person that I have ever known that has had such a lasting impact on my formation as a minister than Dr. Don Vinzant. So many formational moments, many of which he never knew were significant in my life.
You could never have called him Dr. Vinzant no matter your relationship. For the entire time I knew Don (from the time I was in elementary school) he was always "Brother Don". This was so true. I have never encountered someone in the ministry with so much wisdom, humility, and sheer intellect. My last encounter with Don before his passing should illustrate what I am talking about:
At the monthly preacher's luncheon at Oklahoma Christian in December, Brother Don was asked to give a few thoughts about a part of the story of Jesus for the devotional that was being led by various ministers from the area. He quietly walked to the podium at the appointed time with a handful of little green index cards and nothing else. In his characteristic way he put his notes down, placed his hands on the pulpit, looked up, and gave that contagious smile that you see in the picture above. If you heard nothing that he said you could see in his eyes that you were family and that he loved everyone in the room dearly.
In his trademark understated and humble manner he began to preach. I have always been fascinated (as a student and now a minister) to watch Don preach. He began with a poem (not uncommon for Don by any means) which was both complex and on this day somewhat lengthy. He then went on to read the passage given to him for his brief message. After some rich comments, including citing the various commentators and theologians that he was summarizing I noticed something that wasn't really all that surprising... Don had yet to use his notes. He then changed to the next card in his stack so that he could give an announcement about an event coming up at the Edmond Church of Christ. (Apparently that is what his notes were for.)
Following the luncheon Brother Don approached me and asked about everyone that I love. He asked how my parents were and about Northwest where my Dad is an elder. He asked about my wife, my two boys (remembering everyone's name), and the little church that I had been serving for a little over six months. He asked me to give a warm greeting to my grandfather and to let him know that he has been missed since moving to Cushing.He concluded our conversation with some kind words about the memory of my grandmother who he visited with so tenderly right up until her death. In fact he was there in the middle of the night when I arrived moments after her passing. Like every other time I was in his presence, I felt as if I was the most important and valuable person in the whole world.
This is the Don Vinzant that so many people know and love.
I wrote all of the above before I went to Don's funeral this afternoon at Edmond. The funeral only reinforced that what Don had been in my life he had been as much or more in hundreds, if not thousands of others.
Thank you for a life well lived Brother Don. May my life reflect the image of Christ like yours.
(Latin for "I will rise again!")