There are a few people who have made a lasting impact on my life, and one of them died a few days ago. The funeral service for Dr. Bob Simmons was held yesterday in Meridian, MS at the church where he once served for many years.
I came to know Bob and his wife Mary at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was professor of Missions and also attended the same church I did at the time, Edgewater Baptist. The two of them made a fantastic ministry team but most of all they were very loving and supportive of students in general. I was fortunate to find myself in a few of Bob’s classes, but it was outside the classroom where I came to appreciate him the most. He was a pretty good tennis player, and I recall he played the baseline quite a bit and lobbed anytime I approached the net playing doubles.
In addition to being a pastor, Bob served along with Mary as missionaries with the Foreign Mission Board, and then came to NOBTS to finish out his career. He also helped churches in interim pastorates along the way. He and Mary retired in Meridian, and I was called to serve a church there for about five years. Bob was active in the weekly pastors’ conference on Mondays and we’d go out to eat at the food court in the Mall most of the time along with a half a dozen or so others. He was a great encourager and always took an interest in Lori and me and how we were doing. I especially remember a lunch the two of us had in the food court when I talked to him about going to a church in TN. Bob was characteristicly supportive but also said he’d hate to see us go.
That’s how I feel right now. I hate to see him go. I’d heard Bob had been ill and struggling of late, but it’s still hard to believe he died a few days ago. He’s in a much better place, obviously, and my life has been enriched because of the brief time I spent with him. He will always be part of a core group of professors whom I consider to know what it means to be free and faithful Baptists. He and others were my mentors who encouraged me to form my theological and spiritual roots. I will miss Dr. Bob, but will always his kindness and wisdom.