Rev. John Waite (1925–2009)
I first met Mr and Mrs Waite as a student in Sheffield, when I attended the homely, little, red, corrugated-clad church on Hickmott Road. They made me welcome in their home from that day on. Little did I imagine how important that church, that home, or that man was to become to me.
It was the preaching that arrested and changed me – powerful, expository, biblical preaching. This was something new!
Occasionally there was an after-church fellowship and our teacher, Mr Waite, no longer up in the pulpit, sat among us. When a suitable question was raised, he would pray, then, by a swift analysis that astonished our lesser minds, he would decide how it was to be tackled.
Everything had to be established by Scripture, harking back to his experience as principal of South Wales Bible College, in Barry, before he became pastor of Wycliffe Church.
Grace in rough times
He had his sorrows, not least the loss of a daughter and a wife, yet through it all displayed such grace and godliness that to some it may have seemed he hardly wavered through these times.
The Lord owned and blessed his ministry in Sheffield. There were conversions, baptisms, and a new brick building to replace the little old hut where the suspended lights would sway on a windy night.
It was to this growing church that I was invited to return to serve as assistant pastor with Mr Waite. What a privilege it was to serve alongside this man of God.
Those that knew him closely saw a side to his character that was not immediately evident. There was a twinkle in his eye that spoke of a love of fun. I can still hear him laughing, and still repeat a few of the jokes I remember him telling.
When we last saw him the Alzheimer’s had begun to manifest itself, and he would visit a day centre to give his wife, Doreen, some respite.
As the ladies talked in the kitchen, he and I sat together in the lounge. I asked him how he spent his time – some of his beloved books still around the place. He told me he went most days ‘to speak with his students’! That must have been how he saw his daily visits: the pastoral, ministerial spirit was still showing itself. In a sense his disease took him from us some years ago, and there has been the distress and sorrow of seeing him so reduced from his former self.
Now, though, he is ‘absent from the body and present with the Lord’; and it is thrilling to think of the sheer joy he knows in the presence of the Saviour he served and loved to proclaim.