There is spiritual power in tangible community. My friends Alan Mitchell, Jim Sproull, and Bill Murray all showed me that. This is written in their honor.
Alan and Faustine Mitchell were in the Sunday school class that our founder, Dan Hayes, taught when Orchard started in 1996. As Orchard grew from a ministry of one church to a ministry serving many churches, Dan made the decision to move into a new office. The week before Dan was to move in, Alan asked him a simple question: “What are you going to do about phones at your new office?” Dan had no answer for that. So, Alan got to work!
Alan and a friend spent the entire weekend before Dan moved into his new office running phone cords through ceilings and walls all so that Orchard could run at full capacity. Alan took his knowledge and skills from working in the telecommunications space and leveraged them to help Orchard accomplish its mission. His willingness to use his skills for Orchard laid the foundation for the fully remote, digitally based operation that we function in today.
During Alan’s time as I.T. Director, Jim and Linda Sproull moved to Atlanta, GA from Gainesville, FL. Jim got involved in the Orchard’s men’s Bible study and he and Linda became regular donors to our ministry. As the men in our Bible study grew to know Jim, they saw a real example of the “out of our seats, into the streets” mentality that Orchard still seeks to advance in the church.
Though he was a highly successful banking executive, Jim was incredibly charitable and even served for seventeen years as an “interim” pastor. (Seventeen years is an awful long time to be an “interim” anything!) Overtime, Jim stepped away from the in-person pastoral ministry and began writing weekly sermons that he distributed every Saturday night. Those sermons reached THOUSANDS of people weekly until his health would no longer allow him to do so. People like Jim are why Orchard exists. We want more Christians using their gifts, their talents, and their abilities in service to their neighbor. Jim’s presence embodied this spirit, and it truly was inspiring to all who knew him!
Around the time that Jim’s health sadly started declining, a man named Bill Murray got connected to Orchard. Bill and his wife Kitti have a long history of ministry leadership in Atlanta. They have served with Christ-centered non-profits like Apartment Life and led together at churches throughout our city in several pastoral roles. Most recently Bill supported Kitti as she launched, and continues to lead, Refuge Coffee, which serves the refugee population in Clarkston, GA.
It was during this time that Bill started a coaching ministry, serving the generation of leaders coming behind him (like me). Bill Murray had “been there and done that” when it came to ministry. If the weight of words is truly determined by their source, the power of Bill’s words in my life cannot be overstated. He encouraged me so much when I transitioned into my role following the legend of Dan Hayes. Bill was wind in the sails of this young leader, and I’ll forever be thankful for that.
Recently, Alan Mitchell, Jim Sproull, and Bill Murray all transitioned to their heavenly home after three lifetimes of faithfulness. These men are all with Jesus, and I couldn’t be happier for them! But all three of those men leave huge holes here. Certainly, with their families and friends, but also with Orchard.
Alan, Jim, and Bill are all crucial threads in the fabric of Orchard. They brought their gifts, their talents, and their abilities together to help build something beautiful. As Orchard looks to the future, the soil is ripe for a new generation of leadership to assume their roles. We need the Alans, the Jims, and the Bills of this generation to take their place in the story of what God is doing through our shared ministry. I hope you’ll pray for Orchard in that regard. I also hope you’ll point out people you may know toward us. I’d love to meet them if you want to email me with an introduction.
In the meantime, I thank God for Alan Mitchell, Jim Sproull, and Bill Murray. Their presence brought true spiritual power to Orchard. I look forward to seeing these brothers again one day in the presence of Jesus. May their lives inspire us all to fix our eyes on Jesus – just like they did.
Until I see you again, brothers…