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June-July 2013


June-July 2013

God's Hands


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Salute to a Good Soldier


one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids

by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists


Salute to a Good Soldier


I was ordained to the ministry on Sunday evening, January 12, 1975. The five members of my ordaining council were men who had a profound impact on my life. My father-in-law was the chairman of the council and delivered the charge to preach. My pastor of 17 years preached the ordination message. I still remember his text—2 Corinthians 10:12-18.

The third signature on my certificate of ordination was that of my father. He was an ordained Free Will Baptist deacon. The fourth council member was the president of the Christian college I was attending at the time. The fifth member of this select group led in the prayer of ordination and the “laying on of hands.”

Although this happened more than 38 years ago I still have vivid memories of that night when I was set apart to the gospel ministry. Since that time, four members of my ordaining council have gone home to be with the Lord. Only one remains, Rev. Ray Gwartney (age 91).


Ray Gwartney

Photo: Ray Gwartney (left) with his wife Billye and Executive Secretary Keith Burden.

Brother Ray gave me my first full-time ministry opportunity when I served as his youth and music minister. Though I only served on his staff for a couple of years, I gained invaluable experience while ministering alongside him. He taught me through his example how to love God and love people. He was conscientious, a man of integrity and high moral character. He and his wife Billye were more than mentors for my wife and me. They remain some of our dearest friends to this day.

Earlier this year I became aware of an event to honor this special man. He, along with 84 other veterans, was honored for military service. A “send off” rally was held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 16, 2013. These American heroes were introduced individually and recognized for their service to our country. It stirred the emotions and spirit of patriotism in those of us who attended.

The following day, these former soldiers were flown to the nation’s capital to visit various memorials in the Washington, D.C. area. It was a well deserved “honors flight” for those who fought valiantly for our freedom. They truly represent the greatest generation.

Corporal Gwartney faithfully served as a soldier in the United States Army and received the applause of family and friends on April 16th. However, that experience will pale in comparison to the commendation he will receive one day when he stands before our divine Commander-in-Chief. Thank you, Brother Ray, for your willingness to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).


About the Column

One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.



©2012 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists