"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God" -Acts 20:24
This past Saturday morning I woke up to a very saddening phone call from my Mom… My older brother Norm had just suffered a heart attack and was being rushed to the hospital in Fort Wayne, IN where he and his wife Bonnie were visiting two of their daughters and their families for the Christmas/New Years holiday.
I was told that vital signs couldn’t be found (either a pulse or breathing) for almost thirty minutes. The paramedics when arriving at the hospital had him on artificial life support and were able to resuscitate him. But the brain being without oxygen for thirty minutes would leave him in a state of a coma.
Everyone being now familiar with the Terry Schiavo case, Norm had a living will that clearly stated in light of this kind of physical condition he did not wish to have artificial life support to “sustain” him. Within a matter of hours the life support was disconnected. Surprisingly, his heart remained steady and he was breathing on his own for the next thirty-six hours. I received the call on Sunday evening that Norm had been promoted to his heavenly home at 8:45pm EST. He was 62 years of age.
My brother Norm was a gentle man. He was reserved; never seeking a platform or audience; never calling attention to himself. He humbly walked with the Lord living his life not for riches or the empty praise of men… but for an audience of ONE.
My brother really personified the seven character traits (the marks of a man of God) of a faithful pastor found in 2 Timothy chapter two: the teacher (he discipled others for ministry); the soldier (he was faithful in battle); the farmer (he put his hand to the plough and never looked backed); the athlete (he ran this race with temperance); the workman (he was a man of the Word, cutting straight its truth); the vessel (fit for the Master's use); and the servant (not given to quarreling, but to serving others with great humility and hope that some would repent and come to know Christ for salvation). They can't hand out that kind of character and obedience to you in seminary; that only comes by the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit in the man.
Norm was a missionary who faithfully worked among the Muslim/Arab people for most of his life (he was sent under the CMA: the Christian Missionary Alliance). He had a real burden for the lost especially for the Arab people - "seeking to go where Christ was not yet named..." (Romans 15:20). He and Bonnie were married in 1965 after graduating from Wheaton college (they have been blessed with three amazing daughters Cari, Jennifer and Melissa all who are married with children and serving the Lord). He attended Gordon Conwell Seminary from 1965-1968 (M.Div). He then pastored Greenpoint Gospel Church in Brooklyn, NY from 1968 to 1970. This was not an easy pulpit to take for it was located in a pretty rough section of New York. But proved essential training for his years to come as a missionary to serve in Beirut, Lebanon and Amman, Jordon from 1971-1985. Norm told me one time that he believed in order for the Lord to send him to go to the utter most parts of the earth, he had to first be faithful in "Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria" (cp, Acts 1:8f) - and he was. My brother and his wife were pioneers in gospel ministry to the Muslims in our generation. Anyone who has been to those regions of the world where the Muslim faith is prominent knows the difficulty of this kind of ministry. It takes years of hard, steady, faithful labor among them to see even a few respond by God’s sovereign grace to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And those who do respond to the call of Christ may be persecuted or even killed by their own families in denying the Muslim faith to be followers of Jesus Christ.
Norm continued in ministry as a friend and mentor serving several Arab families in the Chicago area from 1985-2005.
I wanted you all to meet my brother for he is a rare jewel in the body of Christ. He was a servant, not a star. He was a man of God, not a man of the world. He was not about style, but all about substance. He loved others and thought lowly of himself. He was an athlete in his younger years and really enjoyed life to the fullest—a practical joker at heart. He was patient and longsuffering even in his suffering (he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease seven years ago). We are all different in the body of Christ with different callings, gifts and talents. I have spent most of my Christian life in the public eye as a Christian singer/speaker/writer before audiences in churches, festivals, colleges and civic auditoriums. He spent most of his life simply for the applause of heaven. In my early years of Christian music while I was busy making a name for myself, he was busy promoting the name of Christ. While I was charging for Christian music ministry (until 1994 when the Lord convicted me and no longer charge), he was freely giving his life and the gospel away. While I was rubbing shoulders with the most famous in evangelical circles, he was marching on his knees in the trenches of some of the hardest ministry found any where in the world today. How I treasure and am thankful for Norm.
My brother is a great example of what one life surrendered to Christ and His will can do for the glory of the Lord. But what really brands him is that he lived each day with eternity in view. He was a stranger here… this world was not his home. He wanted his life to count for eternal things and he did so with brokenness and contrition. This contrast became so evident to me yesterday when I picked up a copy of this year’s Time Magazines “Persons of the Year.” On the cover is Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, and Bono, the lead singer for U2. They are being honored for their humanitarian work around the globe. While that is noble, all I’ve kept thinking about this past 24 hours since Norm’s passing is, if they don't repent and come to Christ as their Lord and Savior, how tragic it would be to “gain the whole world and lose your own soul.”
As much as we dearly miss him and the shock of his passing has left us all numb, we quietly rejoice that for those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior have this unshakable hope: “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” And therefore, we do not sorrow in vain as those who have no hope. Amen? My younger brother Bob and my father, John Camp, have been home with the Lord for many years. And now my older brother Norm is their with them before the throne of God.
As the Apostle Peter says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:3-9).
Before my brother took his last breath, his wife Bonnie was reading Psalm 23 to him. She whispered in his ear, “I’ll see you there”, kissed him, and then he went home. He is with the Lord beloved... aren’t you envious? I certainly am. Aren't you homesick for heaven today? I am... even a little bit more now. Can you hardly wait to be in the presence of Christ—to see Him face to face? Soon and very soon, all of us who love and know the Lord we will be there too. But until that day, "for me to live is Christ and die is gain." And won't heaven be a joyous reunion with those who have gone on before?
Our life is a vapor—come and gone so quickly; and only what is done for Christ will last. May we live each day faithfully to the Lord and unselfishly to others—giving our lives away for the glory of the God and not our own. Norm's life could be summed up by the Apostle Paul when he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; (2 Timothy 4:7). Faithful to the fight; faithful to the finish; faithful to the faith. And now my brother has heard the sweetest words anyone could ever hear from the Lord, “Well done, Norm, thou good and faithful servant.”
What a profound reminder for each of us to live our lives for an “audience of ONE.”
Here are the words of one of my brother’s favorite hymns. May it encourage and strengthen your hearts today.
by Samuel J. Stone (1866)
The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her and for her life He died.
She is from every nation, yet one o'er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.
The Church shall never perish! Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish, is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her, and false sons in her pale,
Against or foe or traitor she ever shall prevail.
Though with a scornful wonder men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song!
’Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious, her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.
Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters, repose in Eden land.
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with Thee:
There, past the border mountains, where in sweet vales the Bride
With Thee by living fountains forever shall abide!