|Cy Stafford - My brother, my fellow worker, my fellow soldier, and my hero in the faith.|
In Philippians 2, Paul writes about a man named Epaphroditus. He describes Epaphroditus as "my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier." Paul admonishes the Philippians to "hold men like him [Epaphroditus] in high regard." In other words, this is the type of man who is worthy of honor, admiration, and respect. This type of man is a hero.
Our modern world tells us to admire actors, singers, and athletes. These are the people that children dream of being. Our world admires those who make the most money, for these are the ones that society deems "successful." Parents dream of this type of success for their children, so that they can have "better" lives than the parents did.
I suggest to you that the world needs more heroes like Epaphroditus. We also need to identify men and women in our midst that are already like Epaphroditus, and honor them. We need to point them out to our children as role models. Friends, we have just lost one such man. Cy Stafford has indeed been a modern-day brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier to the Apostle Paul and to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Cy has spent about 23 years as a missionary in Tanzania, Africa. He loves Tanzania dearly. I can't count the number of times that I heard him smile and say, "Ah, this is my favorite time of day in Africa!" He would say this regardless of what time of day it was because he loves them all! He would just take in stride the things that infuriated other missionaries about life in Africa with a shrug and a "T.I.A." ("this is Africa). Cy often describes Tanzania as "the last, best place on Earth." That's how he truly views it.
Along the way, he has impacted countless souls on both sides of the Atlantic. His impact on the church in East Africa is immeasurable. In addition to the evangelism that he directly participated in, he founded the Andrew Connally School of Preaching. This school has graduated almost 150 preachers and church leaders that are making the Lord's church a strong force in the region. He has provided such tremendous, irreplaceable leadership and vision to the churches there.
However, his impact goes far beyond conversion numbers. There is no modern man more beloved by the brethren in northern Tanzania than Cy Stafford. The difference he has made in their personal lives is incalculable. His loss will be felt passionately by the christians there.
Though he is an African missionary, he has also made a great difference to so many people in America. The outpouring of loving messages and prayer requests that have flooded social media over the past year+ is a testament to that. I've rarely encountered someone who seemed to mean so much to so many. When people spend time with him, they walk away from the encounter with their faith strengthened and their evangelistic zeal increased. It seems everyone has a favorite Cy story or quote. The Wizard of Oz told the Tin Man, "A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others." By that standard, Cy Stafford had a very great heart indeed.
Cy Stafford has made a huge difference in my life. He is the man responsible for making me a Tanzanian missionary, and for teaching me how to fill that role. He very patiently worked on me over the course of a decade, but finally succeeded in getting us to Arusha. Any good that I did as a missionary is in large part a result of Cy's influence. By his gracious example, he taught me the value of hospitality. He is my mentor and friend. He is my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier. I will miss him dearly.
Though Cy is uncomfortable with receiving honor, and he always seeks to deflect attention away from himself, he has been a man that we should hold "in high regard." This is the type of person that parents should hope their children grow up to be.
We thought we'd lost him over a year ago, but this miracle man persevered despite all odds. We praise and thank God for the additional time that he granted our brother Cy on this earth. However, the time to be selfish with Cy is passed. He has gone on to receive great rewards and to forever be free of pain and suffering. Now join with me in prayer for his sweet wife, Stephanie, and the rest of the family and friends that he leaves behind.