The 7-year old boy stood among the “giants” at the back of the little church in Parma. These “giants” were tall, strong men of the congregation who were visiting after the service with their pastor. Some of them were in overalls, some in flannel shirts, but all in their Sunday best. Their faces were brown from exposure to the sun, but the tops of their heads were white where their caps protected them.
As they talked of politics, the price of crops, and other manly things, the little lad noticed they all had their hands in their pockets, jingling coins, pocket knives, and keys. While no one noticed, the little fellow slipped up to the unguarded pulpit where the church’s offering lay nestled in a felt-lined plate. Two grubby little fists reaching into the offering, took a handful of coins, and stuffed them into the small boy’s jeans. Returning to the circle of men, the child stood among them jingling the coins in his pockets.
It took awhile before the pastor realized something was wrong. “Where did you get that money you’re jingling in your pockets?” he demanded. When the child admitted his theft, he was ordered to return the money at once. “But,” he protested, “I was not being a thief, Daddy, I just wanted to be like all of you.”
Among the “giants” stood a handsome young man from Emmett who had just married one of the Fretwell girls. His name was Larry Ragains, and he soon became one of the heroes of my life. Because of his fine tenor voice, Larry became an enthusiastic song leader for our congregation, and his leadership ability promptly qualified him to be our youth leader. As a teenager, Larry became one of my heroes.
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When trying to find a meaningful direction for my life, I referenced my own father and men like Larry Ragains as anchors and examples. When some kid at school would mockingly say that only “sissies” were Christians, I knew that accusation was not true. From an early age, I had seen the uplifted calloused hands of my father, Larry, and others worshiping God for His grace and mercy. Larry was among those kneeling with me when I surrendered my life to Jesus as Lord. From that point on, I became curious as to what God could make of a very flawed kid from the back of the parsonage.
Through the years, I learned to admire Larry because, along with my own father, I saw a real hardworking man who also loved God and practiced his faith wherever he went. One of his proverbs was: “Preach the Gospel wherever you go; and if necessary, use words!” Our friendship spanned over 60 years, and I knew Larry to be a positive, nonjudgmental Christian who faithfully exampled his faith regardless of the circumstances.
Larry was an important part of Idaho’s farming community, serving on many local, county, state, and federal commissions. In 1996, Larry was Cattleman of the Year, and in 1997, he became president of the Idaho Cattle Association. He was also a loving husband to Barbara, his wife of 63 years, as well as father to Susan and Salli, and a grandfather and great grandfather.
Early on Mother’s Day, May 8, Larry sat down in his favorite chair with his newspaper and cup of coffee when God’s angels came to escort his soul into God’s presence at the age of 81. Stunned family members discovered he had departed for his heavenly home. While his departure took his family and friends by surprise, this was a time Larry had been preparing for all of his life.
As I led the celebration of his life, there was a sense of loneliness that swept over me. The world can hardly spare a man of this caliber. But for people of faith, death is not the last word about this man. Larry is really more alive today than he has ever been. This is not the last we will see of him.
Larry, even though you’re gone, I’m still the little boy from Parma trying to follow in your footsteps, jingling the coins in my pockets.
Loren A. Yadon is pastor of New Life Fellowship of Boise.
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.