Editor’s note: This story was published in the Summersville Beacon and Mountain View Standard, July 22, 2009 issues. Reprinted with permission.
Phil Jester has gone to meet his Lord and Heaven is all the richer. From a human standpoint, his untimely departure left family and friends with many tears and aching hearts. But there’s great solace for those who also know Christ as Savior to be reunited with him someday. His loving influence on family, friends and untold strangers resulted in many decisions for salvation in Jesus Christ. So that big reunion in Heaven will be all the more sweet.
Phil and his wife Barb would have been married for 42 years in August. Barb was seven years old when they met in California. During those early years, they traveled and sang with his parents as they ministered around southern California. After Phil and Barb were married and as their family grew, Phil sang and traveled with The Californians Quartet for six and a half years. Phil was incredibly gifted musically to which this community can attest. He had an uncanny ability to always have the right song for every occasion. We will never forget that resonant tenor voice and the grace with which he ministered. And Phil’s legacy lives on in the Jester family. Ministry through music is the Jester heritage.
In 1969, the Jesters met Norman and Vickie Moore of Murrietta, California and have been good friends for more than 40 years. Earlier this summer, Phil and Barb helped the Moore’s celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in Hawaii. Phil loved Hawaii.
The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Norman Moore, a full-time evangelist with The Church of the Nazarene, which was delivered at Phil’s funeral by the Moore’s daughter, Nickie Fox. “Throughout the following years, our young families enjoyed wonderful times together – days at a southern California beach, Disneyland, tent camping, and days at Branson. My mental slideshow floods my heart with smiles and tears.
“In more recent years, there have been our shared vacations to Hawaii. It’s hard to believe that just 37 days from when we enjoyed dinner together, celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary in Honolulu, Phil left us.
“Wednesday, as I was landing in Chicago, Phil was landing in Heaven. I was overwhelmed as I exited the plane with Barb’s painful news.
“There is peace in the assurance that those of us who have received Jesus Christ as our Savior will, one day, be rejoined with Phil. Until then, we are thankful that our lives are better because we knew and loved and were loved by Phil Jester. His many qualities made our lives sweeter. Love, care, humor, generosity, selflessness, conviction, principles, compassion, and Christ-likeness are among the terms that accurately describe him.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father… (James 1:17) Without any question: Phil was a gift from our Heavenly father, to each of us. We sure will miss him!”
For the last ten years, Phil Jester served as associate pastor of music and education at First Baptist Church of Mountain View. The Sunday school and AWANA programs flourished under his leadership. He could make the spiritual connection between those he met and Jesus Christ. He was always approachable – always welcoming and comforting – always sincere. He loved children and had a tender heart for the underprivileged. His good friend Ron Webb, Sunday school superintendent and AWANA bus ministry facilitator agreed with others who shared similar observations, “I’ve worked with Phil for the last ten years and never had a moment of contention with him.” Yet, Phil would and could lovingly stand for what he believed.
With a profound sense of loss, Dr. John Noble, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, remembers working with his dear friend and partner in ministry. “When I moved to Mountain View approximately six and a half years ago to pastor First Baptist Church, Phil was already on staff at the church. I have been in the ministry over twenty years and worked with many staff members, but I can honestly say that Phil was my favorite. I don’t know how our time together could have been any better. He loved Jesus and he loved me. What a joy and privilege to serve with him! He brought humor and joy to each workday, and made worship services a joy and spiritual high. I knew he had my back and I had his. All I had to do was step into his office for a word of encouragement or promise of prayer. And I knew he kept that promise and lifted me up to the Father in his quiet time. The remainder of my time on this earth will pass by quickly and then I will join Brother Phil in heaven and together we will continue to serve our Savior for all eternity. The only difference is I will finally be able to carry a tune!”
Because Sheri Noble is very involved in the music ministry at First Baptist, she formed a strong common bond with Phil. “Words can’t express how much I am going to miss Phil Jester. I had the privilege of working with Phil in the music ministry at First Baptist Church. He was an associate pastor serving with my husband and my minister of music, but very, very quickly he became a dear, close friend. I would stop by his office numerous times every week to discuss music plans for praise team, choir, or VBS. But more often than not, I would just stop by to say Hi – see how he’s doing – discuss the newest praise song – or share a good laugh! Phil brought much laughter and joy to my soul, but he also encouraged me to be more for my Lord than I ever thought I could be. I thank his family and the Lord for sharing Phil Jester with the Nobles. We are far richer in soul and spirit for having shared this journey with him.”
Laughter was like breathing to Phil. His sense of humor rippled from his being and spread laughter to everyone whose lives he touched. During many practices, the First Baptist choir would explode with riotous laughter as Phil delivered a funny story or comment from his deep reservoir. And he was as accomplished in his delivery of wit as in everything else he did. During the memories that Pastor John shared at Phil’s funeral, he honored Phil’s sense of humor with some of the funnier high points from their years of working together. Many thought Phil should compile his bits of humor for all to enjoy.
Betty Jo Bandy worked in the office of the First Baptist Church in Summersville during Phil’s tenure as pastor there. She chuckled as she remembered the typical summertime exchange with Phil about the temperature of the air conditioning in the offices. His office needed to be “cold enough to hang beef” and she wanted hers to be “a degree short of the Sahara Desert.”
“He looked toward eternity with hope. That’s what he lived by,” long time friend, Kent Depee expressed with poignant sadness. “He glorified God with his life. He was my friend and now there’s a big emptiness.”
Barb described him briefly as “the best husband. I always felt I’d cheated everyone else by keeping him all for myself. He would have given his life willingly for me or any one of our children…or for his friends…or probably his enemies if he thought it were necessary. We all knew it! He just had a way of wrapping us in his arms and we felt secure there. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
So many in this community have been touched by this great man. The death of a loved one is a corporate pain as much as a personal pain. He planted seeds and witnessed excellent results and God will continue to nurture the work began during Phil’s fruitful time on this earth. We don’t have to say goodbye to Phil – we’ll just say, “See you later.”