I would like to take this space this month to pay a tribute to a great friend.
As Jonathan said to David, “…thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.” 1 Samuel 20:18, so shall I repeat to Joe Bell, who went to be with the Lord August 20, 2009. Joe was a member of the LOOPS Board of Directors, a supporter of this ministry, but more than that he was friend. I met Joe almost 25 years ago. Joe was not an ordinary man, in fact, he was an extraordinary man. He was the epitome of Odessa, Texas; boom or bust; hard and fast on the outside, solid and kind on the inside.
Joe had served prison time…in fact, he went to prison three times. Donna, Joe’s wife, said he wasn’t a three time loser, because the third time, he became a winner when he received Jesus Christ as His Saviour. In 19--, Joe received a pardon from the Governor of Texas. Later on he received a badge as an honorary member of the Sheriff’s department in Odessa.
Joe Bell had been a drunk…then became responsible for the sobriety and success of more drunks, drug addicts, jail birds and criminals than probably any one man is Odessa.
Joe Bell had been a loser…he ended life a big winner.
Joe never forgot his past…he used the lessons to build his future.
Once you got inside the street smart and street toughness of Joe Bell, you discovered a man with a lot of love for people, places and things.
He loved Spur, Texas, his home town. he loved to go back to every year for homecoming. He loved Bob Wills music and good old southern gospel music, like “One Day At A Time” and “This World Is Not My Home.”
Joe loved his friends and he had many…there were no social, racial, economic or age barriers with Joe.
Joe loved AA (39 years sober July 2, 2009.) He traveled and spoke all across Texas at AA meetings. He practiced the Twelve Steps and expected others to do the same..
Joe loved the REC-Room. He came as long as he could. He had a special chair at the REC-Room. It was the first one you came to and he sat there with dignity. Let me tell you, Joe could spot the “real” and the “phonies” and was usually vocal about it. He listened to needs and problems. He was the chairman of the “assistance fund” and took those duties very seriously. Many men and women got a “leg up” because Joe extended his hand “out.”
Joe loved his 3 daughters and his 2 bonus daughters, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He really enjoyed his family. I want you to read one of Joe’s greatest treasures from one of his daughters, written in 2005:
My daddy wasn’t around when I was youngl He was out getting drunk, locked up and having fun. I found him when I was fifteen. I wanted to know if I looked like him And if he was mean. As I got older, I got into dope. I messed up my life and just couldn’t cope. My dad brought me back to rehab and assured me I wasn’t all bad. Daddy, your amends to me are made no We can be close and you can show me how. Today we are both clean and you are certainly not mean. Happy 35th AA birthday, Dad. You have made me glad.
Joe’s greatest love in this world was Donna. Joe and Donna had been married for 18 years. Donna was just what the doctor ordered for Joe. She brought a strong spiritual emphasis that Joe had not had. She fulfilled the bill as Joe’s “help meet” (Genesis 2:18.) Donna stuck with Joe through the hard times and the good times. Along toward the end, Donna would load Joe, his wheel chair and oxygen in the car and bring him to the REC-Room.
Less than a month ago, Joe and I were visiting in Joe’s living room and I asked him how long he and Donna had been married. He answered my question, then paused and said, “Leland, Donna is the best thing that ever happened to me outside of Jesus Christ.”
Joe loved Jesus Christ. Joe often talked about how AA got him sober and that Jesus Christ was going to take him to heaven. Not often do you get to visit with people about their coming death. I got to do that with Joe. He asked me to preach his funeral, he selected his pallbearers, the songs to be sung, etc. He went over those things with Donna. Their faith never wavered. Joe was ready to go home. Donna wanted the best for Joe, as hard as it was to tell him so long for now. Joe’s favorite farewell when speaking to a new group is one I want to share with you.
Drinking From A Saucer
I have never made a fortune and it’s much too late now. But I don’t worry about that much, I am happy anyhow. As I go along life’s journey, I am reaping better than I sowed. I am drinking from my saucer…cause my cup has overflowed. I don’t have a lot of riches, sometimes the going is tough. But I have a bunch of old drunks that love me…that makes me rich enough. I just thank God for His blessing and the mercies He has bestowed. I am drinking from my saucer…cause my cup has overflowed. I remember times when thing went wrong and faith got a little bit thin. Then all at once the dark clouds broke and that old sun peaked through again. So, Lord, help me not to gripe about the tough rows I’ve hoed. I am drinking from my saucer…cause my cup has overflowed. If God gives me strength and courage when the way grows steep and rough. I’ll not ask other blessings…I have been blessed enough. May I never get too busy to help another drunk bury his load. Then I’ll keep drinking from my saucer…cause my cup has overflowed.
According to 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, we just buried some old clothes, not Joe. We will meet again, but until then we can say about Joe Bell, “He shall be missed, because his seat will be empty.”
Keep Looking Up!