I was saddened to learn that my good friend, co-worker, and brother in Christ, Wendell Agee departed from this life last night to be with his Lord. I met Wendell and his wife June when we moved to Knoxville a little over five years ago. During these past five years, Wendell and I have been on mission trips together, worked in the jail ministry together, and been fellow-encouragers.
Wendell wasn’t a “full-time” preacher, but he was. I’ve only met a few men in my lifetime who were as dedicated to spreading the gospel as Wendell was. I’m out of state as I write this, so I don’t have access to our records, but without over estimating, during the past five years, Wendell probably taught and baptized 125-150 people.
I’d like to share a few memories of Wendell.
- Those of you who knew Wendell know that he wasn’t very tall. I’m guessing, but maybe he was 5’3″ tall. On one night when we went to teach at the jail, Wendell went up to the counter to sign us in. But I noticed the counter was “neck high” for him. He was trying to sign the registration book with just his head peaking over the counter. He looked like a little boy trying to get a drink at a water fountain that was just too high for him. So I went up to him and asked him if he wanted me to hold him up while he signed us in and we both got a good laugh out of that. I heard him retell this story many times to others.
- Wendell and I went on three mission trips together, and on two of these trips, we were roommates. Wendell at 5’3″ and me at 6’6″ made perfect roommates. We told people that we just pushed our beds together…end to end. It was the perfect arrangement. Wendell didn’t need all the length of his bed, and I needed more length than my bed provided. 🙂 Actually, it was on these mission trips that I really got to know Wendell and appreciate him. Not only did Wendell, at the age of 80+, go on mission trips that required him to work all day long in temperatures that approached 100 degrees, sleep all week on the ground in a tent, go by himself to Cuba several times a year, but at the end of the day, when I was exhausted and ready to turn out the lights, he would still be sitting in bed, reading spiritual books for about another hour.
- Wendell was very hard-of-hearing, and very soft-spoken, but that didn’t slow him down. Instead, he used that to his advantage when it came to personal evangelism. He would quietly try to engage a person, and because he was so soft-spoken, people would slow down, and get closer to him to hear what he was saying. Then when they responded to him, he would cup his ear with his hand, slowing them down even more because they would have to repeat themselves, and by then he had them!
- Wendell’s personality transcended barriers. Although he was 80+ years old, the young people loved Wendell. My daughter had to write a paper for school on someone she respected and considered a hero. She wrote about Wendell. It took me a while to forgive Wendell after that, but I can’t blame Anne Marie because I think I would have written about him too.
If you can imagine the great quake that occurs when a giant red wood tree falls to the forest floor, then you can understand the impact of Wendell’s death. Although Wendell stood only 5’3″ tall, his fall has caused a quake that has shaken us all. To those who didn’t know Wendell Agee, he would have been “sized up” as a little man, but to those of us who knew him, he was a “spiritual giant!”