It’s taken me a few days to wrap my head (and heart) around this post, but I know that some of you have asked about Gary Levi so here is an update.
This past Friday, Annette and I spent time yesterday with one of the Lord’s saints in Columbus, GA. Gary has a fast growing brain tumor and (like the rest of us) his days before he goes to be with the Lord are numbered. His lifelong partner, friend, and brother, Allen, has put all on hold to make these last days for Gary comfortable and loving. I hope we have an Allen in our lives!
Gary’s memory is quickly fading. At times you see the spark of remembrance in his eye and he makes that mischievous little grin as he nods acknowledgement. At other times he shakes his head gently and you know that he can’t quite remember what you are talking about. Regardless, he still has his good humor, gentle nature and he smiles, choosing to be joy-filled despite the cancer.
I remember first talking to Gary Levi in 1996 while our family was temporarily in the US, about to move from Croatia into Sarajevo, Bosnia. Gary was interested in joining our team for a time to help out. His thick, southern accent made it almost impossible for me to understand what he was saying, and when I repeatedly asked him. “What was that?” he began to chuckle and said, “let me try saying that in Yankee.”
He lived with our family for a number of months, both before the move and just after we relocated. My kids, and our team, fell in love with his kind and gentle jokes, smiles, and encouraging words. Gary has an incredible way of communicating love just by being with him.
I remember a Bosnian man named Vancho, who spoke no English. Gary spoke a handful of Bosnian words but they were so affected by his southern drawl that Vancho couldn’t really understand even these. One day we traveled together and the two of them had about an hour-long conversation in the car while I bounced around in the backseat over war damaged roads. They were each talking about different topics (I understood both of them, because I speak both languages). I couldn’t help but laugh as the sometimes connected and other times were wildly off the mark. At the end of this time, Vancho told me how much he liked talking with Levi, because, “He listens and really cares.” The pretty much sums up Gary’s approach to relationships.
Gary served all over the world from difficult war zones, to the sophisticated cultures of Western Europe, to remote tribes living in remote jungles. Everywhere he went he was a blessing and encouragement to all. When Jesus’ encountered Nathaniel, he described him as a man with “no guile.” The NIV translates it as a man “in whom there is no deceit.” That’s Gary.
So, with tears in our eyes Annette and I left the Levi family’s homestead bound for our busy household and schedules. It’s so good to know that whatever happens in the weeks to come, Gary has Allen and his parents at his side. As we prayed together just before we left, Gary affirmed his eagerness to pass into a life much better than this one.
The way Gary lived this one I can only imagine what is to come.