Lee Olmsted: Like Paul and Barnabas
I am not often shocked, but I certainly was when I received a text shortly before Sunday’s 9am service that Lee Olmsted had gone home to Jesus. I had received word on Saturday that he had suffered a heart attack and was in the emergency room, but I had simply assumed there would be days of updates on the slow but steady progress of healing. Instead, Lee’s healing was completed in an instant and his joy is now full.
Lee has left behind his wonderful wife, Diane, and a delightful family, many of whom I was recently able to meet. There were both tears and laughter as we talked about this admirable man. For me, his two most prominent qualities are shared by that famous missionary duo, Paul and Barnabas.
Like the Apostle Paul, Lee was an indefatigable evangelist. He was always ready to engage anyone who crossed his path with friendliness, joy and most of all, Jesus. Lee had a handful of quirky ways of initiating conversations with total strangers, including one that involved reading license plates. I don’t know exactly how it worked, but he would notice the letters on a license plate and comment on their connection to some word in the Bible, often in Greek or Hebrew.
Lee loved that kind of thing, and God used it. In fact, Saturday night I was speaking with a woman whose whole family has been coming to Evergreen for about a year because Lee reached out to her in a Walmart parking lot. It began with something about the letters on her license plate and then moved to a conversation about Jesus and ended with him praying for her. This was a common occurrence for Lee.
Lee was not only a zealous evangelist, he was also an enthusiastic encourager, much like Barnabas in Acts. Lee never missed an opportunity to assure me that he and Diane were praying for me and for the church. He had such a genuine and endearing way of expressing his support, often not finishing his sentences with words, but with a thumbs up or a fist bump and simply willing you to sense his heart. His text messages were similar, typically containing as many emojis as words, saturated with cheerful encouragement. Lee simply exuded sincerity and care.
There will be a service in Lee’s honor on Saturday, January 15 at 1pm at Evergreen Bible Church. It is expected to be very well attended so it will also be livestreamed. I praise God for the blessing and example of this admirable man.