A Tribute to Gary Nelson


1 s min

Press Release:

Yesterday (Tuesday), we received the news that many of us hoped would not come. We lost our friend, Gary Nelson, who served as the General Secretary of CBM from 2000 – 2010 and was one of the most influential Christian leaders in Canada. It had been a long and hard struggle for Gary and his wife Carla over the past several years, but they fought with grace and strength until Gary’s body finally decided it had to rest.

Gary’s time at CBM was transformative, as he skillfully navigated the changing realities of an old historic mission organization that needed new directions for the future. He later told me that those were not the easiest of years, but they were the best. Our team faced many bumps in the road, but Gary was always there to guide, advise and comfort with perspective and grace. He had a routine of doing a walk around the office every morning to check in with each person. As a former colleague remarked, “you wanted to be sure you were at your desk so that you could chat with Gary.” It was in those times, we could most clearly see his pastoral side and genuine concern for every person. It reflected his unique leadership ability to make hard decisions with a soft heart.

We learned many lessons from Gary. Watching him work in a room full of strangers was like watching him play football, which he had done professionally in his younger years. He was a great connector of people who was always looking for ways to enable younger leaders to be invited into spaces where they wouldn’t otherwise be. I was one of those reluctant young leaders. He once volunteered me to speak at a workshop he was leading, and untruthfully introduced me as “one the best speakers I know.” He did that not in jest, but as a way to affirm he could see beyond my present abilities to what they could become. Until the end of his days, he remained one of my greatest champions and encouragers, always looking beyond the present and challenging me to believe that God can do more than any of us think possible. He modelled perseverance in ministry even when times where tough. Most of all, he lived out an unwavering commitment to the mission of the Church, which he often reminded us was God’s gift to a broken world.

Many of us probably feel like it’s not time yet; that we still need Gary, who filled a space in our lives with his humour and laughter. We are reminded yet again that we do not get to dictate the time for when the people we love leave this earth. Though we may not be ready to let him go, we’ve been blessed to have known and loved Gary in the time he was with us.

Gary, thank you for your faithful and unwavering service to the Kingdom. Rest well now with the King, good and faithful servant.

“If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”
Romans 14:8

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