A Tribute to Daryl Summey: An Extraordinary Friend

When Daryl Summey died last week, the world became a little bit darker. Though Daryl is now ‘the late Daryl Summey” in the most profound sense of that sad phrase, his legacy of love, compassion, and faithfulness lives on in the grand mosaic of our memories. He was a friend to the friendless, a leader to the lost, and a father to the fatherless. Below is my small contribution to the grand story of Daryl Summey, a narrative that extends across five decades, multiple continents, and thousands of hearts.

Reflections Daryl Summey

Daryl Summey possessed a special knack for making the ordinary the extraordinary. He turned the collection of a few Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes into a multi-thousand box enterprise that trafficked in massive loads of t-shirts, crayons, toothbrushes, toy trucks, balloons, and balls. He took normal disciple now weekends and transformed them into Encounter Weekends that were full of shaving cream, massive decorations, and passionate sermons that resonated with thousands. He appropriated ordinary mission trips and led students to the edges of the persecuted church, exposing many souls to the glories and the cost of missions. And perhaps most remarkably of all, he and Leigh Anne took their ordinary home and made it into extraordinary place of love, laughter, and faith where family, teenagers, college students, missionaries, and the weary could find rest.

Daryl’s extraordinariness flowed from his commitment to his Savior. When the downtrodden showed up at First Baptist Church Eastman, Daryl shelved his already crazy schedule to care for the stranger within our gates. Many a morning, I saw Daryl walking broken souls over to the Station in hopes of forming a new relationship that would end in friendship and salvation. If widows needed decks built, Daryl called his guys, ordered supplies, and got the deck built. When the uncool kids slunk into the Station on Wednesday nights for Youth Group, Daryl immediately walked over to those on the fringe of the building, introduced himself, and began making them feel as if they were a part of his family. And when three orphans needed a home, Daryl sacrificed his schedule, his budget, and some of his sanity to send Leigh Anne to rescue their three youngest children from abandonment.  Like the great physician, Daryl Summey was a friend to the friendless.

He also cared deeply for the body of Christ. Daryl’s ministry extended well beyond the bounds of the Station. His prayers encouraged many a weary soul worn down by family tragedy or sorry hospital beds. Though the sign on the door said “Youth,” Daryl’s office also served as FBCE’s counseling center. Inside Daryl’s cluttered mess of books and papers, countless souls heard how the glories of Jesus could transform everything from addiction to broken marriages. Even when he took the roll on Sunday nights, he would stop to talk to the souls manning the Children’s Ministry Center Desk. If students or pastors who knew far less about ministry and life attempted to instruct Daryl about theology, philosophy, or ministry, he took their comments in stride, transforming his antagonists into his friends. To know Daryl Summey was to experience the love of Jesus.

It was also this love that made him an amazing Dad who hid easters eggs that no one could find. It was this love that enabled him to push most every youth trip to the limits with calm assurances that the trail really would come to an end around the next bend…ok well the next one, well actually…and…you get it. It was this love that could make a room explode with quiet laughter as he guided professional conversations to craziest of conclusions through his calm suggestions. It was this love that somehow made all those odd pictures of Clay Layfield as a bodybuilder plastered across the church ok. And it is this love that April and I and thousands of others will miss.

Daryl Summery was a good husband, father, son, brothers, and pastor. He was a good man.  

Postscript

When Daryl first learned he had cancer, we talked of hope of healing and of the need never to surrender to the gloom that can sometimes ooze out of the oncology world. April and I then watched with aching hearts as that determination met setback after setback. When Daryl and I last talked a few weeks back, we spoke of future visits. Though I knew his end was near, we exchanged no final goodbyes that day. And we needed not do so then or ever for one day soon, we will each other again in the land of eternity a place where there, “no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” Until then….my friend. Until then…

Memo: A Critical Few Days – April 2021

Yesterday, April entered a critical phase in her breast cancer battle. As many of you know, she began her new treatment plan this past Tuesday, April 27. But before the first pills had time to dissolve, April began to develop a discomfort on her right side. Over the last 72 hours, that pain has gone from the level of a muscle ache to a life-altering level of anguish. After spending a few hours talking with April’s medical teams, we know that the cancer tumors in her liver are producing this intense pain as well the nausea and the general sense of unwellness that has slowed her a halt. Thankfully, April’s liver has not yet reached the point of failure. That line is still a some week’s walk away. The plan today calls for April to keep taking her new potent regimen of the new clinical LY drug and the Everolimus. If the medicine works, the cancer should begin to shrink over the next few days and her liver function should increase, resulting in a far better quality of life. As we wait for that day, April will have to continue to manage her pain and nausea with prescription painkillers and nausea pills. On Tuesday, her blood tests will provide some indication of the effectiveness of the new drug. We pray that that day will bring good news.

If this plan fails, April can still fall back upon a chemotherapy treatment plan which promises to quickly shrink the tumors in her liver and elsewhere. But the move towards Chemotherapy while expedient would also exhaust most of her treatment options, shifting April’s breast cancer trajectory into a less favorable position. With a heart full of fortitude, April is pressing forward on the dark path of pain and anguish, hoping today’s suffering will produce health tomorrow.

Please pray for God to reduce the tumors in her liver. Pray for God to sustain her body as she suffers. Pray for God to comfort her soul as her body remains at war with itself. Pray for our kids to know the comfort of Christ during this time. Pray for April and me to have wisdom as we parent our children through this time. And pray that these critical days will conclude with good news.

Thank you for all of your love, support, and your messages. However, we may be slow in responding to them due to April’s health at this time. As always, we will continue to post updates here.

Contact Info:

EMAIL US AT: BIBLEFIGHTER@GMAIL.COM 

SNAIL-MAIL AT : P.O. BOX 637/ AMISSVILLE, VA 20106

CALL US AT: 540-937-6159.

SUPPORT US AT: APRIL WITKOWSKI MEDICAL FUND (GOFUNDME.COM)

Memo: In Memory of My Church Mom: The Loving Jean Miller

Jean Miller

Words faded into tears as the news of Jean Miller’s death sunk into our souls. Though we were separated by age, time, and space, April and I were knit into Jean’s heart.

Shortly after the death of our first-born son, Peter Alexander, Jean gave April and me the biggest hugs and adopted us into her family, promising our families that She and Junior would look after us. From the moment forward, I was her “church son.” And she was April’s and my “church mother.”

IMG_5525She loved us well She put her arm around our shoulders as we grieved the loss of 2nd Peter. She struck that glorious balance between allowing us to grieve and keeping us from despair. Every tear-filled conversation ended with glorious reminders of Jesus’s love and goodness.

When the sun of God’s grace shinned upon our lives, Jean celebrated with us, cherishing both Luke and Lily. She greeted our kids with smiles and found ways to playful extract them from their caves of shyness. Despite’s Lily’s obstinate character, Jean never gave up trying to get our little ice queen to smile. IMG_6055Jean would stick her fingers into ears and would scrunch up her face into the funniest contortions. Somehow, Junior still got Lily to smile first, a feat Jean could never understand.Her lap was always available to them; Luke and Lily used it often. When cancer descended upon April, she and Junior were some of the first friends to call us and to pray for us. Her love for us never ended.

When her insecure “church son” launched a leadership team to minister to the families of FBCE, she and Junior took a chance and linked arms with April and me. Jean walked with April and I through insane VBS weeks, exciting nerf-guns battles, and vintage Reformation Festivals. I can still see Jean dressed in her bonnet covering and uncovering a host of fake relics as she and Junior explained the importance of salvation by grace alone.

IMG-5419I can also see Jean shaking with laughter as she and Junior explained the meaning of the rat emoji that she accidentally texted to the whole team. Though she loved to laugh, she also kept her family and all of us in line. Anytime Junior, Ian Wynn, or someone else took something too far like the expression, “The Face of Discipline” Jean would give ‘the look’ followed by a “Hey now” and return things to order. She brought laughter a joy into every life she touched.

But, the thing I remember most about Jean was her smile. Come the fun of church picnics, the craziness of Wednesday nights, or anniversary of her daughter’s death, Jean always smiled. The joy that adorned her face transcended reality and yet was grounded in the truest reality of all: the saving mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though her heart IMG-5421had been nicked and scared by many a hardship, she knew the saving power of Jesus Christ. She seen Jesus transform both her life and Junior’s life. Nothing could take that joy from her. Even when she was worn and tired, the peace of Jesus shone in her face and resounded in her laughter. Her smile shone brightly when she bounded up from our table and washed the our dishes. It was that smile that graciously welcomed April and our kids into her home and kept our kids from wanting to ever leave Jean’s living room. And it was that smile, that lit up the church as Jean taught Sunday School, helped in the nursery, and swung by the welcome desk to ask how

April and I were doing. Indeed, Christ was in Jean. To see her smile was to catch a glimpse of heaven.

Yesterday, that glimpse of heaven ascended into heaven. Jean smile is the now the smile of perfect peace and happiness. Indeed heaven is her greatest gain. “Those the son sets free are free indeed (John 8:36).”  I cannot wish her back into the bondage of this miserable world.

But I also cannot help but miss my “church mom’s” infectious smile.

With much Love,

Peter and April Witkowski