Rev. John Ralph Wood had his fondest desire come true, meeting his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ face-to-face on Saturday, June 10. The memorial tribute prepared by his family captures the unique life and ministry of this faithful servant of God. Here are some highlights:
“Rev. John Wood was a cherished husband, a loving father, an adoring (great) grandfather, a trusted friend and a gifted pastor. He was born on the south side of Chicago on December 19th, 1927, [and] lived a full 89 years filled with love, laughter (often times at his own jokes- and they were many!) and, most of all, a close walk with Jesus. After receiving his [high school] diploma, he followed his older brother’s footsteps and joined the Navy. He later attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, after which he became an ordained minister, a calling he lived out faithfully and passionately for 65 years. It was also during this time where he met the love of his life and future wife of 67 years, Jean Mitchell. They were married in Cass City, Michigan in 1949 and had one son, Ronald Wood. In 1951, he was called to lead his first church in La Paz, Indiana. In future years, he would pastor in various cities: Lapeer, MI; Ecorse, MI; Bellefontaine, OH; and Cass City, MI.”
John also served as the second state representative for the Michigan Association of Regular Baptist Churches (MARBC) from 1972-1982, succeeding Howard Keithley. He was a welcome speaker in the churches and great source of encouragement to the pastors and churches in the state.
John eventually entered into retirement after serving in Cass City, but had a difficult time staying there. During his “retirement years” he served as interim pastor for different churches. Most recently, John served several years at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Bay City, MI.
John’s family reflects on his legacy sharing that he was “a man of great faith, wisdom, and integrity. He moved through the world with an eternal perspective, his eyes fixed on Jesus. He loved the Lord. He loved his family. He loved his friends. He served all of them well. He possessed a quick-witted personality and love for laughter. His light-hearted nature and genuine concern for others made him a fast friend to many.” John is survived by his wife Jean (his pride and joy), son and daughter-in-law Ronald and Melody Wood, 3 grandchildren and their spouses, and 4 great children.
Memorial to Rev. John Wood
John Wood. Whoever met the man would not forget him. He would be a friend from the first handshake. Ours took place more than 40 years ago. Every time he saw me he would say that there were no tall spiritual men in the Bible! Upon one occasion of his preaching in one of my churches I put a foot stool in the pulpit so that people could see him and said that we were glad to have Pastor Zacchaeus with us today! Dr. David Otis Fuller pastored the Wealthy St. Baptist Church in Grand Rapids for more than 40 years. John once told me that he had had a very tough assignment. He had to fill Dr. Fuller’s shoes in his pulpit. Then he went on to say that in leaving home in a hurry, he had forgotten his Sunday dress shoes so Dr. Fuller had to lend him a pair of his!
During those early years of our fellowship and serving as a member of the MARBC Council of Fifteen, I would have never dreamed that someday I would follow him as State Representative of the MARBC. He set the bar high. He was always an encouragement to me in that capacity. Though small in stature, John had a great heart for God, a confident call to ministry, an ability to preach the Word with authority and a passionate love for people and the church of Jesus Christ. Jean was forever at his side. Just a few days before his entrance into glory, I had the privilege of having one last phone conversation with my friend, John. He was very weak but we had a delightful visit. We talked about ministry and his anticipation of heaven. I mentioned to him that Puritan Thomas Watson said, “Heaven is such a happy place that angels would not wish to leave it for a minute!” My dear brother John is now in his “happy place.” I look forward to that day when I will be in my “happy place.” After seeing my Savior first of all, I want to look John up and hear what he has to say now about smaller men being more spiritual. No doubt he will still be right. Thank you, John, for being faithful to the end and giving God all the glory.
Maynard H. Belt
Former State Representative, MARBC
Pastor John Wood Tribute
John Wood has been God’s writing instrument through which He inked an indelible impression of what it means to live out the Biblical example of “the joy of the Lord as your strength.” I have never encountered anyone who knew John and didn’t use words such as “joy,” “energy,” “enthusiasm,” “perseverance,” “faithfulness,” and “godly zeal” to describe his impact in their life.
I first met John in my early days as “the new kid on the block” as the Representative of the Michigan Association of Regular Baptist Churches. We were reflecting upon the impacting ministry of another former MARBC Representative, “Alf Nelson,” who had just been called home into the presence of our precious Lord and Savior. Standing with John by Brother Alf’s casket prior to the start of Alf’s memorial service in St. John’s, he remarked to me with a twinkle in his eye, “See what this job will do to you?”
At last Wednesday evening’s gathering at the funeral home in Greenville the atmosphere was filled with the God-given joy that only believers can truly embrace in the midst of sorrow. Christians truly do sorrow in a peace-filled way that is very different from those who no eternal hope. The joy of the Lord is their strength.
Led by his loving wife Jean, the room was filled with chuckles, even laughter, while tissues where utilized to dab away tears. Stories were retold regarding John’s determination, commitment to Christ, and love for people. Some talked about humorous situations pertaining to this larger than life man’s diminutive size. Almost everyone shared a favorite quote or pun that seemed to flow easily from a man who loved the Lord His God with all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength, while truly loving his neighbor as himself.
Traveling home from that unique gathering, I reflected upon my last conversation with John a few days before His beloved Lord summoned him into His presence in glory. John shared, “I’ve preached on this type of situation many, many times. I pray that I will now practice in my own life what I’ve preached to others.” I replied, “John, I think that you are about to preach your greatest sermon.” Well, God answered our dear brother’s prayer and also affirmed my observation. “Well done, good and faithful servant, you deserve your God-graced rest and will now know nothing but joy unspeakable while you bask in your Savior’s glory.”
Executive Ministry Director, MARBC