By J. GERALD HARRIS, The Christian Index
MARIETTA, Ga. – There are some very motivated and very hardworking people in their 90’s (nonagenarians) who are doing amazing things. Former President George HW Bush celebrated his 90th birthday by skydiving from a plane. Leonid Hurwicz, a professor at the University of Minnesota, was ninety years old when he received the Nobel Prize. Paul Spangler finished his 14th marathon at 92; and when PG Wodehouse was 93, he was working on his 97th novel.
At the age of 95, Billy Graham addressed the nation in a video in which he said: “There have been times I’ve cried as I’ve moved from town to town and I’ve seen how far the removed people from God. Our great country is in dire need of a spiritual awakening.”
Although our bodies become frail as we age, in the 21st century the word ‘old’ means less and less and for many, age is just a number. Such is the case with Lloyd Blackwell of Marietta’s Eastside Baptist Church. He is a layman with an exceptional history as a churchman, missionary, Gideon and minister of God.
Blackwell’s ministry was not without significant challenges. He had to deal with tremendous health problems, adverse circumstances, deaths of family members and significant tragedies in his life. Like the apostle Paul, however, his attitude is: “None of this moves me; neither do I value my life dearly, that I may end my way with joy” (Acts 20:24).
This amazing Georgia Baptist has traveled the world, visiting 174 countries and all fifty states. He has wrestled an adult alligator in Burkina Faso, Africa, traveled at Mach II speeds on the Concorde supersonic airliner, hunted polar bears with a camera in the Canadian Arctic, landed twice in an emergency situation by plane, lived among Eskimos in Greenland and primitive Indians in South America and at the age of 72 jumped three miles over the Mojave Desert.
But Blackwell’s travels are not only characterized by Indiana Jones-like adventures. They have been characterized primarily as the missionary ventures of a messenger for Christ. This is the most defining reality of Lloyd Blackwell’s life. He has ministered to the Lord, spreading the gospel, baptizing converts, caring for poor, injured and disadvantaged indigenous people in countries around the world.
He has distributed Gideon New Testaments in 43 states, 42 countries and on all seven continents of the world – even at the North Pole. He has distributed Bibles on the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth while crossing the Atlantic, on a scientific research submersible 1,000 feet below sea level, on the Concorde — flying at twice the speed of sound and eleven miles overhead Earth and on a whitewater rafting trip through the 278-mile Grand Canyon. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Blackwell has invested much of his time and Christian ministry as a member of the Eastside Baptist Church, where he and his wife, Clara, have taught children’s Sunday school classes and ministered in the kindergarten. In the 1990’s he became president of the Genesis Sunday School class and developed a card/phone service to encourage others. Given his current limited mobility, Blackwell decided there was much he could do from home to encourage others. He has bought hundreds of boxes of Dayspring cards and given away about half of them to other Eastside Sunday School classes to be mailed to express gratitude, compassion and a promise of prayers for the sick.
John Hull, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church, stated: “Lloyd Blackwell is a global Christian with a heart for the local church. He is one of the greatest encouragers I have met in over forty years of ministry. I pray every pastor has a person like Lloyd in his church.”
The 90-year-old Champion for Christ has also been active in the Noonday Association, where he has served as Brotherhood Director, Disaster Relief Director, Builders for Christ leader and participant. He is currently serving in the association’s warehouse service and is a member of the executive and administrative teams.
Daryl Price, Executive Director of the Noonday Association, commented: “Lloyd Blackwell could easily have been prevented from duty by his medical and physical problems. He is an example worth emulating as he struggles through difficulties and sometimes failing health, to serve, encourage, and bless others in word and deed. He has served with distinction in a variety of areas of our association.”
Lloyd Blackwell has not yet reached the finish line, most likely because he continues to give, serve, and serve. He also has a vision for what he wants to accomplish each day and believes that God still has work for him to do; and he lends himself with as much confidence and zeal as a ninety-year-old can muster. The prospects of him finishing well are not even debatable.