The first time I met George Barnard was at a breakfast meeting at a diner in Abilene, TX in 1999. I was looking for partners to help send me as an urban missionary to New York City, and George was a champion for missions. At that time, I was single, still in my Twenties, and eager to start my next journey in ministry. I discovered that George was one of the best partners any missionary in any part of the world could ever ask for.
George didn't simply see missions as an objective value or a program of the church; he loved missionaries. He trusted missionaries and did whatever he could to champion their cause. But he did more than that too. He spent countless hours getting to know me on my terms. When I ran into obstacles, as sponsored missionaries sometimes do, he would say, "Jared, they just don't know you like I know you."
George listened and learned from missionaries. Despite decades supporting missions and serving as an elder and a deacon in multiple seasons of life, he didn't stop learning from the missionaries he supported. When I taught workshops on missions at his alma mater, Abilene Christian University, he was not only there to be supportive, but you felt that he really was there as a student as well.
Before I ever heard terms like "missionary care" or "member care" now common in the missions world, I knew George Barnard. When I took a 2-month sabbatical in 2006, George raised the funding to make that happen. When we would run up against funding shortages, he would approach whoever he needed to get that gap filled. But when things got tough, he would also give me a straight answer.
I've told the story of the beginning of Global City Mission countless times. Oftentimes, I recount a key champion of my ministry advocating that we start a new non-profit ministry. That ministry became Global City Mission, and that champion was George Barnard. Without George, I don't think I could have sustained 15 years of full-time ministry in The Bronx. Without George, I seriously doubt whether Global City Mission would exist today. The impact of Global City Mission has been felt in relationships in New York, L.A., Philadelphia, or Tampa, and the impact of ministry relationships has stretched, to varying degrees, to Asia, Europe, or Africa. Now, George not only gets to celebrate what we already know, but he gets to see what we cannot yet see. He also knows the ripple effects and the hidden results that remain beyond our vision. I'm sure George is smiling about that now too.