My memories of Larry and Lilian French started in 2006 at Baptist Church Planters when we were building an addition to the mission office in Grafton, Ohio. Baptist Missionary Builders was asked to manage that building project, and Larry was assigned as the lead builder for the project. Since that time Larry and Lillian have played an important part of the ministries of Baptist Church Planters and ChurchCare. The French’s began their ministry as missionaries with Baptist Missionary Builders. In September 2010 the BMB builders were merged into Baptist Church Planters/ChurchCare and Larry and Lillian were approved as BCP missionaries assigned to ChurchCare for the building ministry.
Larry’s ministry, including the BMB years and the ChurchCare years, included the following projects:
Harvest Baptist Church, Bath, NY
Camp Tishomingo, Show Low, AZ
Victory Baptist Church, Reading, PA
Community Regular Baptist Church, Bussey, IA
Boardman Baptist Church, Youngstown, OH
Community Baptist Church, Springhill, TN
Desert Hills Baptist Church, Buckeye, AZ
Two mission works in Huston, TX following Hurricane Harvey in 2017
I am sure that there are other churches that Larry has helped and consulted with. Larry and Lillian impressed me with their commitment to serve the local church. Words that come to mind are humility, generous, gracious and kind. I cannot remember a time when Larry was upset or angry about something when working on a church project. I don’t know how many times Larry said, “This is my last project. I am retired.” Larry answered my calls every time I asked for help. ChurchCare needed to step up and complete a project that was dragging on and Larry responded. I told Pastor Zamora at Desert Hills Baptist Church that we had no builders available unless Larry would come out of “retirement” and manage the project. Arizona is not an easy place to build a building during the summer.
In August of 2017 I received a call from two other sister agencies that needed help responding to the needs in the Houston area following Hurricane Harvey. I made a call and asked Larry if he would go and give us an assessment of what needs to be done. Travel to Houston was limited, we were having trouble booking flights, and when I tried to call Larry back his response was “I am on my way to the airport now, I have a friend who owns a plane and is going to fly me down today.” Larry spent several days and worked on temporary repairs and provided information so ChurchCare could coordinate volunteer teams to follow-up and do the work.
I often talk about legacy and heritage. Legacy is what you leave for others and a heritage is what you receive from others. Larry leaves a great legacy. Two of ChurchCare missionary builders trace their roots back to meeting and working with Larry French. Brent and Michele Howard met Larry French when he was working on the Baptist Church Planters office building. Larry’s testimony and encouragement to consider using their skills for full time ministry made a difference. In 2007 Brent and Michele moved out of their new home and moved their family into a fifth-wheel camper and have been building church buildings and building lives ever since.
In 2017 Jimmy Stevenson was part of a team from Ankeny Baptist Church, Ankeny, IA which came to Huston to help with repairs. Jimmy met Larry and today, after a short-term missionary experience with ChurchCare, Jimmy is an approved missionary builder and raising support to begin full time service.
I am sure there are many stories about the impact that Larry and Lillian had on lives and ministries. Larry has left a legacy, with the Howards, with Jimmy Stevenson, with me and with ChurchCare. Larry raised the bar for all of us. Larry’s legacy becomes part of our heritage. What will we do with it?
Larry was a very humble man. He never wanted any recognition for any of his work. He would not show up at building dedications. We don’t serve or follow Larry’s legacy to promote him but to honor Larry’s Lord and Savior. To God be the Glory!
Philippians 2:12-18 Paul reminds the Philippian believers to stay with the work, even when Paul is gone. Verse 13 “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” I am sure that is the desire of Larry French for us.