‘There is joy in serving Jesus’
It was a hot summer day and O.N. Pope was doing what he’s done most of his life — enjoying Christian fellowship and following Jesus Christ.
On this day, he and his wife, Gail, offered sandwiches and shelter from an infield RV during a lunchbreak of a racetrack meeting encouraging men to be Godly leaders in their marriages.
Married for 63 years, the Popes attribute the steadfastness of their own union to Jesus.
“Jesus has been the center of our marriage,” O.N. said. “It has been a joy for us to help and watch others grow in their marriage as we have shared some of our experiences of how God provided for us and led us and continues to lead us through some tough times in our lives.”
Added Gail, “Learning and growing together has taught us to love each other more and be aware of God’s presence in our lives as we follow His leading.”
In honor of their legacy and example, Lead Pastor Rob Decker has named the Popes the church’s 18th Heritage Award winners in a series honoring senior adults that began in 2003.
“As with the previous winners, Gail and O.N. have truly modeled in all aspects of their lives what it means to live for Jesus and love others — and have particularly honored God’s word through their service with The Gideons International and distribution of Scripture,” Decker said. “We’re grateful to have been blessed by their lives and have them among our body of believers.”
The Popes joined Triad Baptist in 2004. Since then, they've been active members of the Faithful Friends ministry and part of the Fred Mark Connect Group in the church’s small group ministry.
Their service at Triad also included teaching a Wednesday night class called “Share Jesus without Fear.”
“It was such a joy to see young couples interested in sharing Jesus with friends and family,” O.N. said. “It also has been a joy to have the influence of other men in my life and see them grow in the Lord. I have many friends that have been a real influence to me and encouraged me along the way, and Gail and I both appreciated all the many friends that we have made at Triad Baptist Church.”
It was while on a business trip that O.N. came under conviction, professing his newfound faith in Jesus Christ at Glenn View Baptist Church in 1967 at age 35. (Gail was saved as a child, at age 11).
Together, the couple served at Glenn View for 30 years where they raised four children in church — two sons (Mike and Tim), and two daughters (Mercia and Terri). They also have three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Proverbs 3, and particularly verses 4-6, convey well the heartbeat of their lives of faith together, the Popes said. As parents and as followers of Christ, they had a strong desire see not only their own children come to know Jesus but for other children to likewise find favor with God by learning to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
At Glenn View, O.N. served as deacon and deacon chairman, and taught classes for children, youth and adult men and served as Sunday School director. Gail taught Sunday School classes for children and also an adult Ladies class, served a stint as its Women’s Missionary Union (Missions) director, and sang in the choir. Both were heavily involved in outreach ministries of the church and the Gideons.
“What a joy it was to watch kids and youth grow in the Lord and see them now as adults serving in the church,” she said.
Gideon and business leader
As a Gideon for 32 years, O.N. has held a variety of posts with the evangelistic ministry, including area director and taking testaments and the hope of the gospel to prisoners through the Gideons’ jail ministry and Scripture distributions in 10 states. He also passed out New Testaments at the N.C. State Fair and the now-Carolina Classic Fair in Winston-Salem for many years — seeing some recipients accept Jesus Christ as Savior — and served as the Gideons’ N.C. State Convention Chairman in 1984.
In addition to his service in ministry, O.N. has also lived out his faith in business.
In 1966, he founded Pope Equipment Inc., which sells materials handling equipment to businesses. Today, Pope is run by his son, Mike, who assumed leadership after O.N.’s retirement in 1983.
The same year he founded his namesake company, Pope moved his family from Greensboro to Kernersville and into his father’s old home place built in the 1800s.
“This new venture brought about many reasons to seek the Lord’s guidance in our lives,” O.N. said about his reliance on God for direction and wisdom.
1 Peter 22-23 remains one of his key life verses, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God.”
Through thick and thin, the Popes feel blessed by God and want others to enjoy the same peace, assurance, contentment and satisfaction in life they have as Christ followers.
Said O.N., “There is joy in serving Jesus!”