Galen giving some pre-marriage counseling to Arthur and Sandra during TD in the ’80’s
It is with deep sadness that I must inform you that Pastor Galen Jee, our English Department pastor for about twenty years, passed away suddenly yesterday from cardiac arrest. He was doing what he loved to do – walking in nature and capturing it in photographs. An avid and talented photographer, he loved capturing God’s creation.
I want you all to know that our English Department wouldn’t be what it is today without the foundation-laying, seed-planting, and personal investment into people that Galen and his wife, Eunice, provided. What God has done in our congregation in the years since he moved on from our church has been built upon the foundation that God had Galen and Eunice lay; it’s a foundation that was committed to the gospel rather than gimmicks, to people rather than programs, to integrity rather than ingenuity, … to a saving God rather than to self-glory. This is absolutely true.
Often times, people embellish the facts and persona of someone’s life after they have passed on, out of deference and respect, and sensitivity to the surviving family. Galen would not have that, nor would want me to do that. Anyone else who was under his care and leadership would whole-heartedly affirm what I just wrote above.
Pastoring our congregation during the heyday of the “seeker sensitive” church growth movement in the ’80’s and ’90’s, Galen felt the external pressure to grow our numbers more quickly, which forced him to look within and to continually check himself in order to stay faithful to our Lord and His Upside Down Kingdom, where measures of true success rarely look like what we think it looks like (even church goers). Having his success as a pastor often gauged by others according to the metric of numeric success, Galen stayed faithful and true to what he knew the true church to be, Christ’s Bride; not a platform or a stepping-stone for feeling good about oneself and achieving some sort of self-worth and self-satisfaction through serving and through church-y “success,” which he rightly knew was still, in fact, worldly. He wouldn’t do that. He just wanted to be found faithful and obedient, plain and simple. That was success.
Personally, it was Galen who not only was the official English Department pastor when I arrived at MBCLA, but who became MY pastor. He saw a young, unchurched, worldly high school graduate and met with me in my home before baptizing me not too long afterwards (announcing to the congregation that I graduated from Marshall HS rather than my alma mater, South Pasadena HS). Over the ensuing years, he saw something in me, investing in me and showing me the ropes. As the years ensued, his belief in me grew and he entrusted me with the opportunity to serve our congregation in many ways. He gave me my wings in ministry, as it were. Though young, inexperienced, and “wet behind the ears,” he allowed me to make mistakes, and more importantly, he trusted me; for that, I will always be humbled and grateful. I had the privilege of preaching several times at the pulpit of the church that he shepherded after he left MBCLA. Knowing that he would only let people he trusted to preach from his pulpit, I always counted it a great honor to do so.
He preferred the private impact of personal ministry over the public show of it. There is a place for everyone to minister, whether in public or in private; he was quite aware of the potential traps of public ministry. He was understated in personality and not the dynamic “life of the party,” by any means. I’m not sure he could’ve actually drawn the attention to himself that other more vibrant, boisterous, magnetic personalities can; nonetheless, he knew that even desiring to do so is tantamount to doing it in God’s eyes. He knew himself and knew that he could “go there” if he wasn’t alert and careful. So, he ordered his life to make sure he didn’t “go there.”
I appreciated his down-to-earth humility in that way. He didn’t want anything to be above the Christ of the gospel, nor anyone to be out of His reach. Galen was a personal minister who cared about the person and cared about that person living life truthfully, according to the way God ordained, as revealed in Scripture. He was committed to the sufficiency of Scripture for all of life. He was not one who could get himself to bend the rules, shade the truth, or to go against conscience, having to turn various people down for different requests, even though he hated to do so.
When Sandra and I got engaged, I remember him asking both our parents how they really felt about it. Since Sandra and I have a large age gap, he was a little apprehensive of whether our relationship would really work out. He loved us both and didn’t want to see us take a hasty step that would result in disaster down the road. He did our pre-marriage counseling with us and gave us his blessing, eventually marrying us.
I spoke to him last week, and as usual, his eyes were ultimately on the Lord. Over the last couple of years, he often spoke frankly and realistically about the tenuousness of life on earth, saying that God could realistically take him at any time. A lifelong diabetic, he had to constantly inject himself and was constantly experiencing new ailments in his later years. He reminded me that he was not scared of death and that he would be with the Lord.
Well, Galen is with the Lord now. and I bet he wishes he had his camera equipment with him. It won’t be long, however, before realizes that he doesn’t need his camera to capture the splendor of what he is experiencing and seeing. It’s permanent now. He lives it 24/7. I have an idea of who he’s making a beeline toward, who he’s anxious to meet and ask questions of. Most of all, I know that he is overwhelmed and humbled to be in God’s immediate presence, as we all will be when our time comes.
I will miss my dear friend and pastor. I’m thankful for his investment in my life and for handing the baton to me. I pray that I will be faithful to carry that baton well and to faithfully hand it off to those such as you. Amen. – Arthur