A Crazy Friend: A Tribute to Richard Headrick
Ambushed by an intended assailant one dark afternoon in Honduras, my crazy friend also survived being attacked and wounded in a knife attack, three plane crashes, being shot at, leaping from 420 feet in the air on the world’s highest bungee jump in Zimbabwe, working with lepers on the Mekong River in Vietnam, living through a terrorist attack in Lima, Peru, swimming with sharks in Belize, and in the midst of these adventures sharing the message of Christ in more than 50 countries. He had me as a foxhole buddy in some of these and a host of other adventures, and I treasure those memories.
A few folks concluded that Richard Headrick with his long ponytail, riding his Harley Davidson, was crazy; but for those of us who knew him well, his unique memorial service was no surprise. Beginning at 2 pm amid the rattle of the arrival of more than 150 Hellfighter bikers, the celebration concluded after 8 o’clock that night. The arrival of Richard’s earthly tent via a motorcycle-driven hearse, accompanied by this battalion of Hellfighters on their motorcycles, was a motorcade never to be forgotten. At sundown Richard’s custom vault bearing the imprinted message of salvation was buried on the Headrick lake-side property, accompanied by an incredible fireworks display. The assembled crowd were all fed a barbeque par excellence in honor of Richard.
Following lunch, a couple of hours of testimony ensued in which people from around the world shared remembrances of Richard’s upbeat faith in Jesus, and not a few told of coming to salvation through his witness. Appropriate tears were shed; but the service was, as Richard had given instructions, a happy and triumphant celebration.
His wife Gina was a queen, looking after the needs of everyone else and taking time only for fleeting thoughts of her own concerns. She wept a bit, laughed a little, but mostly stood and sat as a paragon of faith. Her own witness to the saving Christ matched that of Richard, with whom she had shared missionary adventures around the globe. A beautiful woman, Gina could have adjusted well to polite society, but she became accustomed to blue jeans, a Bible, and a backpack. Missionaries (some actually present) from around the world honored Richard and Gina for their selfless acts of grace and mercy and most of all for their evangelistic zeal.
The witness of the Hellfighters and those involved in Mission at the Cross—both organizations founded by Richard and Gina—will continue. The millions of dollars bequeathed to missions will undergird kingdom work until Jesus returns. But there are two things about Richard Headrick that will be profoundly missed. And if Southern Baptists or any other evangelical group ever intend to fly high in the service of Christ, they must rediscover these two traits and commitments that characterized his life and word.
First, Richard Headrick lived to make life better for everyone else. Richard knew that bad things happen to all in this sinful world, but he was determined to share adventure, joy, courage, and faith with all. He believed that God had the last word on everything; and because God is good, he was confident that all would turn out well. His sunny confidence in the future was no “Pollyanna”-propounded human confidence. Rather his sustenance was a profound faith in the overriding providence of God.
Second, Richard Headrick was a consistent witness to Jesus the Christ. He was focused on leading men and women to faith in Christ until the last day of his conscious life! His belief that Satan wished the destruction of all, and his sterling confidence that Jesus died for the sins of all was the mantle he wore like a parka on an icy day. Richard believed that he lived primarily and ultimately only to point people to Christ. He was late to everything because he was always delayed, distributing his vast array of tracts and finishing a conversation about the adequacy of Christ to meet the deepest needs of the soul.
Esteemed readers, at the precise end of his seventy-seventh year, we lost one of the few consistent soulwinners, who lived with his primary focus and passion to be a beacon for Christ. When the contemporary church has so few, we could afford no losses. Would you pray that God would make you a soulwinner?
Here is a small petition to God that has helped me to focus on this task:
1. Give me the opportunity to share Christ today.
2. Enable me to recognize the opportunity when it arises.
3. Give me the courage to share my faith in Jesus when I recognize the opportunity.
In Jesus’ Name I pray.
Please try that brief prayer and join me in asking God to raise up a new generation of men like Richard Headrick!