by Oliver Carlos
Andy Tillman was such a jolly good fellow. I first met him when he was a 26-year-old newbie Tagalog language student in the early 1990s. Our pastor, Rev. Boyeen Mizal, introduced me, together with the church young people to Andy and his wife Lynette, who were newly-weds at that time. They rented a bungalow in front of a basketball court in Carbern Village, Los Baños, Laguna. Andy said that they were here to study and learn the Tagalog language because they will be doing some missionary work in the Philippines.
That first meeting was quite brief because the fellows at the court across the street kept on calling Andy to play with them. It’s not every day that these guys would see a 6-footer, or even so an American in the neighborhood, so they were really excited to play with Andy. So, Andy excused himself and Lynette took care of us visitors.
Andy and Lynette were quick learners. They would always converse with us in Tagalog. One funny conversation I remember was the one in Andy’s birthday. He proudly exclaimed, “Luma na ako.” That made the house burst in laughter! We told him that in Tagalog, there are 2 words for “old” — matanda and luma. The former is for people, and the latter is for objects. He should have used matanda!
In the 1990s, Andy had been a strong pillar in our church and a great influence in my life. He ran a Theology course for us church leaders, which I learned a lot from. The one greatest lesson I got from him that I’m still applying to this day, is the pattern on delivering simple and concise sermons and Bible studies. He has an acronym for us to remember — BiBLIA.
Bi stands for Bible. Read to your listeners the Bible passage. Then, the second B, means Background. Don’t forget to explain the background or context of the passage. This is very important so that misinterpretations would be avoided. It’s important to understand who is speaking, to whom he is talking to, and what’s the prevailing situation, such as socio-political and cultural background when the passage was written or said. The L stands for Life principle. What’s the life lesson that we can extract from the passage. And A means Application. What’s a specific course of action we need to do after learning the life principle? Short, simple, yet meaty and impactful.
Towards the end of the 1990s, the Tillmans started a church in Calamba, and so they were less visible in Los Baños. I started missing them then, but I’m happy they were very fruitful in their work in the mission field. The last time I saw Andy face to face was in my best friend Vlad’s stag party in 1999. Andy was the life of that party! We young men learned so much from him that evening.
After that event, I don’t remember meeting up with Andy again. Thank God facebook was invented and I was able to see pictures of Andy and his family. I’m surprised to see his kids all grown up. They were just toddlers the last time I saw them in Los Baños. Time really flies so fast. Andy has also grown bigger and heftier. The last interaction I had with him was when I greeted him on his birthday last September 2021. He gave me a thumbs up sign.
This morning, I received news that my dear friend and mentor, Rev. Andy Tillman has gone up with the Lord. Lynette wrote in her facebook post: “Andy is perfect now. He went to be with Jesus yesterday. He had a stroke on top of the heart attack, pneumonia and kidney failure.” I grieve for this brief parting, but at the same time, I’m happy he is now in his master’s presence.
Andy’s facebook account got instantly filled with messages, mostly from Filipino friends. Surely, this man has impacted greatly so many lives in his 3-decades-long work in our country. I added a little note in the thread: “In Christ, there are no goodbyes.”
This is one truth Andy wanted to share to as many people as he can, that we have the assurance that we will be in God’s presence for eternity, if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, if we repent from our sins and surrender our lives to Jesus. This is also the message of John to the 1st century Christians:
“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:11–13, NIV)
Andy has Jesus in his heart. I have Jesus in my heart too. How about you? All those who have asked Jesus to come in his or her heart has eternal life. We will all have a grand reunion in heaven someday. So indeed, in Christ, there are no goodbyes.