A Recent Visit With Uncle John

1 April 2008 |

by Ken Perez
President, John Stott Ministries

In early March, I attended a Langham Partnership International Senior Management Team (SMT) meeting, held at the Hookses, John Stott’s coastal hideaway in Wales. “Uncle John” himself had been there with Frances Whitehead, his secretary of more than 50 years, and other friends, the week before. A few days after the conclusion of the SMT meeting, I had the privilege of paying Uncle John a visit at his home within the grounds of a retirement community for Anglican clergy 30 miles south of London.

At the Hookses, we faced what some British meteorologists called “the storm of the winter,” and the cold and wet weather continued during my train ride from London and short walk from the small village train station to Uncle John’s place of residence. But any thoughts about the inclement weather were quickly replaced by a sense of joyful expectation when I heard Uncle John reply to my knock on his door with a strong and cheerful, “Come in.”

John Stott in 2003It had been a few years since I had last seen Uncle John, and others who had seen him more recently had informed me of his increasing frailty and his need to use a walker to get around. While those reports were certainly true, it was just as true that his character remains intact—gracious, kind, gentle, faithful, hopeful, loving—in a word, Christlike.

We began our hour together reminiscing a bit, walking down the memory lane of our friendship of over 25 years. I also brought Uncle John the greetings of many friends from across the pond, which brought a smile to his face and some fond memories for him.

I asked how he was finding his living situation, which has been his home for about a year now. Uncle John shared that he has a number of evangelical friends in the retirement community, including one man whose friendship with John goes back 70 years when they were students at Rugby School! Uncle John related that he is often asked whether he is happy. His response is that while he would not say that he is happy (I would imagine that he misses many people, the activity of his ministry, his home in London, and the ability to travel abroad), he is content, citing Philippians 4:11, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

I provided Uncle John an update on JSM, which greatly interested him. He encouraged me to claim the promise of James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

We closed our time together, as we had done many times before, in prayer. Uncle John asked me to pray for his continued work on what he promised will be his last book. I was struck that the lone prayer request of this man of God would ultimately result in a gift and blessing to many, many people.

As I walked back to the train station, I pondered the words that he had graciously shared with me, and I gave thanks to God for the opportunity to be with Uncle John, a man who has been with Jesus and who so clearly gives off the aroma of Christ.