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Mentored by a Milker of Cows

by Walt Larimore, MD
Today's Christian Doctor - Summer 2011

I knew I needed a mentor. I was busy with my career as a physician — too busy for my family. My priorities were out of whack. I needed someone who would encourage me and keep me on track. So I asked the pastors who came through the hospital, “Who’s the one layperson you know in this area who looks most like Jesus?” When I heard the name Bill Judge multiple times, I said, “This is a guy I’d like to meet.”

I called Bill and asked if he would mentor me. I was taken aback when he quietly said he would meet with me once and decide.

Early on a Tuesday morning, more than twenty years ago, I shared with Bill about my life and struggles. He responded by saying he wanted to pray about whether we would spend more time together. (I felt like I was waiting for a medical school application or something, to see if I’d be accepted!)

What I later learned was that Bill was considering committing himself to me in an unusual way, even getting up an hour before our early morning sessions to pray for me. Although his experiences of raising five daughters and nearly going through bankruptcy before committing his finances and farm to God were rich and extremely valuable to a young man like me, he wanted to bring more to our relationship than what he had done.

Bill wanted to teach me about the Creator, the Father God, and His Son, Jesus. He wanted me to understand what the blood of Christ and the resurrection meant. He wanted me to be indwelled and overflowing with the Holy Spirit. He wanted me to discover my gifts and to bask in the joy of seeing the Lord produce fruit in my life. So he wanted to pray about it first!

When he called back, he said yes . . . with conditions.

“The first is that we’ll meet at 5:30 in the morning, usually at Joanie’s Café in downtown Kissimmee, for breakfast. And bring your Bible.”

Next, “The first Tuesday of each month, I want you to bring your checkbook and your credit card bill so we can go through them together. The second Tuesday, I want you to bring your schedule, so we can discuss the stewardship of time.

“Before our meeting on the third Tuesday of the month, I want the freedom to be able to call your kids, Kate, and Scott, so that you and I can talk more meaningfully about what type of dad you are.” (My kids loved those phone calls! Imagine trying to discipline your little boy, and he says, “I’m going to tell Mr. Bill. I’m going to call Mr. Bill.”)

It got worse, because before the fourth Tuesday of each month, he said he’d also like permission to call my wife, Barb. She looked forward to that week, and they often had long discussions about our marriage! “And when there’s a fifth Tuesday,” he said, “I’d like to be able to talk to your staff and your business partner. Will you give me that permission?”

I have to tell you, I thought long and hard about those conditions. That’s where the rubber met the road, and it was a tough deal. But I agreed, and we began the mentoring relationship.

Someone has said that mentoring is a brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on, and a push in the right direction. But for me, mentoring began as a brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on, and a kick in the pants!

But I’ll never forget that first Tuesday when we were to discuss my finances. I was nervous, because there were some things I wasn’t too proud of. Bill arrived with a little satchel, and he pulled out his checkbook and credit card bill for us to examine. Instead of just requiring me to do it, Bill showed me what it meant to budget, give, and save by sharing honestly about mistakes and victories from his own life.

That humility and transparency characterized Bill’s way of working with me. He has never asked me to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself. His relationship with God was honest, vibrant, and fresh. And it changed my life. In recent years Barb and I have been on the road more and more, but Bill and I still talk regularly. The accountability continues.

There are plenty of New Testament examples of mentoring. Jesus mentored His twelve disciples, and specifically the three. Peter, one of the three, then mentored Barnabas, who in turn mentored Paul. Paul mentored Timothy and also gave the pastoral admonition to train other men (2 Tim. 2:2). Men mentoring men and women mentoring women — that’s how the church began and spread.

Make no mistake, one-on-one relationships are costly and time consuming. And the difficult work of a relationship doesn’t start in a church building. It starts at places like Joanie’s on Tuesday mornings.

Early in my relationship with Bill, I asked God to give me one or two men I could pour my life into the way Bill was pouring his into me. The Lord gave me two men, the first people I had ever mentored, to meet with for a year.

Eventually those men moved away, and I lost touch with them. Then recently, as I was teaching at Baylor Medical College, about fifty people came up to me as a group. One of them said, “About twenty years ago, you mentored a man for a year. He then started a business, went to seminary, and started a church in our town. He led us to Christ and discipled us. And he sent us here to learn from you and to thank you.”

I think that’s what heaven is going to be like if we’ll make the effort, like Bill, to mentor others. You don’t have to be that far down the road. You just have to intentionally get on your knees and say, “Father, would You give me someone I can mentor, and pray for, and love?”

Mentoring Basics

Here are a few principles for mentoring that Bill brought into our relationship:

  1. He took me to God’s Word. We did not have a time together that Bill’s Bible wasn’t there and open. He lived the principles and promises in God’s Word, and he taught me their value.
  2. He prayed with me. I don’t remember a time we met without prayer. Even now, I can’t call him on the phone from anywhere in the world that he doesn’t tell me that he’s praying for me — and of course he wants to pray with me over the phone.
  3. He lovingly monitored my progress. With every three steps forward, there were usually two back (sometimes more!). Through all my failings, I could always call Bill and find a man who was willing to accept and encourage me no matter what.
  4. He protected me. I remember a period when I was wrestling with some movies I’d watch on the road. Instead of judging me, Bill just said, “From now on, when you check in at the hotel, you have the receptionist call me and tell me that he or she has turned those things off.” I’ve witnessed some funny expressions on the faces of receptionists around the country when I checked in! But Bill loved me enough to protect me.

A Word from Bill

I milked cows for a living. I tell you that so you will understand how humbling it was for someone like Walt to ask me to mentor him. Walt has a tremendous mind. He is not only a medical doctor who built a successful practice, but he went on to become an author and television medical commentator.

What does a milker of cows have to offer a man with that kind of résumé? I certainly didn’t feel qualified to be his mentor. But I’ve since discovered that every person has something special in them that they can communicate to another person. We need each other, and whoever you are — even if you milk cows for a living — God can use you to help someone else move up.

I marvel at what has happened through Walt’s and my friendship. As we’ve met together, I’ve just tried to wait on God to give me answers to the questions he asked. I’ve trusted Walt, and he trusted me, and we’ve just walked together in that with God.

First Thessalonians 5:24 says, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” He calls you to do it, and then He will do it. So why are we sweating? It’s Him! It’s Him in us that does it.

Bill Judge is a retired farmer and businessman who has been married for 61 years to Jane, in Kissimmee, Florida. They have five married daughters, 14 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.

The article “Mentored by a Milker of Cows” originally appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of Revive magazine. Used by permission of Life Action Ministries.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Walt Larimore, MD