Pastor’s legacy: ’A good and faithful servant’
EARLY — Pastor, shepherd, teacher, friend.
A post on the Early First Baptist Church’s Facebook page uses those words to describe the church’ longtime pastor, Eddie Ailshie, who succumbed to cancer on Aug. 31 at the age of 61.
He was husband to Jeanne, “dad” to sons Zach, 39, and Chris, 36, and “Pops” to seven grandchildren. To the countless Ailshie ministered to, he was one of them, seeking no recognition and not believing he was doing anything special — only doing what he was supposed to be doing. And for 16 years, he was the voice of the Early Longhorns at Longhorn Stadium on fall Friday nights.
Ailshie died after spending 23 days at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in Temple, where he underwent surgery and chemo. COVID restrictions had mean Ailshie could have only one visitor at a time in his hospital room, but his wife and two sons were able to be with him at the end.
This October would have marked the 20th anniversary of Ailshie’s pastorate at the church. His last sermon was Aug. 2.
Thursday morning, Jeanne and Zach Ailshie were interviewed in the church’s office. Chris Ailshie participated by speaker phone.
“Eddie has always taught us that in very difficult times, even thought it’s still very hard, that we have hope beyond earth,” Jeanne Ailshie said. “Our only hope right now in losing him is knowing that he is in a heavenly place with his savior, with Jesus, and that makes it at bearable to know he’s not with us any more.”
Chris Ailshie, who lives in Fort Worth and has been involved in children’s ministry, recalled his dad talking about “being a good and faithful servant and the fact that you gave everything to be faithful to (God), faithful to the things he has given you like your family and those people around you. It’s just such a good thing to think that he’s rejoicing in the thing that Dad poured into daily.”
Zach Ailshie, who lives and pastors a church in Glen Cove in Coleman County, added, “heaven is this fulfillment for him, that he poured his life into understanding that Jesus says ‘don’t fill up treasurers on earth because they’re temporary.’ But pour into the kingdom of Heaven.
“It is comforting and hopeful to know that he is enjoying that fulfillment that he so longed for and he preached about, and it gave him so much hope that now he is actually enjoying that in a real way.”
Eddie and Jeanne were high-school sweethearts in their native Brownfield, near Lubbock. Jeanne was a senior and Eddie was a junior when they began dating.
“I was very involved in church and he was not at all involved,” Jeanne said. “From that relationship that he and I had, he began to go to church with me.
“We had a pastor who talked about football with him all the time because he was a big sports (fan). I think between me and that pastor pouring into his life, he began to realize his need for a savior.”
Jeanne had gone off to Texas Tech University and Eddie was a high school senior when he called Jeanne to tell her he had become a Christian.
“And at that time we talked on pay phones,” Jeanne recalled. “He called me at my dorm and was so excited to tell me. There was such a radical change in his life that his friends were just overwhelmed at the change that had happened.”
Eddie believed God was calling him to be a preacher.
The two were married after Jeanne completed her second year at Tech, and they moved to Brown County so they could both attend Howard Payne University. The newlyweds began attending First Baptist Church in Early, where they were involved in children’s ministry.
“Life took us to Abilene,” Jeanne said. Eddie went on to graduate from Hardin Simmons University and completed two years of seminary.
Their next stop was Brazil, where they served as missionaries from 1992-’99.
The Ailshies returned to the United States on furlough, and they decided to remain in Texas. While living in Arlington, Eddie learned First Baptist Church in Early was seeking a pastor, and he asked to be considered for the post. The church called him as its pastor.
“He didn’t consider pastor as a title,” Jeanne Ailshie said. “He considered pastoring was his calling.”
With Eddie’s passing, the response of the church family and community has been “overwhelming,” Jeanne said.
“People are telling us things that he might not have ever told us that he had done,” she said. “Hearing their hearts about what he has done — we’ve tried, during this time, to talk about his legacy that he has left.”
Zach Ailshie said he’d found a handwritten note in his dad’s Bible earlier that morning. Zach read the note: “Success is not getting to the top but doing your best at each level.”
He said his dad had made “so many stops along the way. Wherever dad was, he just poured his heart into. He wasn’t looking for the next thing. Where he stopped at, was where he poured his heart, where he dug his roots into. At each level, that was where all of his focus was at that time.
“There never was an end goal and ‘I’m just using you to get somewhere.’”
Chris Ailshie added, “I love that and I agree with that, that his goal was not to be seen. Even though he was the pastor and the one up there talking, he never felt like he wanted to be on a pedestal. Wherever he was, he was giving his best at the time.
“He was doing the work all the time with the people. I think that’s what set dad apart, is that he was in there doing it with them.”
While the church “meant the world” to Eddie, his family knew that they came first, Zach Ailshie said.
“His ultimate love was family,” Zach said. “He would give anything just to be with us. That brought him his greatest joy, just to sit with his grandchildren and do whatever they wanted to do.
“His family growing up was very broken and so he made sure that our family was whole.”
Chris added, “no matter what happened or what we did, he was just always so proud of us. He just left legacy that he knew those (grandchildren) would know his love, no matter where they were or what they did. They knew that pops loved them.”
Earlier this month, his health failing, Eddie Ailshie was flown to the Temple hospital.
“He got the bad news and you could tell it was devastating,” Zach Ailshie said. “But when I would go in to see him, he would go into that dad mode, trying to make sure I was OK, checking on me. He would tell me ‘you keep preaching the word. Don’t let this be a thing that would stop you for any reason.’”
Chris said, “I did experience what Zach is talking about. He definitely went into dad mode.”
He recalled his favorite moment from the hospital: Jeanne, Zach and Chris had all managed, on one occasion to be with Eddie in his hospital room.
The hospital staff brought dinner, and his parents both insisted that Chris eat.
“I just know their heart and dad’s heart,” Chris said. “He just kept worrying so much that I was going to leave and I wasn’t going to have any food to eat. It just was really touching that they were so caring about us.
“It was a really sweet moment and reminded me, no matter what, dad was always thinking about us and was always a servant, and was just always making sure that everybody had enough.
When asked what her husband would say about being featured in the media, Jeanne replied, “he would say ‘I bet you could find a better story than me.’”
Jeanne added, “I think one of the things he was most proud of was being called Pops by his seven grandchildren.”