4 Conversations with Henry

I remember the first conversation I had with Henry Loftin. The year was 2010, I was 15 years old, and the location was Pacesetters leadership camp. Prior to that week, I had no experience with Henry, Glowing Heart, or Pacesetters. Nonetheless, that week at camp was profound and I knew that my life had been changed.

Over the course of those days, I came to understand that the guy in charge of the camp was the joyful, excited (and kinda intense) guy with a goatee that ran the sound in the back of the worship center. He was the one that challenged us on day one of camp to get things right before God so that we could experience all that God had for us during the week. In what I would later learn was just part of Henry’s personality, he seriously challenged all us teenagers to “get real with God.” I did. And everything changed.

I wanted to tell him about the impact the week had on me. Nervously, I approached Henry, introduced himself, and thanked him for the week. I mentioned that I felt the call toward missions/ministry and he said, “Praise God, Connor! That’s terrific.”

Henry Loftin passed into the arms of Jesus this week.

I wish I could walk up to him again and like my 15 year old self, tell him about the impact his ministry and mentoring had on me. Back in 2010, it was just a week. Here in 2021, it has been several years of influence. The impact is profound. More than I can accurately quantify at this moment. I can’t put it all into words (ironic, I know, as I write this blog post), but I want to reflect on three other life changing conversations I had with Henry. If I’ve learned anything dealing with grief this last year, it is that the stories we recall, share, and write down can be so helpful in navigating this temporary separation we Christians call “death.”

The second conversation I want to recall is him inviting me to join Glowing Heart the summer of 2012. I was signed up to be part of leadership track at Pacesetters, and had the chance to go with the Glowing Heart team to the camp for a day to help get things ready. While we were working, Henry asked me about my plans for school. Until a few weeks prior, my plan was to move to Wheaton IL, but the finances hadn’t come together. Instead, I would be going to DBU that fall.

It was a season of doubt, confusion, and disappointment in my walk with the Lord. I thought that my dreams were dead. In a way, they were. However, Henry learned in our conversation that I had an interest in video editing. I say “interest” because I don’t think I had any particular talent at the time. I just knew my way around basic editing software.

The videographer was moving on from GH that summer, so the spot was open. What I didn’t realize (but was evident to the other GH members present at the time) was that I was being interviewed. I don’t think I did a great job of selling myself. Yet, somehow Henry saw something worthwhile. On the ride back to Dallas, Henry invited me to sit in the front seat and asked me if I’d be interested in joining Glowing Heart as the photographer/videographer. The opportunity was kinda stunning. In many ways for me at the time, it was a dream job: traveling with Glowing Heart, recording the events, and creating meaningful videos.

Glowing Heart 2012–13

My time in Glowing Heart was so much more than that though. Henry gave me chances to lead, preach, and experiment with video and technology. He gave me council during a particularly challenging period in my family. There isn’t enough space to go into or recount everything I learned from Henry in those three years, but a few things stick out to me at the time of writing.

Henry was a man of great faith. I’m reminded of the faith of Abraham recounted in Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Henry believed God. He took God at his word and believed that a rag-tag group of college students could be instruments of life change. It wasn’t always glamorous. It wasn’t easy. But, God uses Glowing Heart because those part of it (particularly Henry) are faithful and simply want to be used of God. When we are willing to be faithful, God shows up in mighty ways. Henry led by example in this way.

Henry was a wordsmith. He was a gifted preacher and had a way with shaping words that would stick with those who heard. One of my favorites was how he’d often open prayer prior to loading the vans for a DNOW weekend: “Lord, this weekend has been on your calendar since before time began.” In that simple sentence, Henry reminded all of us of God’s sovereignty and the importance of ministry. This wasn’t “just another DNOW”, it was an intersection of the gospel. Whenever I heard this phrase, my priorities shifted and my heart focused. I strive to have this outlook on my ministry today. Regardless of how “routine” it gets, may I never treat sharing the gospel as mundane.

Cliffside Bible Study/Worship in Hawaii 2014

Another key phrase he’d often share was “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I don’t think Henry coined this phrase, but I first heard it from him. This idea of putting love first, establishing trust, and caring for others before we try to fix them or teach them is an important philosophy of ministry. It is one that Henry strove to live out and one that has been a north star of my approach to ministry. Humility first ministry is not only needed, it is Christ-like.

The third conversation I recall is when Henry asked me about Patience. He and I were driving a van back after dropping off some of the team at a host home in Hawaii back in 2014. We talked about several things on that drive, but I distinctly remember him asking me, “So, what’s going on with you and Patience?” At the time, I wasn’t totally sure. I was definitely interested in her, and was thinking about asking her out after the mission trip, but I was worried she’d say no (again — but that’s a story for another time).

Henry encouraged me to give it a shot. With fatherly humor and kindness, he told me that it seemed like we’d make a good match and that it was worth pursuing. I had pretty much already determined that I was going to ask Patience out, but this nudge from Henry was encouraging and I think led to me sharing my feelings with Patience the day before we left Hawaii. Turns out, she felt the same way. Four years later, we were married.

The traditional Glowing Heart Family wedding photo.

So I guess Henry called it. You win this one, Henry.

I’m so thankful for his encouragement and push on that van ride home. Part of why I’m married to my incredible wife was all the years in ministry together in Glowing Heart under Henry. Later, I learned that he had a similar conversation with Patience in Hawaii (thanks for that, Henry). In big and small ways, Henry helped change my life as it relates to my marriage.

The final conversation I had with Henry one on one happened this year at Pacesetters. I had the chance to be the camp speaker for the week (more on that in this post) and God was moving in crazy ways. I was getting out of my car and walking up to the worship center when Henry crossed paths with me. He was decked out in his overalls, hat, and gloves ready to mow the camp again. With a nod, Henry said, “I’m hearing great things about your teaching, Connor.”

We chatted about how God was moving. I talked about how honored I was to get to speak, and how humbled I was by God using me like he had that week. Henry’s eyes shone as we talked about all that was happening. It wasn’t a long conversation, but it was meaningful to me then and even more so now.

There is something incredibly powerful in the encouraging words of a friend. I often wonder why we don’t encourage one another more. Why we don’t simply tell people, “You’re doing a good job at ____.” Maybe we think talk is cheap. Maybe we struggle to believe the words of others about ourselves, so we don’t want to put that burden on others. Maybe we are just too inward focused. However, in this last conversation with Henry, I think my life is changed again regarding encouragement. I want to be the kind of person that isn’t afraid to encourage someone even as I pass them in the hall, on the way, or in the middle of a task. Henry could have simply waved, smiled, and went about his task to mow. Instead, he took a moment to encourage me and bolster my confidence to teach well.

In 2012, Henry saw something in me worth investing in and developing. In 2021, Henry shared with me that he was hearing good things about my ministry — particularly as it related to the camp that week. I had the chance preach for him a couple of times again during Pacesetters and I wonder if he remembered me as that 15 year old at camp all those years ago.

We saw great things from Henry because he wanted to see great things from God. He believed that God’s kingdom was worth seeking. Henry leaves behind a kingdom legacy in the lives of thousands. I’m just one of the many. Like Henry, I want to have a heart that desires to see the great things of God at every opportunity. I want that desire to drive my actions and for those actions to be founded on love, humility, and tenacity.

Thank you for your faith, Henry. Your faith in God, and your faith in Glowing Heart members like me. Enter into a well deserved rest in the arms of Jesus, dear friend. We will see you again.

“Not to us, oh Lord, not to us, but to your name be all the glory because of your love and faithfulness.” — Ps. 115:1

I want to leave with a short video of one of the most impactful worship services I had the honor to be part of during my time in Glowing Heart. I’ve gone back to this clip over the years because it is such a picture of what my life is to be about. We all prayed for days leading up to this final worship service in Hawaii, and God moved mountains.

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Connor Torrealba

Connor Torrealba

I write to explore truth. Hopefully, this endeavor proves fruitful for you and for me.