Boswell: Pastor Jim made our world better
Dozens of memories flooded my mind over this past week as I grieved — along with many others — the loss of an amazing man who touched many lives across eastern New Mexico and beyond.
I was about 8 when my parents began taking us to a non-denominational church called Living Stones Community Fellowship, which was pastored by Jim Kelly.
I was shy and quiet that first Sunday. By the third Sunday, I was wrapping my little arms around Jim’s big frame for a hug every time I saw him.
• I remember him telling my brother when we were kids not to worry about his big ears because he’d grow into them just fine. (Jim had pretty big ears, too.)
• I remember him calling my mom Rhonda Gail just to heckle her, because he knew she didn’t like her middle name.
• I remember after I told my mom that “Amazing Grace” was my favorite hymn, because I think it’s the national anthem of Christianity, she shared that with Jim. And from then on, he referred to it as the national anthem of Christianity.
• I remember that anytime a baby cried in church, Jim would pick them up from their parents and preach the rest of the sermon with that baby on his hip, even looking at them and saying, “isn’t that right?”
• I remember that no one preached like Jim preached. He came across like the brand new Christian, who was hungry and excited for more with every sermon. He got so excited and passionate, you couldn’t help but get excited too.
• I remember when my friend, Charlie, died, and my entire family was crushed with devastation. Jim showed up to the viewing at the funeral home just to hold me as I cried.
• I remember how contagious his smile was, because as his son-in-law, Joe, said at his memorial service, when Jim smiled, it took over his whole face, and you couldn’t help but smile too.
• I remember how every single time I said goodbye to him, he told me, “I love your face” — the last words I ever heard from him.
But more than anything, what I remember, and what makes my heart ache the most that I’ll never have again, are Jim’s hugs. When Jim Kelly hugged you, it was never just a hug. He hugged you tight and for a long time.
I remember when I hugged Jim as a child, I’d let myself melt into his tall, broad frame, because when you hugged Jim, you didn’t just feel loved; you felt safe.
I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who was more the epitome of unconditional love than Jim Kelly. He wasn’t just a pastor. He was the epitome of Christ-like love.
When you walked into Jim Kelly’s church, you saw people in their Sunday best; you saw people in jeans and a T-shirt. You saw devout Christians; you saw recovering drug addicts; you saw people who were on the fence about this whole God thing.
There was never anyone Jim didn’t accept and never anyone he did not give all of his unconditional love to.
He volunteered for multiple non-profit and Christian organizations; three weeks before his death, he was still making hospital visits to other ill people who were hospitalized; and he and Judy gave more than one child from a broken home a new home to come to.
Thank you, Jim. Thank you for the memories; thank you for the love — thank you from all of us whose lives you touched so deeply.
I love your face.
Alisa Boswell is managing editor for the Portales office of The Eastern New Mexico News. Contact her at: