Reverend Antonio “Tony” Christian (1957-2014) passed away on Valentine’s Day from stomach cancer. Reverend Tony was a prominent member of the Tyler community in a variety of ways. He was the Youth Minister for North Star Missionary Baptist Church where his funeral service was held before a large crowd on Saturday the 22nd. Reverend Tony owned Christian Carpet Cleaning; maybe you’ve seen his van. He was also the social worker for Highway 80 Rescue Mission. Previously, Rev. had been the chaplain for East Texas Rescue Mission before that facility closed–the present and past Tyler branches of a facility based in Longview. The last time I saw Rev. Tony was about a month ago at that Highway 80 Rescue Mission facility on Beckham near La Michoacana.
Annually, Rev. Tony worked at the buffalo burger/vanilla custard booth for his older sister, Debra. I can still hear Rev. Tony’s rapid-fire sales voice. Meanwhile, I used to work in the candied apple/cotton candy booth for her as well. Rev. Tony’s father developed the vanilla custard recipe many years ago.
Rev. Tony volunteered as chaplain for the Disabled Veterans Auxiliary (DAVA). I was personally touched by the video presentation: Three group pictures included me with Tony during the era when I was the DAVA adjutant/event recorder. The song and saxophone by Booker T. (a retired accountant) was another high point in the service for me. Rev. Christian even had the expertise and empathy to find Tyler’s homeless living in the wilderness and bring them sack lunches. As you can see, Tony Christian was a jack of all trades and master of all of them too.
Rev. Tony was always a nice guy, but let’s just say he had a wild and crazy past before his conversion. A couple of hints leaked out during the service, such as the Biblical term, Prodigal Son being applied to him. A mutual controversial acquaintance of ours expressed how proud Tony made him for changing, despite the other guy remaining a neighborhood issue.
I vouched for Reverend Christian’s preaching ability in my article, “Taste of North Star at Baptist Church (March 2011)” for KLTV in your community. Reverend Tony preached before the annual buffet at North Star. He opened with a song, “Falling in Love with Jesus.” Then he analyzed the Lord’s Prayer. Typically we want forgiveness more than we want to give it; furthermore, we should avoid situations that lead to an unforgiving attitude. Rev. Tony added what is easy for him to improve upon may not be so easy for you, and visa-versa. This insight reminded me of the Call for Fairness persuasive strategy in the Developmental English textbook that I wrote.
To conclude, I wanted to write a tribute for Reverend Tony Christian that didn’t endeavor to be a rerun of an obituary I couldn’t find until the second revision http://tinyurl.com/mgngorc, nor a summary of the the service that was so well attended anyway. Frankly, I wanted to celebrate his example of a real conversion. Too often I’ve heard jailbirds babble about Jesus as a prelude to assault or theft, much like the drunken Spanish sailor who bragged to the Japanese that “First we send the missionaries then the soldiers,” in reference to their conquest of The Philippines. That led to essentially the end of trade with the West for 250 years and making Christianity an illegal religion in Japan. Others include religion in their madness. I’ve learned to avoid studying such people, but I’ll miss you, Reverend Tony.