By Doug Carter, OCU President 1980-1989
Forty-seven years ago (1970) at the Taylor County Camp Meeting in Central Georgia on a hot July day, my wife and I were the missionary speakers representing our ministry to Native Americans in Arizona with World Gospel Mission. There was a quartet singing in the service–a group of young preacher boys representing Circleville Bible College (now Ohio Christian University). One of the lads was very small in size with a gracious smile and a perfect haircut. When the offering was received, he pledged to give $5.00 monthly to our support in spite of the fact that he was paying his own way through college and struggling to survive financially. His name was Stan Toler. There is no amount of money that equals the value of his investments in my life, family and ministry since that day.
Little did I know that a few years later he would marry my only niece, the lovely and beautiful Linda Gail Carter. Just days after their wedding, they became church planters in the Tampa area. Meanwhile, Winnie and I were back on the mission field. Our very young daughter, Angie, urgently needed to see the doctor. But we had absolutely no money. I asked my wife to cancel the doctor’s appointment. She replied tearfully that she would do so that afternoon. The mail arrived during lunch with a gift of $50 from Stan and Linda - clearly a gift they could not afford! I learned later that Stan was sure the Holy Spirit had instructed him to send us $50 for a special need even though he and Linda had only $56 in their account. They obeyed! Their gift of obedient sacrifice was just what we needed for our little Angela to see the doctor! Even in their need, they gave! If Angie and her brothers, Eric and Jason, were here today, they would say that gift was only the first of countless times Stan lovingly invested in our family – always there in our time of need.
Everyone who knew Stan loved him and admired his positive attitude and his tremendous people skills. Quite honestly, I believe there were two other qualities that connected him with thousands of people in dozens of denominations and scores of nations worldwide - namely, his generosity and his humility.
Stan was always focused on others; never himself. He never sought recognition or praise. He served others. He served on his knees. He was never into self-promotion. He tossed ego and logos aside because he never desired to have control or to receive credit. Servant-hood and personal integrity–yes, Christ-likeness–marked his life.
Wherever he traveled, wherever he ministered, Stan was introduced as “our best friend”. He served the Church of the Nazarene, the Church of Christ in Christian Union, the Wesleyan Church, the Free Methodist, Salvation Army, Church of God Anderson, Church of God Cleveland, Pentecostal Holiness, Free Will Baptist, Congregational Methodist–to name a few. He built bridges; he never burned bridges. World Gospel Mission and the Church of the Nazarene sent him around the world to serve missionaries, pastors and national churches. His influence circled the globe–and remains a wonderful legacy that will live on for many generations. My travels for John Maxwell and EQUIP have taken me to 127 nations. Around the world I have witnessed firsthand Stan’s impact on missionaries, national pastors and Christian leaders in all spheres of influence.
When I first saw Stan in that college quartet, he looked so young and so small. He remained young at heart – and always small in size. But he was a giant of the Christian faith who impacted countless thousands for Christ. We miss him greatly, but thousands celebrate his life and ministry. Heaven rejoices! I love you, Stan. You are the best friend I ever had. Stan’s wonderful and loving step-dad, Jacky Hollingsworth, says it best in these words: “Everybody needs a Stan Toler in their life.”
A Celebration of Life service was held on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene in Bethany, OK. Several OCU representatives were in attendance.
Ohio Christian University is home to the Stan Toler Leadership Institute.
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