In the fall of 2005 a young man named Joseph (Joey) Merrill, Jr. entered International Baptist College. I knew Joey’s father, Joe, Sr., from a Homiletics class I taught in western New York in the spring of 1996. None of us here at IBC could have suspected in 2005 that young Joey Merrill would have such an impact upon so many lives during the next four years.
Joey quickly became beloved by his fellow students because of his gentle, kind, and unselfish spirit. Like the biblical character with the same name, Joey was a servant to others. He served the IBC student body for three years in different capacities, the last two years as the student body president. I found Joey to be a very responsible and capable leader. We spent many hours together discussing and planning the various student activities, student body sessions, student society meetings, and Mission Prayer Band meetings.
Joey was a missions major, and his goal upon graduation was to help church planters here in the West. In order to prepare, he participated in many different ministries during the school year and over the summers. He traveled with the IBC ministry team during his sophomore year, worked at Camp on Wheels for a couple summers, helped with the ASU campus outreach ministry, served as an intern with Dr. D.A. Stertzbach at Bethel Baptist Church of Tucson, and spent two years interning at Berean Baptist Church in Queen Creek, AZ.
Joey loved his ministry at Berean. This year he started a youth group. His excitement was contagious. He planned to begin a ProTeen program with the teens this summer and was planning a teen evangelistic outreach in June. He was thrilled to see Berean growing and was involved in many other ways in addition to the teen group. The members of Berean, especially the teens, genuinely loved Joey and are truly heartbroken at this loss, even though they know that he is with the Lord.
Joey was a hard worker--juggling his various responsibilities at IBC, Berean, his work at UPS, and his social and family life. He had a big heart and did not want to let anyone down. However, he also loved to have a good time--but only in a way that the Lord would be glorified. He kept his dorm mates and friends in stitches with his pranks.
We all deeply miss Joey. He can never be replaced and will always be loved and remembered. But, we do not quarrel with the Lord for taking him home. We recognize that the success of a life is not determined by its length, but by its quality. Joey had a truly successful life and was a great example to young people and adults alike. We can only pray that the Lord will raise up more young men like Joey--young men who will carry on his passion and love for the Lord’s person and work.
Dr. Keith Gephart
Student Life Director and Dean of Students, International Baptist College
Senior Pastor, Berean Baptist Church, Queen Creek, Arizona