The world has lost a great man. George Hutchinson was eccentric, brilliant, good. While on a mission trip to Uganda, on Monday June 17, 2013, he was killed in a car crash.
George was my freshman history professor fifty years ago. One of my classmates, Linda, had a crush on him. One day toward the end of the year she left a sock monkey doll on his podium where he lectured. It seems he got the hint. The next year, when he was no longer our professor, he and Linda started dating.
Spring break I visited Linda and her parents in Florida. George was working that week with a beach evangelism ministry at Daytona Beach. Linda’s Daddy owned a big pink Cadillac, so Linda and I drove to Daytona in that pink Caddy, and rode the beach looking for George. What a great Easter vacation!
By the time Linda finished college, they got married in the college chapel. I was happy to be one of the bridesmaids.
George was a history major at Princeton and then got a PhD in philosophy at Oxford. I remember him telling us in world history class that we don’t have to use the Bible when defending our politics or ethics. Reason will work. The point of morality can be made even if religion is never brought up. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” makes sense. It leaves no room for murder, stealing or lying. I have held to this concept ever since. It supports separation of church and state.
But George’s favorite ministry was not teaching world history. During the sixties the work that made his face light up, was teaching a Bible study for African American ladies in Columbia, South Carolina. Later when George began his travels to Africa he again glowed with joy over the ministry he had there. I think there were two key parts to George. One was a brilliant Princeton/Oxford graduate, the other was a feet on the ground, ordinary, every day son of farmers from south New Jersey.
A couple of years later in 1969 Linda was a bridesmaid in my wedding. She and George were living in the same city as I was that year, so we spent a fair amount of time together. After that George and Linda spent several years in Europe and then Florida. The next time they visited us they were going through a tough time. George had trouble fitting in. People didn’t want to look past a few quirks he had in his ideas and see the gold mine of wisdom beneath. My heart went out to them as George searched for work. He was not willing to do anything except full time service for the Lord. He knew God had called him to serve.
Linda began teaching at a Christian school in Georgia. Together they raised four sons. Finally, George began serving in a ministry where he traveled the world – Russia, India, and Africa. One of my sons traveled to Russia with him. The other son was involved in funding for a trip to Africa.
Following George’s first trip to Uganda we all met at a dinner party in Columbia, South Carolina. The dinner was hosted by George in honor of another professor we had all admired and learned from, Frank Sells. Frank was also eccentric and sometimes lost his job over minor peculiarities such as saying women should not wear lipstick. But, again, like George, the value of his teaching far surpassed any quirks.
By the time of this dinner meeting in 1996 I had developed a severe illness and had been sick for several months. As I talked to George about this he got a glow on his face and said, “At the end of dinner we will have a time of prayer. Paula, we will lay hands on you and you may be healed. I have seen healings in Africa. I myself have been healed. You can be healed.” That night I chose not to have the group pray for my healing. I figured God could cure any disease in a nanosecond, but I was certain my role in life would be patient advocacy and a push for scientific research so that many patients could be cured, not just me.
George continued his worldwide ministry with sixteen mission trips to Uganda and several to other countries. Here is a link to the Gainesville Times article regarding George’s life and ministry. http://gainesvilletimes.com/m/section/6/article/85276
That highway in Uganda turned out to be his highway to heaven. I look forward to the day when all of us old friends get together for dinner once again, only this time in heaven.