I met Jim in my first year of California Baptist College in Riverside in September of 1968. We became fast friends, even from the beginning. Later, we again were in school together, this time at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in the Bay Area. We studied together, worked secular jobs together, spent family time together. We both did church starts at the same time, with me in Hercules and Jim in Danville. We talked much about our ministries and dreams, feeling the same things about the ups and downs of new church planting.
Later on, we preached revival services for each other, as we pastored in various churches and cities. We attended many conferences and conventions together, specifically Pastors Retreats once a year. Then, after serving as a Director of Missions in northern California, he felt a calling to serve churches that were plateaued and declining, churches that really were dead or dying in terms of attendance, membership and vision. Jim asked me to help him in consulting with churches, and we did many a road trip together.
At one point, he began working for Coronado Stone Products in Fontana, and he submitted my name for a position. He and I worked there together until he moved on. When he was fully involved with the Calimesa Chamber of Commerce, he started an internet radio station for them. Included were some slots for preaching, and he and I did some radio messages to be sent out all over the world by internet.
Jim's major impact on my ministry and life was in October 2000. Through his Vision Plus Recovery ministry to churches, we were offered the opportunity to start a new church work in the Glen Avon part of Riverside county. On the first Sunday of January 2001, Jim was the co-founder with me in starting The Vision Plus Church. Jim was the main force in bringing this to pass, but he was called the next month to meet with church leaders in American Samoa, using his materials and experience to help the Baptist churches there.
I always kidded Jim about leaving me "high and dry" with a brand new ministry start while he went to the South Pacific and "suffered for Jesus" on a beautiful island far away. But, it was all in God's amazing plan, and it was an awesome blessing for us to serve together in ministry for so many years, our lives intertwined in incredible ways.
Jim was indeed a close and intimate friend. We had no secrets. In many ways, he was my pastor and I was his pastor. We felt like brothers who could talk about anything, both big and small. We had known each other for 41 years, attending weddings and funerals together, watching our kids grow up, and sharing all the challenges we had in common. He had such a way with telling stories and jokes, he had that distinctive voice, and he always had a smile that just brought a ray of sunshine into any situation. He had a serious side but also such a wonderful sense of humor for balance.
What a blessing to have had such a friend. How I will miss him. Good-bye for now, my good friend. James Leroy Murcray Jim Jimmy (as he used to call himself, using all five names in sequence), you were the best! I will see you on the other side.
Jim and wife Patricia at her retirement reception in May 2009.