It’s amazing how one man and a shofar can greatly impact lives and a culture even after they’re gone. Julius Edwards was a loved man who loved the Gospel. He’s now with God but his legacy and the spirit of his passion for Christ and missions live on. Julius transitioned to glory on July 11th at the age of 58. As his friend and OM team member Andy Cook said, “Julius’s death has left a big crater.”
I had the pleasure of learning about this unique soul while attending his OM memorial gathering. I was struck by the number of people who spoke about how Julius inspired and encouraged them. Stories were told about how he touched lives of people who he didn’t work with directly. If you walked past his desk or if he walked past yours, you likely got a shot of encouragement in the moment.
“Julius was a Barnabas … a son of comfort and encouragement.” – Terre Haas
Julius was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA but would often travel to North Carolina to stay with his grandparents when he tired from city life. He preferred the slower speed of a rural lifestyle. He enjoyed life here in Georgia, specifically his home in Fayetteville. He served our country in the United States Air Force for 12 years earlier in life and drove for Fed Ex for many years thereafter.
God blesses Christians with three essential fellowship units for life — family, Church, and the state. As you can see, Julius had a great passion for serving in all three capacities — husband/father, associate pastor/OM Volunteer, and citizen/veteran.
Shining Light at OM and Beyond
Julius faithfully served as a volunteer with the OM Church Connections team on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2013 to his passing. This story of how he was introduced to OM is filled with God’s providence. He met Michael Casper of OM in the gift shop of Piedmont Fayette while his mother was in the hospital. To seal the deal, God introduced Julius to OM’s Andy Cook while they were both in line at the DMV.
OM USA’s Church Connections team’s goal is to equip, encourage, and engage churches for and about missions. Julius’s volunteer work and passion for equipping the African American church played a major role in the diversification of OM’s contact database.
Without discounting how quality of a person he was, he was just as known for his excellent work. I imagine that it’s hard for most people to get excited about data entry, but the responsibility was a perfect fit for Julius’s skillset. Julius shined brightly here by diligently inputting detailed contact information for churches into OM’s database. Julius scraped and entered information from over 500 churches into the database and kept the records up-to-date thereafter. His work provides immeasurable value for OM’s work in connecting with churches and their leaders. I wondered how he had time to be so personable and productive at the same time. Keep reading and you’ll understand how his big heart made it possible.
Julius and his trusty shofar served away from OM as well. He would blow his shofar outside of the Christian bookstore before entering. When the workers heard the sound, they knew Julius was near. He would blow it at his church for healing. In a “random” occurrence, he was led by God to blow his shofar in a Kroger parking lot in Riverdale. Julius told his wife, Cheryl, that God promised him that a man of God would hear it if he blew it. Sure enough, when he blew the shofar he met a fellow brother in Christ just moments later in that Kroger parking lot. This wasn’t a random occurrence after all. Julius simply had an uncanny obedience to God that most of us should pray for.
According to Cheryl, Julius was told by God to blow the shofar ten years before he committed to blow it routinely. It wasn’t until Apostle Dennis McKirahan visited OM one day in 2014 that he was convinced to blow the shofar everyday and everywhere. Blowing the shofar brought Julius unspeakable joy and it brought joy and healing to those who heard it.
As for some of Julius’s other work, he and Cheryl conducted Bible-based counseling to married couples. They also told their testimony and courting-marriage story together at church single’s ministries. Julius was a big presence at his home church, Restoration of Life through Jesus Christ Ministries in Jonesboro, GA, where he served as associate pastor. He also frequently witnessed outside of an abortion clinic on Saturdays. He was a true man of God with a passion for sharing the Gospel.
Passion for Missions
Julius had a massive passion for re-introducing missions to the African-American church. It hurt his heart that most African-American churches didn’t have the motivation to get outside of the four walls of their churches. He wanted them to move beyond being hearers of the Word and to become doers of the Word. He held strongly to Jesus’ command to take the Gospel to the nations and he wanted African-American churches to do the same. Julius planted and watered the seed at many African-American churches and now it’s time for God to receive the increase.
Cheryl, who will be retiring next year, talked to me at length about their plans to travel the world on mission. Their short-term missions trip to Jamaica sparked the interest and had him ready to relocate to the Islands! Julius still communicated with and supported the pastor he worked with in Jamaica up until his passing. He had many missional plans. He was planning to go with Andy Cook on a trip to London and he was in talks with leadership at OM to do missions in the Caribbean.
The memories of this gentle giant are quite vivid and usually involve fellowship and food. A humble giant he truly was, standing at 6’3”, 300 lbs, Cheryl guaranteed that his big presence and big bark didn’t come with a bite. I had the great opportunity to collect some of these memories from Cheryl and a few of his OM team members.
More than a husband, Julius was a spiritual mentor to his wife. Cheryl said her relationship with Julius, who she met at church, drew her closer to the Lord. She remembered:
“[He was] humorous, funny, and generous. He would do simple things like give out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and lollipops to the children after church. He loved everyone, but above all, he always talked about his love for the Lord. He’s going to need three heads for all the crowns he’s receiving in Heaven.” – Cheryl Edwards
In my conversation with Terre Haas, Director of Pastoral Ministries at OM USA, he reflected on Julius’s big smile (and the many talks they had over dessert). Terre said his smile was a sign of the joy of the Lord in his heart. He also mentioned how Julius’s smile and positive attitude were present even when his body was in severe pain:
“I remember he had a bad spider bite on his leg and it was months before it healed. But he never complained. He continued his work with great joy and gusto. And that joy overflowed in the way that he encouraged people.” – Terre Haas
Andy Cook, OM USA Volunteer Coordinator, possessed an incredibly close relationship with Julius. Andy spoke about Julius’s passion for unity and harmony across color lines in the Church:
“Julius had a passion to bring black and white churches together through the Gospel. His passion inspired me to take up that mantle.” – Andy Cook
Not only should Christians disciple others, they should be open to being discipled by others no matter the amount of experience or knowledge they have in/of the Christian faith. Jeff King, Volunteer and Internship Program Lead at OM USA, speaks about the strong discipling presence and impression Julius left upon him (and of course food slipped into the discussion):
“Julius inspired me to be more committed to my walk with Jesus and spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth … and he would bring in and share the best BBQ ribs.” – Jeff King
A true servant of God works for the Kingdom especially when they’re not in the spotlight. Terrance Filmore, who serves at OM USA in Print and Post, remembered Julius for his selfless nature:
“The focus was never on him. It was always on the other person.” – Terrance Filmore
As you can see, Julius’s large presence was more than physical; his inescapable spirit more than filled the room. It’s refreshing to see how his impact is motivating his family, friends, church members, and co-workers to this day.
Julius leaves behind Cheryl, his inseparable wife and best friend for 15 years, a step-daughter, Chelisa, and a son, Marcus … all who loved him dearly. He also leaves behind many dear church members at Restoration of Life through Jesus Christ Ministries and OM team members who can’t imagine being without his big presence. But we know in Christ and in spirit, Julius Edwards is not far away.
At this time we should remember what Julius always spoke of … to get ready for when the horn is blown when Jesus returns. Julius through his life, passion, and sacrifice wanted to give us a foretaste of glory to come. One thing is sure … 1 o’clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays at OM USA will never be or sound the same again; but there’s comfort in knowing that Julius Edwards’s legacy and passion for missions are everlasting.
Discover how you can help bring Christ to the nations. Visit www.omusa.org.
Chris is a follower of Christ, husband, and father of three. He’s the Founder and Publisher of Sharpsburg Voice and the Chief Visionary at Atlanta area content marketing agency Nao Media. He is writing this series of guest blogs for OM in the USA to highlight some of the extraordinary people of OM. He loves writing, music that glorifies God across many genres, and connecting with people.