Don Van Hoozier, a pastor who ministered for more than half a century in Macon and impacted lives locally, nationally and internationally, died Aug. 16.
Those attending an Aug. 20 celebration of life service paid tribute to Van Hoozier and his influence at High Point Church and his far-reaching global impact.
Van Hoozier, 92, served at High Point for 55 years from 1953 to 2008. Prior to that, he had ministry roles at Avondale Baptist Church and Mikado Baptist Church after coming to Macon from Tennessee in 1946. He had attended Wheaton College and Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
Charlie Walker and High Point’s current pastor, Trey Dickerson, led the celebration service.
A retired Houston County school teacher who leads First Love Ministries in Perry, Walker later said Van Hoozier had been a spiritual father to him.
Like many, Walker called Van Hoozier “Brother Don.”
“I met Brother Don in the early 1970s when I was 21,” Walker said. “He became my mentor and introduced me to the living ministry of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. I’d never heard much about the Holy Spirit or baptism in the Holy Spirit before, but it became very important in my life.”
Walker said Van Hoozier was an early leader in the Charismatic movement in Middle Georgia, experiencing a baptism in the Holy Spirit and resulting spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues. Walker said at times Van Hoozier suffered ridicule for his belief that such spiritual gifts were available to modern Christians, but said he remained faithful to Christ’s call on his life, often being used to promote others into ministry.
“Brother Don had an apostolic mantle on his life to encourage others to step up and minister and to birth other ministries,” Walker said. “He was very quiet and humble about it. Where other people sought national attention, he was satisfied to mostly stay at home at High Point. But God brought people to him.”
Walker said Van Hoozier never wanted credit or accepted praise.
“That’s very rare these days,” he said. “At his funeral I acknowledged how he would hate all the accolades coming his way, but you know, the Bible says to give honor where honor is due. In Brother Don’s case I believe it leads to giving glory to God.”
Walker said Van Hoozier’s encouragement was instrumental in his Bible study for middle school students growing into a ministry to all ages that has seen a dozen or more other ministries and churches started.
Amid such accolades, Walker conceded Van Hoozier was a man with flaws and not someone who lived perfectly. But he said he believed Van Hoozier’s flaws were linked to strengths.
“He had such a tender heart it was hard for him to say no to people in need,” he said. “He always looked for the good and tried to love others with the same love he knew Jesus had for him. Because of Don, High Point had a house that welcomed homeless drug addicts as well as people who came to Macon to learn from Don. Sometimes this led to problems, but there was so much good that came from it. There are a lot of people who will never forget how Don brought a healing touch from Jesus into their lives.”
If Walker represents a Middle Georgian whose life was touched by Van Hoozier, Sam Raffield, co-owner of Raffield Tire Master, is a native Maconite who claims the same.
“I was saved at High Point through Brother Don’s ministry,” Raffield said. “I was 27 years old in 1977 and my wife and I had been married for eight years. We were living far away from the Lord and frankly, growing further and further from each other. I was becoming a workaholic and wasn’t there for Judy or our first child like I should have been. Judy got saved and we ended up visiting High Point. I’d never seen a church where Jesus seemed so real to people. I gave my life to Christ and nothing has been the same. I was like a blank slate and just drank in God’s word as pastor Don taught.”
Though Raffield said he eventually left High Point, Van Hoozier was always supportive.
“It was one of the hardest decisions ever,” he said. “But it’s such a testimony that though he hated to see us go, Don just wanted us to follow Jesus. We stayed friends and he always remained one of the kindest, most genuine people I’ve ever known. He loved people and lived to serve Jesus.”
Then there are those who called Van Hoozier their pastor at High Point for decades, such as Debbie Silvey. She began attending with her family in the early 1960s at age 6.
She was there when Van Hoozier retired at 84, and she remains there to this day.
“There was something about Brother Don,” she said. “He was the kind of pastor everyone needs. He had the biggest heart of compassion and somehow knew what to say even to a child like me. You knew he had been praying for you, he had just the right thing to say and he’d take time with you to say it.”
Silvey said Van Hoozier was always gracious and that people knew he loved them.
“It wasn’t hard to see that he was getting that love from Jesus, either,” she said. “He even had a gentle way of making you realize your mistakes without criticizing you. He was a servant who served in love by the power of God’s spirit.”
At the other end of the spectrum are those who Van Hoozier influenced further afield. Mahesh Chavda is an example and spoke at Van Hoosier’s funeral. A native of Kenya born to Hindu parents, Chavda became a Christian in Kenya then attended university in the U.S.
He said he traveled to Macon in the 1970s to spend seven months living in “the house” to learn from Van Hoozier. Chavda has gone on to write 17 books, minister in 40 countries and, according to Chavda Ministries International reports, see 1 million people make commitments to Christ.
“Don was a treasure of God’s kingdom hidden in Macon, Georgia,” Chavda said in a telephone interview from his ministry headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. “God brought dozens and dozens of people — including myself — to Brother Don to receive ministry and be trained. It’s quite surprising how it all worked. He was a tremendous Bible scholar and gifted pastor. Seldom would you ever meet a man who knew the word of God like Brother Don and at the same time have such a pastor’s heart. He truly embodied the love of Christ.”
What does Chavda consider the greatest lesson learned?
“So many things,” he said. “My approach and style of ministry came from what I learned and saw in Brother Don. But the greatest thing is probably a deep sense of compassion for every person. He recognized every person’s value whether they were the head of a corporation or someone with a drug problem on the street. Brother Don treated them with the same kindness and dignity.”
At the celebration service, Walker expressed appreciation to Van Hoozier’s wife of 29 years, Dr. Charlotte Cox Van Hoozier, saying people from all over the world owed her a debt of gratitude also. He called her a “hidden hero.”
Walker said Van Hoozier was an example of a life lived well for Christ.
“He simply loved Jesus, that was his life,” he said. We’re on earth to glorify Jesus and bring other people to a personal relationship with Christ. He did that wholeheartedly.”
Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.