“Over the last 30 years, I’ve missed breakfast more times than I’ve missed being with the Lord in the morning.” Though it’s probably been five years since Larry said that to me, it has stuck with me this whole time. There are a lot of things about Larry Gadbaugh that tend to stick.
This is Larry’s last month as CEO at First Image before I succeed him on April 1st. The things Larry says about himself are mostly self-deprecating. He’s good at the mandate, “don’t think of yourselves more highly than you ought.” But, there are a lot of things for which I think very highly of Larry. Larry has stewarded the mission of First Image for over 20 years, and there are many things about the way he’s led that we will continue.
Larry was a pastor for 30 years before coming to First Image. He has led our team with the heart of a shepherd, with deep care and concern for our staff, volunteers, and ministry partners. People are the way that God has chosen to accomplish His mission, and Larry has made sure we do not forget it.
At First Image, John 15 is almost the punchline to a joke. ‘Abide in Christ’ has been Larry’s admonition from day one. For Larry, everything goes back to abiding. If you look at Larry’s calendar, at 5:00 AM every morning it says, “Abide in Christ.” It’s never worked for me to have something on my calendar every day. It has the reverse effect. For Larry though, it’s the real deal.
Jesus said that if we remain in Him and He in us we bear much fruit; apart from Him, we can do nothing. Larry has believed this and lived it; not perfectly, but consistently. By God’s grace, we will continue, and go deeper, in our abiding.
Larry has done much for the mission of First Image and Pregnancy Centers throughout our state. In 2007, there was significant legislation proposed in Oregon that could have dramatically undermined our mission to moms and their pre-born children. Larry spearheaded a coalition of nearly all the pregnancy centers in the state (around 40 or so), which effectively stopped the legislative efforts dead three times over six years through coordinated grassroots efforts. Larry is now the Executive Director of that coalition, called the Oregon Pregnancy Centers Association, and will continue in that capacity.
Larry is a bridge builder, and those ties have made us stronger, serving to protect and advance the mission of pregnancy centers throughout the state. We will continue in those critical relationships to make our shared mission stronger.
This might give the impression that Larry has been all business. He has not. A few years back, Jacquie, our Director of Services, was interviewing a candidate for a position in one our centers. Part way through the interview they heard a voice ask, “Can I come out now?” As a spontaneous joke, Larry had hidden himself in the closet. Jacquie turned to the interviewee and said, flatly, “This is our CEO.”
Larry has never been into being The Boss™. He has created a light atmosphere, often full of laughter. In our work, there is a lot that is heavy, but Jesus says that His burden is light. I am totally convinced that it is a leadership superpower to lighten the load, and bring laughter into a room. I hope and pray our work is always filled with that sort of joy. It is genuinely contagious and carries over to how we serve our clients. We will continue to do our work with laughter and love, letting Jesus carry the burden.
There is so much more I would like to say about Larry. So many stories to be told. But the last thing I’ll say is to Larry himself:
Thank you, Larry, for many years of faithful service to the mission of First Image. We have been paying attention, and we will carry on abiding in Jesus, loving people, protecting and advancing the mission, and keeping the burden light. May you be blessed in Jesus in the next season, my friend.
Your Fellow Follower,