In 2011 I wrote this post about my friend Al Sturgeon heading off to Malibu in search of the dream of becoming a lawyer. In 2017 something new happened… and I think it’s awesome. Well, it was just awesome to move to Malibu. But I thought I should update this post! God bless you Al!
In sixteen years of preaching on the Mississippi Gulf Coast I was privileged to make some good friends among the preachers for the other Churches of Christ. For most of those years we had a great preachers meeting, mostly focused on enjoying our friendships. When Al Sturgeon came to Ocean Springs Church of Christ to be the preacher, he was a total stranger to me. That wouldn’t last long.
Al was the kind of friend that you feel like you’ve known forever. Not that he’s predictable or boring, not in the least. He is just at ease with himself and one of the most engaging people I’ve ever met. And he honored me with his friendship.
At his suggestion we met every Tuesday for lunch to talk about ministry and life and everything else. We usually met at the Singing River Mall and sat out in the middle at some tables where we would encounter people from our communities that would stop and talk. I really miss those talks.
Though only 18 miles separated our church buildings, it might as well have been a hundred miles when Hurricane Katrina roared ashore. We were flooded; Al and Jody lost their home. Everything. I ran across a post written by one of the Ocean Springs members that tells you a bit about how Al, Jody, and Hillary faced such a loss. Read that HERE when you get a chance. Al was a hero in his recovery work and he gave his heart to that community.
People like me talk so much it’s hard for me to surprise anyone. People like Al take it all in, process it, make a calm and rational decision, then let you know what’s up. So when Al revealed that he and Jody were going to leave Ocean Springs and that he was going to Law School, I believed him. I didn’t try to talk him out of it because I knew that the ‘reveal’ didn’t come until the decision process was over. Meticulously he worked his way through the opportunities that came his way, and he chose Pepperdine.
On the day that John Robert died, Al came to my house. He sat by me quietly. He took my cell phone and fielded calls. He contacted my friends who were going to speak at the funeral and was on hand to make it all happen smoothly. He was a strong presence from God upon whom I could lean without fear.
We both left the Coast. I moved to North Louisiana to preach. He moved to Malibu to be a student. Jody, his wife, is a precious woman with a giant heart. Hillary, his daughter, is a genius with talent to do whatever she chooses. Their other daughter, Erica, is just as talented and now lives in Malibu with them. Each one of them sweet and beautiful.
Al is a determined man. He wanted to be an author, and his books are excellent. He wanted to be a servant, and he served the less fortunate frequently. He cared about justice, and his work with CASA and Habitat for Humanity were avenues which he used to rescue others. I don’t think he wanted to be a preacher much, but he was better at that than he ever believed. He wanted to be a lawyer. Now he is.
Congratulations Al. You’ve worked so hard at everything you’ve ever set your heart to. I miss being in touch as much as we used to be, but I understand. I’m proud of you and your steadfast heart. Our lives intersected at a time when I needed a friend just like you. I bet there are people in Malibu saying the same thing now. I love you, friend. God bless you in your new career.
UPDATE! Al had a great career in Malibu working with the law school at Pepperdine. But God sometimes surprises us all. Al is a preacher again! Here’s his new place to serve!
Thanks for reading, John