The Apostle of Lake Tahoe

The Apostle of Lake Tahoe

Jim Heaton commanding his boat on Lake Tahoe

Heaven has received another saint this week. Jeff Heaton’s dad, Jim Heaton died on Sunday, September 20. Emily and I considered Jim and Marion to be our spiritual parents. After our son David died, they invited us into their home for dinner once a week for a year— the best gift a young couple could receive when they are swallowed in grief. Being inspired by Edith Schaeffer’s story of L’Abri, they asked God to use their home for his kingdom and God answered their prayer. Jim and Marion became icons of generous and lavish hospitality. 

            Jim became an elder at PBC Palo Alto and, in 1974, was the one who offered me the position of junior high pastor. I had been accepted to Dallas Seminary, but Jim countered by saying that, if I stayed at PBC, the church would provide all the seminary training I wanted while I was a pastor. Jim was a master salesman and it was the sweetest offer I’ve had ever received.

            Shortly thereafter Jim and Marion moved to Lake Tahoe to a beautiful home on the Lake. In this new setting they became an outstanding witness of Christ’s love and grace to the entire Tahoe community. Whenever we visited them, I noticed how, every morning, they would sit and quietly read and meditate on the Scriptures, and then methodically pray through a list of family and friends. During one of our visits, I had the privilege of being part of Jim’s 6:30 am men’s discipleship breakfast. Ten men, mostly blue collar and rough edged, were seated around their long dining room table with a gorgeous view of the lake. Marion prepared a scrumptious breakfast of Eggs Benedict, and Jim taught the Scriptures with a conviction. Jim was not eloquant, he was direct, and you knew he believed what he was talking about because he lived it.   

            Jim was a natural and passionate witness for Christ wherever he went. Like the Apostle Paul, it was the “love of Christ” that constrained him (2 Cor 5:14). Because Jim was utterly in love with Jesus, he couldn’t stop loving people, especially those who were hurting. At restaurants waiters adored him because he took an interest in them and left huge tips. Even the rich and famous could not escape the clutches of Jim’s contagious love. Jane Fonda made the mistake of moving next door. It didn’t take Jim long to make her acquaintance and eventually make her feel comfortable enough to share her story with him. I believe it was 1998 when she came to Christ through the witness of Jim and other Christians. She didn’t tell her husband, Ted Turner, but when he learned of it, she said it was one of the factors that broke up their marriage.

               Jim and Marion became two of many examples of how PBC Palo Alto trained the flock to disciple others, and how well they flourished giving away the treasures they learned at PBC. “Well done, good and faithful servant!” We will miss you.  Brian & Emily Morgan