James Edwin Usher, 76, of Xenia, Ohio, was born August 27, 1943 in Meridian, Mississippi to Bostick and Cynthia Usher. He died December 15, 2019 in Huntsville Hospital in Alabama from an undetermined recurring illness which has stymied doctors for more than two years. He had come to Alabama to celebrate Thanksgiving with family when he fell ill.
Jimmy is survived by his wife of 52 years, Carol Lynne, his son Jeremy (Daniela), his daughter Sonja (Garth), grandchildren Alexander and Nicholas, Meredith and Micah; by his brother Tom (Stephanie), sisters Nancy and Beverly, and several nieces and nephews including Stacey whom he raised as a daughter after her mother passed away, and Cindy who serves as board chair for his mission to Honduras. He was pre-deceased by his parents and by his sisters Myrtle and Glenda.
In high school he was a four-time state tennis champion and continued playing into his early 70s. During his Anderson College years he played and coached the tennis team and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2011. He enjoyed playing tennis with his son-in-law and was happy when his granddaughters took up the game.
He graduated from Meridian (Mississippi) High School in 1961, Anderson (Indiana) College in 1965, Asbury (Kentucky) Seminary, in 1970, and earned a Doctor of Ministry from Anderson Theological Seminary in 2009. An ordained minister of the Church of God for 53 years, he loved to study and write. He didn’t want to be addressed by fancy titles like Reverend or Doctor, preferring to be called Jimmy, or Brother Jimmy. Jimmy developed a passion for missions when a seminary assignment sent him to the inner city. He traveled to over 40 countries around the world. For a time, he and his son had a contest to see who had been to the most countries, but when Jeremy began work for the UN Jimmy conceded defeat. He particularly loved spending time in Italy with his son’s family. He was humbled to have met Mother Teresa on a trip to India and spoke often of his four trips to Israel where he was able to spend a meditative week by the Sea of Galilee. He went so often to Honduras over a period of thirty years that he considered it a second home.
In 1989 he made his first trip to Honduras with his friend Charlie Smith. When Charlie founded Heart to Honduras, Jimmy was by his side, leading North Americans on short term trips. In 2013 Jimmy published a biography of his friend’s life: Charlie: A Man After God’s Own Heart. In 2009 he took the first steps toward founding Prayer Plan Missions to Honduras. From that point on he made about six trips a year to oversee the work, always looking for ways he could minister to marginalized people. He demonstrated that this work could be done without soliciting or borrowing funds, but just by prayer and informing interested people about needs and letting the Holy Spirit impress them to give.
Jimmy loved to read, write, and preach. Throughout his life he spent many hours every day reading the Bible and books about Christian living. At the time of his death he had begun writing a book on faith. He wrote and preached many sermons as pastor of four churches (First Church of God, Huntsville, Alabama; The Worship Center/Twelfth Avenue Church of God, Arab, Alabama; Roundtop Church, Falkville, Alabama, and Ledbetter Road Church of God, Xenia, Ohio).
He was 16 years old when he preached his first sermon and 76 when he preached his last one. On November 10, 2019 he was very weak and was forced to sit down to deliver that final message with the theme “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.” In sixty years of preaching and fifty years in foreign missions, his life demonstrated that small beginnings can bear much fruit.
Jimmy Usher was a man of faith who believed that God would lead him to places and people to serve. During what many people deem “retirement years”, he launched the “small beginnings” of a ministry to Honduras called Prayer Plan Missions and adopting as its “mascot” the wild goose, a Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit. This ministry of small beginnings continues as a testament to his belief in following the “Wild Goose”.
Services and burial were held on Thursday, December 19, 2019 at Roundtop Church in Falkville, AL. At his request, he was buried in a simple pine box in the cemetery at Roundtop Church. A memorial was service was held on Saturday, December 21 at Ledbetter Road Church of God, Xenia, OH.