I am a very fortunate person for many reasons. One of them is because I had the blessing of being born and raised in the 44th Street Church of God and was able to call a man named Rev. Hurschel Diffie, known to those he pastored as “Brother Diffie”, my first pastor. He was the real deal. A good shepherd.
In order to properly write all that Brother Diffie did in this world to represent Jesus Christ to others, I would have to write a book… which isn’t a bad idea! For now, I will just tell you about an incident that recently happened to me where this beautiful man of God was concerned.
In order for you to understand my story, I will share a little bit about this extraordinary person. To begin, I will share some words from his oldest daughter, Gayle Diffie Rogers, who so graciously provided me with some history of when Brother Diffie began the 44th Street Church.
‘My father went to East Washington St. Church of God in 1945. In 1946 the church bought the property on Chicago Avenue, which was renamed 44th Street. The church was mostly built by the men of the church to help budget wisely. Daddy was very conservative when it came to spending the church (and his) funds. I’m not sure when they moved into the church maybe 1947 or early 1948. I know it was after Gloria was born. He took a medical retirement in 1976. They came and stayed with us for six months to give the people a chance to meet the new pastor. After they returned to Phoenix he continued to teach a Sunday School class and preach when asked. He visited the hospitals and homes to welcome people to the church. He loved the people! In 2005, after my mother passed away, he came to Georgia for a couple weeks. He walked four miles a day in my neighborhood and told everyone about salvation. All the children in the neighborhood would come to the door to visit with Pastor Diffie. It was so sweet. People at church would ask him to pray for their healing and he did that many times over the three years. They thought that since he had been healed he could reach heaven for them. He ministered to everyone everywhere we went. His pastor’s heart never died! I took him back to Phoenix to visit in April of 2007 and he had the best time. Everyone was so kind and gracious and made him feel so loved!
Brother Diffie was a man who genuinely made you feel so important and special. When you approached him to give him a hug, his face would light up and his broad, handsome smile dazzled– and it wasn’t for show. It was genuine and real. His love for people in this world was very, very real.
When he told you he was so proud of you, his words encouragement lifted your spirit so high it made you feel as if you were not standing upon the ground but floating just above. He looked at you intently while you spoke, like you were the most important person in the world, and you could see the emotion he was feeling about what you were sharing with him; joy, surprise or compassion were always reflected in his eyes. When you touched his heart, you could almost feel his feelings coming through his skin with just the softest touch of his hand. And when he told you he would pray for you or a situation you were in, you could trust completely that he would be bowing his head to speak to his Heavenly Father on your behalf that day and in the days to come.
Brother Diffie was a man who set a human example of the love of Jesus, obedience to God’s Word, and faith stronger than any metal found on earth.
I never heard people tell negative stories about Brother Diffie or his precious wife, Sister Diffie, who served the Lord in ministry by her husband’s side until the day she died. In fact, if you mention his name to anyone he loved, they will immediately smile.
Brother Diffie was a humble man. Though he was always impeccably dressed, held his tall frame with perfect posture, and it seemed as if none of his snow-white hairs were ever out of place, he happily lived the life of a common man, always keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground, and never setting himself above anyone else in position or circumstance. Although he constantly dealt with severe health problems including seven pacemakers and quite an excruciating battle with stage four lung cancer, he was content in the life God blessed him with and extremely grateful for every day he had.
Brother Diffie was a hard worker and would not only preach sermons on Sunday mornings but could also be found singing or directing the choir–or both, with his rich, powerful baritone voice, teaching Sunday school classes, even taking the role of janitor for the church he so dearly loved.
I know none of us who heard it will ever forget him singing, “How Great Thou Art”, “It Is Well with My Soul”, or my personal favorite, “The King is Coming!”. I count myself truly privileged because I am one of the few choir directors who had the honor of directing the church choir when he sang these songs. His voice was anointed and when he sang, the heavens opened up and the glory of the Lord came down. No joke. It was a goosebump giving experience.
I am forty-eight years old and in all my years I have never met anyone on this earth like Brother Diffie. The saying “they broke the mold after he was made” is certainly true about this man. The above are just a few phrases to describe the devoted life of
Rev. Hurschel Diffie, again, it would take a novel to tell it all.
I had another special privilege of interviewing both he and his “Sweetheart” as he always called his beloved wife for hours one afternoon about their lives, family and ministry work together. Brother Diffie’s mind was sharp and he recalled dates, names and places effortlessly. I videoed the interview and am working on making it available to the public so that those who loved the Diffie’s can be blessed by it too.
I am not the type of person to idolize someone else and put them on a pedal-stool. There are no perfect people in this world. I believe there was only perfection in Jesus and He is the example we should follow. While I would not describe Brother Diffie as a perfect man, it sure did seem like he came close.
When I first began writing The Huggabears books, I dedicated the third book,
The Huggabears – A Cold and Rainy, Wind-Whirly Day to him because it teaches about the love and salvation of Jesus. I have also written him as the pastor in The Intercessors series, and of course, his name in the books is his own: Rev. Hurschel Diffie.
At this time, he was living with his daughter Gayle and her husband, Robert, in Atlanta, Georgia. He had moved away from Arizona after the death of his “Sweetheart” Hazel Diffie. Arizona would never be the same without them.
I had been enjoying some good, old fashioned USPS correspondence with Brother Diffie after his move and sent him a set of the Huggabear books I had published at that time. I received a letter from him after he read them. He was thrilled by what I was doing and loved that I had dedicated a book to him. He then explained that he had his daughter, Gayle, drive him to a shopping center where he walked to some bookstores to show them the Huggabear books and ask if they would sell them in their stores.
Even as I write those words, to think of this precious man, in his late 90’s, with his seventh pacemaker, after battling lung cancer, walking to bookstores to do that for me, well… it brings a lump to my throat, tears to my eyes, and warmth to my heart that I can’t quite describe.
He believed in me and my work for Jesus, and the love, support, and prayers he gave me will never be forgotten.
Now, I’m going to jump to the present. A time after Brother Diffie had gone to heaven to meet his Jesus, be reunited with his “Sweetheart” Sister Diffie and gain his glorious reward.
The other day I was sharing with my faithful friend, Gerry Dillingham, all about Brother Diffie trying to get The Huggabears in bookstores. Naturally, the story touched her heart deeply as Gerry and her family were also blessed to have the honor of knowing and being loved by Brother Diffie, and they loved him very much.
I told Gerry these exact words, “I want to shine my light in the world Jesus just like Brother Diffie shone his.” My goal was not to live my life to serve Brother Diffie. I want nothing more than to get up each day and make Jesus proud. I explained that Brother Diffie set us an excellent example that a human person can look upon. He proved that it is possible to live a life that gives the love of Jesus to others and can take Christ’s light to this dark, decaying world.
Two days after I spoke those words to Gerry, I received a message from another beautiful friend, Mary DiSalvo. She was selling a home she owned in Arizona and she had a chandelier in her dining room that she wanted to give to me. There was a photo of a lovely chandelier and this text message:
“This chandelier belongs to You!! I think I was just using it until you received it! So clear it’s yours. The prayers made under that at the dining room table by Pastor Diffie….the anointing is probably still on it!”
Mary then explained how she came to have the chandelier which used to hang in Brother and Sister Diffie’s home!! She was so blessed to have it in her Phoenix home for so many years, but now that she was living in another state she wanted to put the Phoenix house up for sale. While she was making arrangements for the house to be put on the market, she told me that the Holy Spirit showed her my face and told her to give it to me for my family to enjoy!
I was amazed and overjoyed!!!
Here, just two days prior to this, while sweeping my kitchen floor and chatting with Gerry, I had told her that I wanted to shine my light like Brother Diffie shone his light in this world and now… on the third day, I was receiving a light that belonged to him!
I am so thankful to my friend, Mary, for giving me and my family this wonderful blessing. We now have this beautiful chandelier hanging over our dining room table and it fits perfectly. No matter where we go, it will go with us. It completely fits my taste–and looks like something that would be in a Huggabear house! Most importantly, it is a daily reminder of the magnificent example which the Lord set before me and countless others of a man who allowed God to order his steps, his tongue and his thoughts in the Word of God, Brother Diffie. A man who taught and exemplified the love of Jesus to everyone he met. A man who did not let severe complications with his health rob him of his joy, peace, or faith. A handsome man whose laughter was infectious, and who could melt your heart when he would sing “How Great Thou Art.”
I am thankful to have known Brother and Sister Diffie and to have had them as examples in my life. I am thankful to my friend, Mary DiSalvo, for bestowing upon my family such a magnificent and significant gift. As my family sits underneath this lovely light on Thanksgiving Day, I will be extra thankful and will do my very best to take the light and love of Jesus to the world, just like Brother Diffie did.
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