[Updated Friday, March 19 at 6:45 a.m.] RMCNews with Dorie Panganiban – Farmington, New Mexico … La Vida Mission is in mourning. A mighty warrior of God and a stalwart of faith is fallen. Pastor Steve Gillham, a retired minister and director of La Vida Mission, lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday, March 17, at the age of 74.
Dorie Panganiban, La Vida office manager recalls Pastor Steve and his devotion to the work of the church while battling physical illness. “Illness may have taken a toll on him and defeated his physical body, but his spiritual body was kept from the evil of this world and remained pure and strong and victorious until his last breath.”
Pastor Steve, who served several churches in Oregon and the Rocky Mountain Conference, had been battling cancer for many years, but that didn’t slow down his passion to reach the Navajo nation with the gospel.
Pastor Steve began his RMC ministry in Wyoming serving Douglas, Wheatland, and Casper churches where he gave spiritual leadership for 11 years and played an important role in Mills Spring Ranch. “He was an integral part of Mills Spring during his time in Casper. The Upper Room, above the shower facility, he built as a connection to Jesus and the Disciples time in the upper room,” Liz Cornett, Pastor Steve’s daughter recalled.
After serving many congregations in Wyoming Pastor Steve moved to Colorado to serve many districts including Alamosa, Monte Vista, Cortez, Dove Creek, and Nucla. He also served as coordinator of Cowboy camp meeting.
“He was the coordinator of Cowboy camp meeting for many years and looked forward every year to seeing friends, singing together and worshipping in God’s nature,” Cornett added.
Eric Nelson, RMC vice-president of administration, recalls his friend with whom he became acquainted in college. “I had the privilege of attending Walla Walla College with Steve. After college, we served together in the Oregon Conference. We then had the privilege of sharing our ministry in Rocky Mountain Conference together. We worked and prayed together as we served the Lord in our given churches.”
“On a personal note,” Nelson added, “it was always a joy for our two families to visit together and share memories. This will surely be missed.”
Pastor Steve’s friendship was also special to Panganiban. “My husband and I and our little family will terribly miss him, although I feel that I will miss him more as I remember the many times and occasions of meetings in his office or my office or in the board room, the long phone calls when he was traveling, talking and discussing challenges and opportunities for ministry at the Mission, the joy of working together for the Lord in this place,” she said.
Pastor Steve will be remembered for his time and investment in La Vida Mission. “Upon retirement, he was invited to take leadership as director of La Vida Mission,” Nelson explained. He has done a wonderful service [and has] blessed the mission with good solid organization and direction. It is a much stronger institution because of his work. His passing will impact the mission greatly. He will be missed for his godly example and service and for his outreach to the Navajo Nation,” Nelson said.
Panganiban added, “He will surely be missed by everyone at the Mission who has known him and his friendship and leadership. The void and vacuum that he has left can only be filed by the grace of God.”
His latest venture, described as visionary, was to assist Adventist World Radio in creating a Navajo language radio station at the mission to broadcast the Good News of Jesus to the nation. Back in August 2020, Pastor Steve commented, “You see, we have been having this dream of winning the reservation for Christ.”
Working on the project was Allen Steele, former vice-president of AWR. “Steve was an integral part of our Navajo radio outreach to bring the Gospel to this largest Native American Tribe. A man of vision, he quickly took on the challenge of establishing a radio production studio at La Vida to bring God’s message to the Native community that he loved,” he commented.
“Steve Gillham’s support and expertise in devising ways to make the Adventist message attractive to the Native tribes will be greatly missed as we work toward accomplishing the dream he had for this very important project,” he added.
A memorial and celebration of life service will be held at La Vida Mission on March 19. He is survived by his wife Carol and four children–Stephanie, Liz, Angela and Stanley. A celebration of life service will also be held on Sabbath, March 27 at 3:00 p.m. at the Casper church where he served as pastor for 11 years.
Liz Cornett remembers a special time when the family would depart after spending time together. “Whenever we parted, he would always gather us together in a circle, clasp hands and in unison say, ‘May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.’”
“We will carry on the legacy of a faithful, godly life that you have left us,” expressed Panganiban. “We will persevere like you till the end. I believe with all my heart that you can boldly say, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’”
–RMCNews; photo by Rajmund Dabrowski