Were he alive, George Calhoun may have discouraged my writing these remarks for public consumption. George was the founder of Mt. Olive Tape Library (P.O. Box 422, Mt. Olive, Mississippi 39119). He did not care to be in the spotlight on life's stage. However, God raised him up and used him to be one of the most influential individuals in the revival of the Reformed Faith in the latter part of the twentieth century. The Lord called him home July 28, 2001 after a long battle with a number of illnesses. Yet his influence will, by God's grace, impact this new century and beyond.
Some years after God saved him, George began to understand and love the Reformed Faith. As a Sunday school teacher, he had a great desire to be properly prepared to teach his class and took time to listen to tapes. He began to collect tapes of sound doctrinal exposition and send out listings to friends. Over time, requests to borrow tapes began to come in from throughout the United States and overseas. This formed the basis for Mt. Olive Tape Library, which was established in 1969. It currently holds thousands of tapes that are available for monthly rental. I know of nowhere else that houses under one roof so many tapes by such men as R. J. Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, Nigel Lee, Al Martin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Morton Smith, just to name a few.
My first recollection of George was seeing him behind tape recorders taping speakers at conferences in the early 1970s. For years he spent many of his days off and vacation days immersed in listening to and cataloging tapes he had received. He also traveled to conferences to set up his recording system and be ready to tape the first lecture. While many others were having fellowship with each other, George, with his servant's heart, was busy making sure the microphones were working and all the wiring was properly connected.
Over the years, as our friendship grew, I saw that George was increasingly aware of his own sin. This made him more joyous and desirous of resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. In fact, his growing knowledge of God's attributes propelled him to constantly increase the library's inventory for the purpose of building up Christians throughout the world.
In his last letter, mailed to those on the Library mailing list earlier this year, he wrote the following:
And so, dear friends, I commit to you that sacred trust. "I have kept the faith." The same omnipotent God who raised up the Mt. Olive Tape Library to make widely accessible the teachings of the Reformed Faith, whereby many thousands all over the world have been instructed, strengthened and comforted, will carry us forward so long as it pleases Him to do so. All our trust is in Him and His gracious provision without Him we can do nothing. May we all be found faithful in Him and zealous for His glory and truth, even as "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever."
These words typified George's desire for the Christian community.
Through the years he had an able helpmate, his wife of over fifty years, Gracie. She shared his vision and faithfully supported his labors.
There are a number of applications that we can make from George's life and ministry. The work of local officers and laymen remains extremely important in God's plan for the advancement of His kingdom. Many of Paul's inspired letters concluded with greetings to various laymen who were local laborers for the gospel. Captured by the Reformed Faith, George then captured thousands of Reformed lectures on tape. He was committed to gospel advance in time and history. Using the gifts and time God gave him, he devoted himself to this task. His Reformed Faith reminded him that God gives the increase. He had no money to spend on flashy marketing or expensive advertising. His work spread rapidly by word of mouth.
He used the methods by which he had learned the Reformed Faith to help others. The Mt. Olive Tape Library was more than tapes. George also stocked the library with numerous books for readers to purchase. Just last year (in conjunction with Sprinkle Publications, P.O. Box 1094, Harrisonburg, VA 22801), he reprinted the very valuable History of the Protestant Church in Hungary. This volume contains a wealth of information regarding the trials that accompanied the rooting and growth of the Reformed Faith in Hungary.
Like the sons of Issachar (1 Chr. 12:32), "he had an understanding of the times" in which we live. He realized the church's greatest problem is an ignorance of God's Word. He did not wait for someone else to do something, nor was he content that some were seeking to disseminate the Reformed Faith, as exemplified in the Reformed pastors and vocal laymen God has raised up. He knew that he, too, was responsible to instruct others. He gave himself to this task. He willingly held seminars at the library on aspects and applications of the Reformed Faith to all of life.
He knew there were many who knew nothing of the Reformed Faith and others who had no Reformed teachers in their locale. Many were unable to attend annual conferences. A number of people behind bars craved access to solid instruction. George's heart beat with a passion for these people. He realized that his spiritual growth had been hindered for years until it was remedied by an understanding of a Christian worldview through the lens of God's sovereignty.
Believing in the truth that God's Word is not bound, he sent tapes to whoever requested them. He received grateful testimonies from the imprisoned and those who heard tapes overseas, on the seas, as well as close to his Mt. Olive, Mississippi office as to the effects of the taped messages in their lives.
George realized no Christian is completely Reformed until he reaches heaven. In this sense, George was aware, as we all should be, that we are not yet Reformed but reforming. Even in his last hours he was mindful of indwelling sin. When he was near death, he expressed his desire that the trials of his illnesses would be used by God to sanctify him and prepare him for heaven.
The number of George's earthly days are complete. His work under the auspices of the Mt. Olive Board continues to be available. May the Lord be pleased to allow even a wider distribution of tapes in coming years for the advancement of God's name and glory alone.
- Byron Snapp
Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia. He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina. He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren.