by Mark G. Holbrook
When people ask me, “What leaders have made the biggest impact in your life?” ECCU’s founding director, Dr. George Vouga, is always at the top of my list. His friendship, constant encouragement, mentoring, and life example of vision and faithfulness have inspired and challenged me over my entire career. His deep love for his wife Agnes was a powerful example of what it means to “love your wife even as Christ loves the church.”
Dr. Vouga entered into eternity with our Lord on Saturday, September 15, after 102 short years on this earth. George shared with me on more than one occasion the almost comical way ECCU came into existence: Back in 1964, when George was general director of the Conservative Baptist Association of Southern California, he was initially opposed to starting a credit union. He told his close friend, Dr. I. Cedric Peterson (pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Whittier and fellow Dallas Seminary classmate) that the Association had too many obligations on its plate and there wasn’t room for another major initiative. So Dr. Peterson proceeded to tell George that he would be at his office every week to pray that the Lord would change his mind. After some time, and week after week of Dr. Peterson praying earnestly on his knees in Dr.Vouga’s office, George freely admitted that the Lord did indeed change his mind—and heart. ECCU was launched in October of 1964—48 years ago. George became a champion for the credit union and his passionate support never waivered. I thank the Lord for George’s obedience and humble leadership at a time his rational mind was telling him “no way.”
I was privileged to meet George in 1975, the year I started with the credit union, then known as Conservative Baptist Credit Union. George retired the following year, but our relationship grew as George became a close friend and mentor, even while serving many years on the board of directors. From those modest beginnings when a few pastors and friends made their first $25 deposits, the credit union grew and prospered. Today ECCU serves more than 2,000 ministries across the country and about 3,500 missionaries in 100 countries around the world. The credit union stewards over $1 billion in core assets and nearly $3 billion in assets under management.
My wife Cindy and I shared the joy of hosting Dr. Vouga (we still called him “Dr.”) along with his two sons and their wives in our home for dinner just a few months ago. It wasn’t long before he asked, “So, what are our assets?” Even at 102, the credit union and its well-being were still top of mind. We enjoyed a wonderful evening together and will cherish that last time of earthly fellowship with him.
The Bible Dr. Vouga used in his first pastorate in the Chicago area (around 1932) is secured in our ECCU auditorium podium. Every time I stand before our staff during our weekly chapels, I think of George’s Bible, his constant encouragement, and enduring legacy for our Lord. 1 Peter 5 tells us that those who faithfully shepherd the flock of God will receive the “unfading crown of glory” directly from the Chief Shepherd. That must have been a beautiful Heavenly ceremony when Dr. Vouga finally arrived home!
Do you have any “Dr. Vougas” in your life? We’d love to hear about who has significantly impacted your life and ministry.