I first heard about George over a decade ago when I was a new employee at the IBCD office in Escondido. I had not met him, but he was the organization’s founder and former director, who was living on the east coast. It took me a while to connect that someone people referred to as Skip was also George Scipione, but once I did, I realized that he was legendary. Stories abounded about his passion in engaging in counseling and the lively discussions during the Supper Seminar where counseling cases were debriefed for the sake of training. I remember wondering how words such as “feisty” and “Italian” were spoken side by side with “sweet” and “caring.” I remember hearing of a man who would both passionately say it how it was, and weep with people in his call to repentance or empathy in their pain. When I met George, it all made sense.
I had the privilege of being able to pursue Doctor of Ministry studies under George at RPTS. When George threw out the idea of studying there, he told me that his offer included staying in his home for two weeks each summer. So, for four summers I was able to spend time with George and Eileen as they opened their house to as many students as it could hold. They were often just returning from a trip to the Czech Republic, and yet they both sprung into action to accommodate our travel needs, even as they were still jetlagged from their own trip. It was in his home that I got to see firsthand how much George and Eileen loved people, opened their home in hospitality, and how much they were devoted to helping people with the word of God and the hope of the gospel.
One of the things that has stood out to me most in knowing George was how he exemplified humble servanthood. I distinctly remember each year as the IBCD conference would approach, regardless of his role in it, he would reach out and ask if there was anything he could do to help. Sure enough, as soon as he set foot on the conference site, he would be asking me if there was anything he could do – and he wasn’t asking for a prominent role – he was asking if I needed help with menial tasks. I remember the first time I saw George’s CV, I was blown away by all that he had accomplished educationally because he never brought up any of those degrees when we talked. Each summer when I would be on campus at RPTS, I would hear the latest about George’s travels all over the world – taking teaching opportunities wherever there was hunger to hear about how God’s word enables believers to enter into the problems that people are facing. I knew he was not traveling to these countries in first class, nor staying in swanky accommodations. It was striking to see how he would be lecturing as a professor at the seminary one moment and then helping in the kitchen at home the next. George modeled for me what it meant to be a servant of Christ.
George was an encouraging and caring man. Every time he saw me, he would always ask me about my family and our church – and he did so in a way that was more than just introductory speech. He also assured me that he was praying for me and for my family, and I knew that he meant it. I knew this was real because I witnessed many mornings when a whole house full of students were getting ready and trying to get out the door for a morning class, and he would be calling throughout the house for Eileen, making sure that they could spend time in prayer together before he left. I heard how he knew and prayed for OPC ministers all over the country. I remember how many times he would stop and pray for me or for others as we were talking to him about our lives. George was a great mentor in how to care through prayer.
I know that my experience is not unique, and that countless people all over the world have been helped not only by George’s teaching and counseling, but also by his testimony of faithfulness, servanthood, and care. In all of this, George pointed us to our Savior, and George is now enjoying that Savior’s presence.