As I fall asleep tonight, I’ll be praying for my friend Lisa. She lost her daddy today. And he was her pastor, so, double whammy. I’ll be praying for Bonnie and Scott and Wendy, his wife and other two children, and their families. I’ll pray for Caius and Ghilly, who lost their papa, their housemate, and their pastor.
If you think of us, pray for our sending church, Eastgate Bible Fellowship. Pray that we would suffer well, that we would be in the grief journey with our dear pastor’s family for the long haul, that we would not grow weary as this is not the only cancer diagnosis our little congregation faces. Pray that we would rejoice, and laugh, and smile. Our friend is free, he is whole. He does not have cancer, arthritis, or Celiac’s Disease anymore. He is no longer tired or weary, or weak. He’s not stubborn about or frustrated by his limitations. He’s not sinful or broken. He’s met face to face the One he preached about. He has no more pain, no more tears. The hope he had on Earth is manifested in Heaven. Wow.
I’m far away, so I’ve been reading all the comments I can about his influence. My favorites are the ones he influenced to ministry. It is really an enormous part of our story that he believed in us and saw us in the ministry in spite of all our many, many shortcomings, which he certainly knew about.
I became a Christian at the same time he became the pastor of our church.
He walked me through a season of anxiety in the most gentle manner, many times at Starbucks late in the evening.
He married us.
He dedicated our children.
He preached one Mother’s Day a sermon that had me blubbering on my (new) boyfriend’s shoulder the worst ugly cry ever, and then later he wisely encouraged me to grieve the loss of my mother even though she is still alive.
He sent me to Mexico on my first mission trip ever, before I even knew the difference between the scripture and the commentary in a study Bible. And he commissioned my family to serve Jesus in Spain.
He counseled us for marriage in 4 weeks time because we had been long distance. Our assessments made him chuckle. He told us, “your differences seem great now. They’re probably why you were attracted to each other. But they’ll cause some problems later if you’re not careful.” And he was right. And when that happened, we saw the licensed marriage counselor he recommended.
He shepherded our church through the very worst things: a young mother’s suicide, one of his best friends losing a son in a tragic accident, a biblical response to the consequences for sin, cancer in the young and old.
He had a vision for our church that helped me find a good place to worship in college.
He battled cancer bravely. He pushed through and preached, and he also was weak and unavailable because he was sick and I learned so much from that.
He always greeted my family so warmly when they came for Easter or special events. He knew their names and made an impression so my grandma who doesn’t walk with the Lord would frequently ask, “how is your minister?”
When I sing “Thank you, Lord” I hear his a capella voice.
He would end (the world’s shortest) business meetings with “all in favor say I’m hungry.”
When Chris preaches about the Pharisees and Saducees, he always says, “they didn’t believe in the resurrection, so they were sad, you see,” and it’s because we heard that from the pulpit over and over.
He was a coach before he became a pastor. That’s why we can go from tech jobs to missions.
I’ll leave you with this story. Pastor sat in on our oral doctrinal exam, which went way too long because Chris and I were fumbling around for the right answers and sort of arriving at them haphazardly. Pastor was really our only friendly face. I mean, they were all friendly, but the others were making decisions about us at the end of the exam. The last question, after the eschatology question we think we got right, was “why is Christ beautiful to you?” and I said, “because he became my sin. He knew no sin, and he became my sin so that I could become his righteousness. He traded places with me and didn’t just save me, but made me righteous. That’s amazing.” Pastor asked, “do you know the reference for that?” and I didn’t, at the time. (Lord knows I do now, 2 Corinthians 5:21, and I also know a song about it). So I just blurted out, “Galatians 2:20? No that’s not it but you do preach on that a lot.” And then I admitted I didn’t know the reference.
Bless it. How did we ever get this job?Maybe in their little meeting afterward he said, “in their defense I do mention Galatians 2:20 a lot.”
I will miss him so much. I am so sad he will not get a prayer letter from us from Spain. I am sad for his family. I am sad he was forced to retire and didn’t get to choose it and spend his days golfing and playing with his grandkids. I am mad that this colon cancer has now taken three precious men from me: my grandpa, my step grandpa 10 years later, and now my pastor.
But I am rejoicing because the battle is finally over, and Jesus wins. Again. Like always. My pastor knew that, and it fueled his days.