January 21, 2024
You can’t make everybody happy. You’re not a taco.
We have a friend, Ed, who served in combat in Vietnam. We first met about 8 years ago. When he found out I was a pastor, he said that he wrote God out of his life when he was on the battlefield in Vietnam. My wife and I invited him and his wife to church. She was happy to join us when she could, but Ed wasn’t much interested, although he was a bit curious. Then one day he came up with the idea that he would come to church and afterward, we would all go to eat together. We took him up on his offer. His comment after church was that he was impressed by all the young people who attended. On the way to the restaurant he told me that was the first time in 53 years that he had been to church.
That was about 3 years ago. Since then, just about every time we chatted about something, Ed would bring up God and eternity and his own mortality. We explained the way of salvation to Ed. I gave him literature and expressed the importance of seizing the day and not to put salvation off to a later time. We also suggested certain Christian movies for them to watch. Recently, I gave him my “business card” that has our church name and email address on it, but it is more like a tract explaining how to accept Christ and receive salvation.
During his career, Ed worked for Allis Chalmers Corporation in a position that had something to do with the dealerships in Wisconsin. He traveled the whole state of Wisconsin from one end to the next. He could fix anything whether it was mechanical, or technical, metal, or had anything to do with carpentry, plumbing, or electrical.
A few weeks ago, Ed was diagnosed with Leukemia. At first the doctors said it was treatable and they expected he had four or five more years. Later they changed it to just a few weeks. He now lives in another state so we aren’t able just to drop everything and go see him as often as we’d like. But last week, I felt a strong pull to go see him. I felt like I needed to talk to him as soon as possible to settle in his mind and mine that he was in fact, a believer. So we packed up and went to see him.
Yesterday afternoon we spent an extended time with him and his wife at their house. We laughed and prayed together. They asked if I’d come back tomorrow and we could have communion together. Ed was so peaceful. When we talked about him dying, he did not fear death at all. I asked him early in our conversation if he was ready to meet Jesus. He confidently said that he was ready. He had a glow about him and never looked more alive. Last night Ed got up in the night and he fell and hit his head and died of a brain hemorrhage. While we shed tears of sadness, our hearts are full of joy. God is in the business of rescuing the perishing.
There are some people we meet in our lifetime that leave an unforgettable impression on us. Ed was one of those people. There was nothing exceptional about his life. He won’t be remembered as anyone famous. But for those who knew him, he will be remembered as a man who loved to help people, someone who would go out of his way to make another’s life better - even at his own expense. He was the kind of guy, where if you had a project that was too large for you, or if you didn’t know what you were doing, you could start it, and he would come along and roll up his sleeves and jump in and show you how to do it and do it right. Or, he would simply take over and you’d become his helper.
He was someone who didn’t understand everything about life that he wished he could understand, yet, he was able to look to Jesus with a child-like faith and trust Him to carry him across the finish line in this life and into eternity.
Ed didn’t want a service, but we are going to have a little gathering at his house after the dust settles. It will be another opportunity to share God’s faithfulness and love for us. God is good! My tears are sad but my heart is full of joy.
(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).