Have you ever had those friends who were used by the Lord to change your perspective on just about everything in life? People you met at just the right moment and they invested in your life for decades? (And then their sweet children ask if you could write a letter in celebration of their Thirtieth Anniversary and you forget? This is that letter–a few weeks late.)
My friends, David and Erin are special people. I’ve known them just over 22 years. David was the Associate Pastor at my church, and Erin is his partner in every way. Watching the two of them love each other, their family, and, yes, the entire world, has been one of the greatest gifts of God in my life. I could talk about how they mentor young couples or how their kids are awesome. Or, I could mention how they care for those who are sick or how they persevered through recent illness in their own family. This post could be pages and pages long, but here are just three things about David and Erin K that I am thankful for: their hospitality, the way they care for missionaries, and how they love of the local Church.
Hospitality. Until I met David and Erin, I never understood the power of the Biblical call for spiritual leaders to be hospitable. Through them, I saw what beautiful hospitality looked like: anticipated needs, a warm welcome, and lots of unpretentious family time. Although they never parsed out for me how to be hospitable, I saw it, I felt it, and I heard about it from others. I heard from a University VP about a post-Sunday-evening-service invitation Dave and Erin extended when they were newly married, serving the church, and still in seminary. “Nothing fancy,” he told me, “just popcorn, and we sat on the floor of their tiny apartment to eat it, but we felt loved.”
Over and over I have felt that love, in California as well as in Indiana. They fed me, cried with me, gave me a bed to sleep in, challenged me, encouraged me, opened their hearts and their family to me. We played games, answered questions drawn out of a jar: “Would your rather. . .this or that and why?” Erin has been my retreat buddy when I speak, and David always has time to chat when we end up at the same conference. One time, we all drove to another state and stayed overnight in a hotel just so they could introduce me to Jungle Jim’s, the world’s most amazing international grocery store. And steak-on-a- rock? Have I eaten more steak with them than their children have? Why yes, I have, thank you very much!
Missionary care. David and Erin are, quite simply, the best minds in holistic missionary care that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. They led our missions committee to support our 20 missionaries so well through communication, visits, and furlough care. One missionary family told me, “We don’t talk with our colleagues about how our church cares for us. They don’t understand what it is like to be so well loved.”
During the time I served with them, missionary candidates were mentored at their table. David often traveled with them on international trips to meet potential colleagues, or back to Candidate school to walk with them through the choice of a mission agency. New missionaries were sent off with a dozen manila envelopes, lovingly assembled with CD’s, books, cards, and pictures by friends from church–one envelope for each month of their first year on the field.
Missionaries were counseled weekly, prayed for on Sunday mornings, and visited biannually by an elder or pastor from the church. Cards were made, written, and sent by church members for birthdays and anniversaries. Furloughing missionaries stepped off the plane to a Welcome party, and walked with wonder into their furlough home to see their own family pictures hanging on the wall. The fridge was full, a car was gassed up, and a jar of gift cards for new clothes stood on the counter. David and Erin didn’t do all the work, but they dreamed it and inspired others to work with them to make it so. That’s love–intentional, careful, thoughtful love.
Church. David and Erin love the church. It hasn’t always been easy, but they have demonstrated over the years an unwillingness to criticize other leaders–even when it would have been justified. They faithfully loved to their own harm at times, and challenged me to do likewise. In a Southern California church environment surrounded by seminary professors and ministerial professionals, David and Erin were faithful to love the people in the church–all of them–and they pointed each of us to find our identity and satisfaction in Jesus alone.
The Lord has used you to shape me, David and Erin! I am so thankful for your patience, perseverance, and faithfulness to love God and love people–especially me–so well. I love you! Happy Anniversary! May the Lord give you many, many happy years to come as you serve Him together.