My heart is sore. I’ve stopped a million times this week to shed tears and reflect on the life of an absolute spiritual giant, the Martin Luther of our times. This week we lost Ed. I lost a spiritual mentor, a dear friend and absolute example of a man whose love for God was evidenced by his love for people.
I remember his ready smile, his quirky Americanised-Kiwi sense of humour, his readiness to take everything to God in prayer and his heart for praying for people. He was the king of delegating. He had a knack for being utterly direct in the most empathetic of ways – his truth didn’t hurt. One of his great abilities was to dream a dream and slowly, methodically, add flesh to the bones; and somehow…somehow as his dream fleshed out it got deeper and fuller and made perfect sense. He loved the term ‘patient-urgency’* – a true oxymoron, completely understood by every Christian that heeds God’s call to labour in the harvest.
He was giddy about Betty, the love of his life. When he was around her he had a sense of wonder about him, almost as if he couldn’t get over the fact that someone as breathtakingly awesome as her would love a man like him. Somehow he seemed younger, more carefree, happier and his eyes sparkled with the joy of their shared love! Theirs was a love that belied the reality of their second chance love story and conjured for the onlooker wistful images of childhood sweethearts, high school proms and first love. They fit, like two halves of a whole, so perfectly intertwined and yet so independent within their distinctive, individual selves. She was his eternal flame.
Here’s what I will remember most about Ed.
Ed had just one default setting. Prayer. One of his favourite quotes was by John Bunyan.
You can do more than pray after you have prayed. But you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed – John Bunyan
Close to 10 years ago my journey was that of a single mum, rediscovering God’s presence, His saving grace and His purpose for me. When most “married couple people” treat single mums with love, appreciation, empathy and a safe distance, I was blessed to have had three “married couple people” who let me in to their hearts, lives and homes. Ed and Betty were one of my people. (Side note: My heart aches with the realization that I’ve now lost one half of each of these three “married couple people” to cancer.)
I remember vividly, sitting in their lounge, their walls lined with bookshelves full of books, sharing my journey, hearing theirs and feeling this tangible sense of reassurance that God would never not have a plan for my life. They prayed with me that day and I with them. Ed and I were work colleagues. He would check in with me often to see how I was going and he would always say “I know you wont mind but I am letting you know I will share this with Betty and we will keep this in prayer for you”. And pray they did. Their joy when I finally found my second chance warmed my heart.
Ed never passed up the opportunity to point people to the greatness of God.
Ed was a pray’er. Everytime he prayed he would never fail to say “God, you are large and in-charge!” Early in my journey of rediscovering my relationship with God, I was very intent and determined to live the Christian life. Infact, I was anxious and pedantic about it. After a particularly tough week of feeling like a total and utter failure at being a good God-loving Christian, I remember asking Ed, “Ed how can I stay on track and do and be everything God wants me to do and be? I feel like no matter how hard I try, I fail all the time”. Ed with a knowing smile in his eyes answered me back “By keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus and not your failings. And even when you do great, it still is only possible because you’ve kept your eyes fixed on Jesus”.
Ed’s walk with God was anchored in Bible-based faith not feelings.
Ed had a way of dropping nuggets of golden wisdom when you least expected it. While sitting around the table at a team meeting a few years ago, we were having a particularly animated discussion about how we felt about a certain topic. Our opinions and thoughts were a mixture strong personal feelings and a somewhat loosely, Bible-based theology. Ed listened to our conversation with a smile, nodding every now and again and then he dropped this nugget; “It’s not what you feel, but what you know and believe”. Each time I find myself reacting to something or someone I find myself asking the question – what do I know and believe about this?
When I think of spiritual giants I associate them with heroes of our faith. Some of them being Martin Luther, James White and Ellen White. Some of my modern day faith-giants are George Knight, Ty Gibson, Christie Oberg, Jon Paulien, Lowell C. Cooper, Terry Swensen, Eddie Tupa’i and our Ed. These are people who I’ve found (through reading their books and knowing some of them personally), to have a God-given, unique ability to speak God’s truth with kindness, honesty and love.
People often say that the taller the giants are, the harder they fall. This is true of many giants as they sometimes fall in life and yet others in death. In my mind’s eye as I reflect on the loss of a faith-giant like Ed – I imagine him, being gently laid to rest, a million candle flames of faith and hope being lit around him, in the hearts of those his life touched, glimmering and glowing in the darkness; his love for his God and all God’s people continuing to live on like a dense scattering of pure white daisies in a vast, never-ending field, sown there by the Holy Spirit. Some giants never fall….. they rest gently, soundly while their life’s work continues to live on in impacting ways. They live on in the hearts of the ones they’ve discipled and loved.
Rest in Jesus Ed. Thank you for touching my life in a deeply impacting way. I want to be able to love God and all God’s people like you did. I want to be more and more like Jesus everyday, like you were. I can’t wait to worship God with you and see the joy on your face as you behold Him when we get to heaven. Weeping endures for but a night….joy comes in the morning.
*The term “patient-urgency” was coined by Pr Eddie Tupa’i, lead pastor of North New Zealand Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and has become an integral part of how we live and do ministry in the context of being Healthy Adventist Communities (HAC). Ed was the first Senior Pastor for HAC and was instrumental in resourcing, developing and implementing this vision. In his autobiography Inside Passage, Ed shares that his journey with the North New Zealand Conference were the best years of his ministry.