The world lost a great and Godly man in the middle of the night. Heaven gained a whole lot of laughter and some really great stories.
Pastor David Terhune was our boss in Indiana for four years, but he was more than just a boss. He was a mentor, a friend, a pastor, a hero, a father figure. I learned and laughed more in those four years than at any other time in my life.
Being on staff with Pastor Dave was an adventure, to say the least. Creativity and energy were encouraged, and even demanded. Pastor Dave led the charge well. Creating our own outrageously fun VBS programs on a nearly zero budget, holding block parties for a low-income apartment complex, even doing a Survivor parody on Sunday morning, the possibilities and opportunities were endless. Pastor Dave wanted to ensure that we laughed every day, so he had us all take staff breaks together. But to be honest, it wasn’t just break time, it was Pastor Dave’s story time! He was a phenomenal story-teller and we usually laughed ourselves to tears before heading back to our offices.
Ken and I were fortunate enough when we lived in Marion to be “adopted” by Pastor Dave as well. Ken and I were not just employees, but like family when he opened his home to us for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We thought it might feel a bit strange to sit at another family’s table, but it wasn’t. The same laughter rang through the house and we felt right at home.
One of my favorite Pastor Dave crazy plans was for our Christmas Eve service. At our 11:00 p.m. service, he wanted to have a reverse offering. Offering plates were filled with cash, and passed around the congregation. If you had money that the Lord was telling you to give, you put more money in the plate. If you needed money, you could take what you needed.
As an extremely reasonable and cautious staff, we would counter. “What if someone takes the whole plate of money? What if we become known as the church that just hands out cash on Christmas Eve? We might get all kinds of people here who aren’t here for the service, but just for the money.”
“Then we’ll be known as the church that welcomes people who are just here for the money. But in the mean time, they’ll get a touch of God’s love.” It was God’s money, not ours.
And sure enough, we always had overflowing offering plates by the end of the night, which was set aside for the benevolence fund. We also had people who left in tears because they could get their kids Christmas gifts. One man had stopped to ask for help with gas money so he could get home for Christmas and he was shocked to be handed an offering plate and told to take what he needed! A nurse desperately needed a new pair of shoes for work. She grabbed a handful of cash quickly from the plate as it passed by. Later, when she counted it out, she realized it was the exact amount of the shoes she needed. The stories went on and on.
He had the gift of evangelism like I’ve never seen in anyone else. Pastor Dave led people to Christ at a gas station while dressed as a shepherd on the way home from the Christmas production. He refurbished bicycles for the homeless. He led our church out of a million dollars of debt in less than 4 years. He dressed up like a homeless man and sat outside our church panhandling. He collected shoes for children Iraq. He dumpster dived behind Dollar General to get VBS supplies. He welcomed gang members from Ken’s basketball ministry to our church picnics. He planted a church in the midst of a terminal illness. He preached each week until he could no longer stand. Then in the last few weeks of his life, he preached from a chair. He loved the Lord and his neighbor with his whole heart.
And I loved Pastor Dave with my whole heart too.
Pastor Dave is running up and down the streets in heaven with a new body today. And a crowd is gathering around him, waiting to tell him thank you for leading them to Christ, and ready to laugh at some really great stories.