Pastor Ken is our church administrator. He’s my boss, aka my immediate supervisor. And he’s a hero.
Now, let me start off by saying that the guy absolutely hates it when I call him “boss,” and that “hero” word would probably put him over the edge. But let me explain him to you. He stands six foot something–six foot three, six foot four maybe. Suffice it to say the guy is tall. He looks like the kind of person you would want next to you if you were walking down a dark alley someplace. But inside that tall and dark man, God has put a truly gentle, truly compassionate spirit. It kind of takes you by surprise. Should some gangster try to attack him in that alley, he would probably ask his attacker if he has a warm place to sleep at night and take him home to his own house. Then he would talk to him and pray for him and try to help him come to faith. Meanwhile, he would find him a job, let him borrow his car, and give him gas money until the guy got on his feet. He would find him help so he could overcome his bad habits and addictions, or his anger and resentment. He would stand in his corner in court, visit him in prison, or drive him across the state line to rehab. And from the moment he met that man in the alley and took him home, he would refer to the man as “his son.” And he would mean it. And that makes him a hero.
I remember the first time I really talked to Pastor Ken. I was waiting on tables at Pizza Hut and he came into the place with four young children. Four very energetic children. I remember thinking he looked like a tall tree with four monkeys hanging off the branches when he walked in the door that day. He was watching the children so their parents, missionaries, could go away together And fearlessly, he decided to take them all out to dinner. I waited on his table, and I admired his valiant efforts to keep them all still and seated. The kids were talking to him a mile a minute and jumping up and down and he didn’t lose his temper for a second, not one second. He just enjoyed them as children. He always has a moment for the kids at our church. Always with a high five or kind word for my boys and everyone else’s. And that makes him a hero.
Pastor Ken lost his wife several years ago. I didn’t know her, but he’s told me stories about her, and clearly clearly clearly loved her with all his being. He’s not ashamed to tell you he misses her. But here’s the thing, he hasn’t rolled up in a ball and withered away like I probably would if I stood in his shoes. He hasn’t become angry or bitter. He hasn’t given up on believing in prayer or miracles or kindness or compassion. Instead, he has given his life in service of our church and community. If you need something, he’s always right there. If you’re hurt or sick or lost or discouraged, he’ll be right there. You can count on him. And in the meantime, he’s balancing the budget, running the office, watching the security monitors, and locking up the building because he’s the last one out–again. And if you do catch him and tell him, “Great job, Ken!” he’ll respond the same way again and again. “It takes a team.” he’ll say to you. He’s just not interested in that kind of attention. He serves and serves, but never presumes he’s doing more than anybody else. He’s lived through tremendous grief and has come out with more to give on the other side. And that makes him a hero.
For me, Pastor Ken has been my champion, but he probably doesn’t know that. He has honored me as a leader and has allowed me the space to actually be me if you get my drift. He can listen to me sound off in my hand waving, highly opinionated, Italian way and still hear the respect in my voice behind it. He’s allowed me the freedom to run with my big, grandiose ideas and see them come to fruition. He has laughed at my crazy impulses and stunts, but could always hear the heart for children and families behind them and would let me “go for it.” He’s honored my desire to be the best mom I can be to my boys and allowed me the license to get my job done in the way that best fits my family. He respects my wonderful husband as he watches him love me and ours and has applauded our efforts to serve as a team. He encourages my children as they have learned to serve alongside us. Wow, he even let me buy a set of hot pink lawn flamingos. How many of your bosses would let you do that? So as we trek off to Nebraska, I know I will miss him tremendously. I will miss watching him work to build and rebuild lives, I will miss seeing him moved with compassion to love the truly unlovable, and I will miss “shocking” him with my non-Mennonite, Italian ways. But mostly I will miss serving the families at Petra with him and learning from his selfless example. I can only honor him by going and doing the same, wherever I am.
So yes, Pastor Ken is a hero, but like I said, he probably won’t be too thrilled with me for saying so. I guess I’ll just tell him that it’s the final outburst from his crazy, Italian friend. He should be used to it by now.