As I looked into my father-in-law’s eyes, I could see he was tired. Ninety-six years of life had taken their toll, yet his eyes still had that special glint. He appeared almost mischievous, but we both knew the bounce in his step was only a memory now. His quick, dry humor had slowed to a smile and an occasional word.
It was not surprising that he said little in his last days, for he seldom had spoken much. He had always been a quiet man, speaking only when necessary to clarify a point or complete a project. Nor was he one to communicate his faith with words. I think he often questioned why his son-in-law would choose a profession that required standing in front of a congregation of self-appointed critics. Yet he fully understood that preachers were important to his life and the lives of his fellow church members. He just could not fathom why a person would choose such a profession.
In spite of his quiet nature, those who knew him never questioned his faith or his commitment to serving Christ. His passion in life was to serve God by serving others. He not only understood that faith without works is dead, he lived those works every day.
I think Louie captured the heart of what it means to be Reformed. He might not take time to discuss his world-and-life view, but he lived it. He took the words of nearly a century of sermons and put them into practice each day without complaint or contradiction. From my perspective, I would have included him among the faithful in Hebrews 11.
Lest you misunderstand, Louie’s life was not without pain and disappointment. He survived two spouses, a son, and a granddaughter. He also witnessed great cultural shifts: he was born when automobiles were a rich man’s novelty and was buried in a world of wireless communication and space exploration. He weathered nearly a century of change and progress in the Christian Reformed Church and, in the end, followed the leadership of his congregation out of his beloved denomination. I still recall him explaining that his local church was his home and that was where he needed to remain.
In many ways, he was a microcosm of the church he loved—a reflection of what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ.
As executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, I have the privilege of seeing the church in action. We are a church of doers. We are seen and respected not only for our ability to articulate and defend our biblical theology, but we are seen and respected for the way in which we live that faith. Whether in disaster response, preaching and teaching, radio broadcasts, community development, or preparing a meal, the Christian Reformed Church is seen as a hands-on place of ministry.
Often, I am amazed at the stories of how the CRC impacts a fallen and broken world by doing God’s work. Stories from the lips of a peasant farmer in the mountains of Nicaragua blend with the stories of homeowners in New Orleans. Reflections of a pastor in Nigeria mix with the words of a church planter in California. These stories are our story. They tell of a church that cares about people and their lives—now and in eternity.
As you see the pictures and read the stories in this month’s Banner, I hope you take joy in what God is doing around the world through the quiet efforts of the CRC. Often I find myself being critical that we do not do enough and do not do it fast enough. We could do so much more. Then I remember that we are simply called to do God’s work, to love and serve God as best we can, and to be salt and light in a decaying and dark world.
As I, along with my family, laid Louie to rest, we found great comfort in his life and his testimony. He was not his own but he belonged, body and soul, in life and in death, to his faithful Savior Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you and I can and do share that testimony of Jesus and his love.
Lewis Elders, the father-in-law of Jerry Dykstra, died Aug. 11 at the age of 96.