One has testified somewhere, saying, "Every pastor needs a Paul." (If acknowledging you heard something - but aren't sure where - worked for the author of Hebrews, it works for me.) For over twenty-five years, thankfully I have had a Paul named Dave. Dave Long has lived out the II Timothy 2:2 "Paul & Timothy" principle of building one's life into another with a good number of men, and again gratefully I am one of them. Though our times together seem now too few and far between, last week I was privileged to see him not once, nor twice, but three times. Each time reminded me of how the Lord has used him in a wonderful way in my life.
Last Wednesday, after Miriam & I enjoyed a dinner with Dave & Jenny, we journeyed to the church. Dave then shared with our congregation pictures, videos, and stories about his time not long ago in the Sudan visiting a mission work. As I sat in astonishment hearing Dave tell of the work of others, seeing dozens of baptisms and idol-burning ceremonies of those set free by Christ, and listening to how the churches there are multiplying and growing faster than I can imagine, I also marveled at how Christ has used Dave so mightily in His kingdom. God has taken this unassuming man to three other continents beyond our own to visit, preach, and encourage missions. As president of our denomination's Global Missions Board, he's been used by the Lord to create greater vision for missions in the church. That evening reminded me of how first coming into his ministry at Lafayette I was quickly drawn into his desires and prayers for church planting. As I experienced again at the meal beforehand, it stems from Dave's shepherd's heart, as his compassion and personal concern for others were again so evident.
Friday night I then spoke at the student ministry called CORPS at Dave's invitation. Being a bearer of the Word, I suppose I was there to bless the twenty-five or so students gathered. Yet being the last meeting of the year, as they shared beforehand about the lessons the Lord had taught them over the year and the experiences in sharing Christ with others, it was I who ended up with the greater blessing, I believe. Dave & Jenny's investment in shepherding, training, counseling, and caring for students was heard in the testimonies and prayers of the young people. My mind was drawn to how the Lord had placed Dave on the edge of Purdue's large "pond" and how faithful he's been to be a fisher of men there. I remembered, when I was just beginning work in Kokomo, withdrawing with Dave on one occasion for personal planning and prayer. At the end of the time, he shared with me the vision of a student and discipleship ministry that is now fruitfully in place. Dave's faithfulness to work with men keeps a constant witness before me to do the same, though I seem to stumble and falter at it where he runs uninhibited. Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used to ask guys, "Where's your man?" It was his way of seeing if they were investing their lives into someone. With Dave, you never have to ask.
Then on the next evening I took my daughter to a wonderful Father & Daughter banquet hosted by the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis. Not only did I want to enjoy this time with Emory, but we both wanted to hear the speakers. Following a fabulous meal, Dave and his daughter Katie shared their story of her incredible journey through the agonizing and debilitating pain caused by severe scoliosis and three major back surgeries. In hearing of the promises they claimed, the lessons they learned, and the presence of Christ they experienced, the Lord ministered to me. My Paul, too, had a thorn in the flesh, and in this case the third time of imploring brought relief to his dear daughter. Yet the same lesson was learned: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness."
Three meetings and thrice-blessed. Dave, for Timothy's sake we need to get together more often.