Monday, December 30, 2013

Finishing Well

I spent over fifteen years attending this church in southern Ontario. I was baptized here as a teenager. Wendy and I spent six years as youth leaders with the incomparable George Mercado. Our daughter Jordan was dedicated to God in this building.
But as always, it's the people that met inside the building that were the difference-makers; the ones who truly made it a "church" and not simply a building with a cross on top.
Scripture encourages us to "Take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you" (Philippians 3:17). And a man named Dennis King is one of the Godly examples I was blessed to have in my life.

Dennis and his wife Ericka exude encouragement, cheerfulness, and an incredibly welcoming gift of hospitality. Even if you simply bumped into them in the church foyer, during the post-service crowd, their faces would light up with warm smiles. Their ability to make people feel included and welcomed made you feel like you'd just been invited into their home, even in the crowded foyer.

I received word just an hour or so ago that Dennis passed away. I knew he had cancer, and I knew it was inoperable. We all knew that 2013 would likely be his last.

Dennis and I had a great time hanging out at my parents' place in May; we were in town for my niece's wedding, and Dennis and Ericka came over for coffee. Dennis' physical body was much frailer than I remembered, but his eyes still had their trademark mischievous twinkle, and his sense of humour was evident as always.

We talked about his cancer. Dennis was quite candid in his comments -- although not in a despairing or self-pitying way -- that he was really glad we were able to spend time together, because it would probably be that last time I would ever see him.

It also gave me a golden opportunity to thank him for his influence in my life as a teenager/young adult. I reminded him of what might have seemed to him (at the time) as "just little things" that he & Erika said and did: their friendliness, their generosity, their steadfast faith no matter what life threw at them, the time Dennis invested in reaching out to a bunch of young teenagers on a weekly basis, and their obvious love and care for a couple of young newlyweds named Rob & Wendy.

Dennis listened very intently, never breaking eye contact (which is just how Dennis listens). Afterwards, he simply and quietly thanked me. You wonder sometimes, he said, whether you've had an impact, whether you've really made a difference. He seemed genuinely touched to hear from me that he had most definitely made an impact. A positive, encouraging, Christ-like impact.

I'm so grateful that I had that opportunity to thank Dennis. Even in the last few months of his life, he continued to be an example. An example of finishing well. I know Dennis has just recently heard: "well done, good and faithful servant".
"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8)."


My best friend since high school, Pat Prowse, gave me permission to re-post his thoughts about Dennis:
There I was: an angry young man, and the last place I wanted to be was Church. Dennis was one of the first people to reach out to me, inviting me to be on the Church softball team. He and Ericka laughed and smiled easily, listened and encouraged me immediately. Youth Leaders, Sunday School Teachers and no one to this day has been a better example to me of Godly character. I had a little sticker on my Bible for years that said, "I'm a Kings Kid!". If I can be half the man Dennis was, I believe I would have finished well.


  1. Rob good on you. The king family always had a way of how are haven't seen you in awhile how are you. Seem pick up right where you left off.

    1. They certainly did! And that's how it felt last May, too. My prayers are with Erika and Corri.

  2. Sorry for your loss but isn't it great to have that chance to thank, share, say a decent good bye? Glad for you. Paul Seburn