July 30, 2007

Nostalgic in Denver
by Pastor George Van Alstine

As I write this, I’m in the Denver International Airport waiting for my flight back to Los Angeles. I traveled here last night to take part in the memorial service for Art Everett, who died suddenly last week.

Dot and her children put on a wonderful program that displayed the many facets of Art’s life and ministry. People who gathered included members of churches he pastored 30 to 40 years ago and a sizable group from Native American ministries he helped establish.

The Everett’s children and grandchildren shared unique, inspiring memories of Art. A grandson and I competed in wearing Mickey Mouse ties in his honor. Just about everyone who spoke mentioned his trademark corny jokes.

Dot has a close circle of friends in the Colorado Springs area. It was clear to me that the Lord intends to use her in some creative new way in the years ahead.

I was delighted to discover that the family who gave me a place to sleep last night live about ten minutes from Dave and Dorothy Olson. This morning I visited with them for about an hour, along with son Steve, his wife LengLeng and Steve’s daughter Davida. After Steve left for work, the rest of us shared great ABC memories, especially about Dorothy’s work with the “kidsâ€? at ABC—Vena, Stella and Leon Barinaga, Laura Van Alstine, Kevin, Lisa and Michael Brittenum, Phyllis Blackwood, Tati Sumantri, and Jenny Paulson. These “kidsâ€? now have about twenty children between them. Our prayer time together brought some tears.

My mind drifted back to a time in the late 1970s when some of the stable pillars of ABC had died or moved away. Young leaders were coming up, but I felt the loss of experienced “old-timers.â€? Then, one Sunday Dave and Dorothy showed up—a solid answer to our prayers.

When the Olsons moved from the area a decade later, I felt that same sense of loss of experienced leadership. Lo and behold, shortly after this, Art and Dot Everett came to ABC and filled that role. The Olsons were our “old prosâ€? of the 80’s, the Everetts of the 90’s. Of course, there were other seasoned Christians who have also been important in the mix, like the DeVaughns, Jody Van Loon, Dan Donovan and the Larsons. But the two “Dorothy-Plusâ€? families symbolize for me how the Lord has provided this need.

As I mused on all this, a surprising reality came over me. In addition to their experience in Christian service, these two couples also brought another important quality—an openness to change. In fact, they were actually change agents as ABC moved into new territory—becoming a racially-integrated congregation, pioneering in the ordination of women, moving into a holistic worship and music style that ministers to both young and old.

In some churches the more mature members may become a drag on growth and outreach because they insist on maintaining traditions against what they see as compromise and a lowering of standards. ABC has been blessed by having in its midst older members who are still daring and adventurous.

These are my airport thoughts.