Please join us as we launch our new blog, Stories From the King’s Agenda, a welcoming place to go to see God’s Hand at work in and around our lives.
This inaugural blog entry is dedicated to pastors and staff workers everywhere who serve Christ from their hearts (and heads). We recently attended the retirement celebration of our former pastors, Mark and Jeanne Hopper, of Diamond Bar Evangelical Free Church. Along with a few others (over 400), we were able to bless them with our prayers and our presence. There were lots of “Mark and Jeanne” stories shared around tables that night. I’m sharing mine with all of you in the hope that you will share your loving stories about your pastors and staff members.
Oh, and while you’re at it – today’s my birthday. Would you consider (in lieu of gifts and money!!!) subscribing to the blog? John and I plan to create something for our community once a week and you’ll get notified via email if you join the community.
Dear Mark and Jeanne,
There are some things that can’t be told in a card – and I have never been known for lack of words. So, to honor you, I want to tell you a story. You both have been so much more than pastors to our church – you have been friends and you have been comforters, servants and teachers to all of us.
My most cherished story comes from an event in 1997. My mom had cancer and had just gone through an experimental surgery at Loma Linda Hospital. She had been in the hospital for an astounding 14 weeks and was slated to be released the following week. I got a call the Friday afternoon before her hoped for release and they told me, “You need to come and you need to bring your family. Your mom has taken a turn for the worse.” My sister was out of town, so I called my dad and my brother and told them they needed to get to Loma Linda. I did the same, but not before calling the prayer chain at church and asking that “Pastor Mark and Jeanne be called.”
Arriving at the hospital before my dad, I was being presented with a confusing array of decisions … to handle alone. While standing at the nurses desk, one of the nurses answered the phone and then asked, “Does anyone here know a Pastor Mark?” With a sense of relief, I was handed the phone and we talked. You said the elders were praying, everyone was with me in this, and did I need you to come? Being the brave (!!!?) soul that I am, I said I was fine. It was Friday night, traffic was awful and you needed to stay home and pray. We ended the call with a short prayer.
As the evening wore on, I sent my dad and brother home and said I would stay. I remember the waiting room was packed as a young man from Rim of the World High School had been shot in some type of argument. Parents and students alike filled the room. The only place I could find to sit was against the wall on the floor of the hallway. And I felt bereft and alone in the journey. As I sat there praying and waiting, I looked up to see a familiar face walking toward me. It was you, Mark. You said you and Jeanne thought it best that you come.
I recall the feeling of being covered and cared for and even now, so many years later, I find myself weeping as I write this. Through the long night you sat on the floor across from me and we talked about theology and Jesus; and we prayed. In the early morning hours, you asked if I wanted you to stay and I joked about what the congregation would think and suggested I was now ok. You got up, hugged me and headed home. My mom lived through that encounter and had several more months of life.
And I learned what a Pastor’s heart was all about. Thank you for that and for so much more. We miss you both in ways we never could have imagined. And I’m afraid, you will always be our pastor, Mark, though we live over an hour away. Thank you for all of the bedside stories God has given you both; thank you for your obedience and walking beside a hurting congregation; thank you for your vision and insight (even when I disagreed with it); thank you for your gracious forgiveness and reception; thank you for loving the unlovely (of which I am foremost), and thank you for so very much grace poured out on soul after soul through your years of service here.
With much love and gratitude,