They Called Him Grandpa Dave

Do we really have to learn new languages and cross oceans in order to “go”? (In the Matthew 28:18-20 sense.) The story of a recently-departed friend answers that question.

“We… have to repudiate the mystical doctrine of salt water; that is, the idea that traveling to foreign lands is the sine qua non for any kind of missionary endeavor and the final test and criterion of what is truly missionary.”
— David Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission

My friend Dave’s church became our first official supporting church in 2003. Whenever I’d attend their annual “Missions Emphasis Sunday”, I’d see him, standing near the serving line at the opening banquet, smiling pleasantly despite his bent and painful-looking posture. We shared common interests in theology and apologetics, and I encouraged him to become an Online Missionary. After he did, he eventually took over the leadership of the Difficult Theological Questions community from me, adding specialty response groups for Depression and Spiritual Warfare, helping me with training and leadership for hundreds of Online Missionaries. When he learned our monthly support was low, Dave sponsored a matching gift for new partners and increases, permanently increasing his personal support for us sevenfold.

Last month I noticed he’d helped over 20,000 people. His map for tracking the places he had disciples was so detailed I joked with friends during my visit to his church that it’d be easier to tell them where he didn’t have disciples. (Greenland, for instance. No disciples in Greenland.) I looked at what they’d said when he informed them he’d soon be seeing Jesus. They called him “Grandpa”, “Dad” or “Uncle Dave.” One had responded, “I cannot help but cry and cry. I pray to God to take care of you. I will always love you and be in thanks for your great gifts to me. I hold you deeply in my heart, my precious friend.”

Dave’s Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia meant he was never healthy enough for back surgery. Experimental medicines kept his cancer at bay until they could no longer do so. He was constantly fighting lung or ear infections and couldn’t fly for health reasons. He couldn’t even walk very far.

It used to be that “going” had to mean door-to-door. I was saved at a little church with a big vision for missions. Over the back door hung a large banner which quoted Luke 14:23: “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”

Dave wasn’t physically capable of going out into “the highways and hedges.” But, in the last nine years of his life, he leveraged his time and the “information superhighway” to bring something compelling to seekers literally around the world. Today, even those with too many physical limitations to get out can share the love of Jesus with the world.

Dave had always wanted to hang in there as long as he could and meet Jesus in the air. The passing of his beloved wife Beverly last year had softened that. When he passed away recently, it was the answer to his fervent prayer: “I have asked the Lord to let me go where she is.”

A friend of Billy Graham’s reported the famous evangelist’s feelings toward the end of his life, and they’re strikingly similar to Dave’s. “I think he was lonely. I think he missed his wife… and he talked a lot about how he couldn’t wait to die to be with her and God in heaven.”

Billy Graham’s passing left a profound impact on almost everyone I know. Most speak of his humility and integrity. He loved others enough to live humbly to ensure no one rejected his message for non-essential reasons.

I’d name love as the reason Dave spent his last nine years investing so much of himself in our ministry as well. It’s clear his disciples felt loved. How much do we have to love in order to set aside a few distractions and get involved in the Great Commission? We’re living in an age with an increasing array of opportunities like Global Media Outreach’s to multiply the effect of our witness to the world. The love Dave and Billy Graham shared for the lost is compelling. (2 Corinthians 5:14) We’re so grateful to God for Dave’s incalculable impact on us. Because of him, and you, we’re in an incredibly strategic position to mobilize faithful, willing workers for the harvest like Dave. Thank you so much for your faithful gifts and prayers which make our work possible!

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