post date: February 24, 2010
The word arrived via email from a friend that Don Gerig died last night. I felt glad and sad when I heard the news, glad for Don and sad for the rest of us. Not quite a year ago Don started a blog called Gerig’s Musings detailing his journey through brain cancer treatment. If you read the entries, you get a good sense of how a Christian faces his own death. Don wrote with characteristic verve, honestly facing his own medical trials, realistic about the future, thinking out loud about his own faith journey, and as the months wore on, his thoughts turned more and more to heaven. Now that the battle is over and the victory won, I am glad he left this record behind as a legacy for the rest of us.John Wesley once remarked of the early Methodists, “Our people die well.” That sentiment sounds strange to our ears, but several hundred years ago pastors often spoke and wrote about the art of dying well. Of course that is not always possible. Sometimes death comes with shattering speed, and we have no time to prepare ourselves. But God gave Don a year, and he did not waste any of it.
I mention this because Don was my immediate predecessor as Senior Pastor at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL. He served with great distinction from 1976-1986 and will always be remembered for his leadership following the devastating fire in 1977 that destroyed the church buildings on Madison Street and the subsequent move to the current location on Lake Street. When I came to the church, I heard about the “Prove Me” campaign in which the congregation, in a manner that seemed miraculous, paid off the second mortgage on the church. Don led the way on that project too.
After leaving Calvary he became the president of Fort Wayne Bible College and then pastor of a church in Michigan. Still later he consulted on a project to bring theological training to the nations of Asia.
Throughout all my years in Oak Park, he was a tremendous encouragement to me. Several times he preached at the church and made a continuing impact on the congregation. After I left in 2005, he wrote me several very kind notes.
He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, a beloved pastor and a great spiritual leader. He will be missed by all who knew him. And we remember him always with great joy. He lived and died full of faith in the Lord. Thanks, Don, for all that you did for so many people, for so long, with so much grace. We look forward to seeing you in that great day when Jesus comes again.
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