A few weeks ago, I picked up one of our missionary families at the airport for our “Missionary Summit.” On the road we talked about life and ministry and spent time getting to know one another better. But of all of the things that we talked about, one thing really stuck out in my mind that I will never forget.
As the conversation shifted to the plans for the weekend, he spoke highly of our Summit planning committee – amazed at how organized everyone was, and especially how it seemed that the elders entrusted the deacons and others with the responsibility of planning, logistics, etc. He remarked that it was impressive and amazing seeing a church functioning the way that God desires.
He commented on the kindness of Landon, Aaron, Alex, and others who were so accommodating when there were flight issues. As you can imagine, travelling with twin toddlers is difficult – but on top of that, the airline was only allowing them to bring one lap child! Several hours later, they were finally able to get their whole family boarded and headed for Katy.
Then out of nowhere, he said, “and, man, who is L.D. [Cunningham]? He’s amazing!”
I was caught off guard because I was aware of who was responsible for the planning of the Summit – and L.D. wasn’t involved. In fact, if you’re new to Katy and haven’t gone searching in the recesses of the bulletin, you may not even know who L.D. is. You’ll find his name, not in the “worship leaders” section, but under the list of shut-ins.
Our missionary, Nate, went on to say that for months leading up to the Summit (and maybe even before the idea of the Summit was conceived), L.D. had been sending regular notes and messages of encouragement to him! Nate later learned that Kolton (another of our missionaries) was receiving them, as well. Speaking to each other, they both relished in what L.D. had been doing. Nate commented about how it truly was making an impact on his ministry knowing that 1,100 miles away, someone he’d never met was continually thinking about him and praying for his efforts in a small town in South Dakota.
I suspect that Nate and Kolton weren’t the only ones receiving messages of encouragement, either. In fact, I know this to be the case because this preacher can attest to the fact that L.D. regularly sends out notes of encouragement. I’ve often been the recipient of those after sermons and classes. Though L.D. cannot be here with us due to health problems, he’s always watching online, and is often the first one to (digitally) pat me on the back. He’s a Barnabas if I’ve ever known one (Acts 4:36).
I remembered hearing that before his illness caused him to be homebound, he spent time partnering with Bill Smithson to lead Bible studies. But it wasn’t until preparing to write this article that I learned more. For several years, L.D. and Bill would meet every Tuesday night and visit some of the visitors that had come to worship that week. Those visits later lead to studies and baptisms in the Cook and Tumlinson families here at Katy. At one point, L.D. was leading a study in a home in which 11 people came to participate!
Most of our time here has been during the pandemic, and because of that I’ve only been able to visit in person with L.D. just a few times. But in those few times it was easy to tell how special a Christian L.D. really is. He could find so many reasons to complain and wallow in self-pity because of his condition. Yet he finds ways to still serve his Lord and encourage others. It shames me to think of how I have failed to reach out to L.D. as often as I should. I’ve let the excuse of the pandemic prevent me from finding a way to encourage him, thinking that visiting him was not really an option. But as is clearly evidenced by all that is L.D. is doing to encourage others digitally – despite his circumstances – that excuse rings pretty hollow.
As he imitates His Lord, Jesus Christ, will you join me in committing to being more like L.D. (1Cor. 11:1)?