Dan and I, March 4th, 2008
Today I got one of those calls none of us wants to get. When I saw “Dan Rase” on my phone it didn’t matter that I was about to go out the door with my little boy for a father-son evening, this was a good friend calling – even if it had to be short and offer to call back, I was so glad he was calling. Instead it was his wife, Joyce. As soon as I heard her voice I knew something was wrong, but I was not prepared for her to tell me that Dan had gone to meet the Lord early this morning due to a heart attack while he slept.
I had just seen Dan at the Kidology Gathering at CPC in San Diego. Afterward, even though it was nearly 11pm, we stood outside enjoying the cool evening California weather and talked until after midnight. We talked about life, our marriages, our ministries, our failures, our disappointments, our hopes and dreams… and our adopted children. It was one of those conversations that marks you and changes you. I was sick that whole week and running pretty weak, but knew that God had me there that week for that very conversation with Dan. We connected at a deep level as our friendship had grown over the years. His wife told me she had to call me today and let me know that Dan had passed away, but that something had happened out there at CPC and that he had come back somehow new and different. And that my friendship meant a lot to him. It was mutual. And I am going to miss him so much. He just celebrated his 43rd birthday last Thursday.
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I met Dan several years ago at a Kid U in Columbus, Ohio. He was the children’s pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Ohio. Later, his wife and daughter came to a Kidology seminar in Crystal Lake, IL. That was when I really got to know them. When I heard the miracle story of how Dan and Joyce got their little girl – it was a turning point in Sara and my life in our journey toward adoption. They visited our church the Sunday after the conference and we went out to my favorite restaurant for lunch to get to know each other better.
Here we are at church with Dan, Joyce and McKayla, though they called her Kaylee.
Kaylee wants my Portillo’s hat!
She got my hat!
It looked better on her anyway. (See her proud dad behind her)
When I tell our story of how we ended up adopting, I have often began with the day I met Dan and Joyce and little Kaylee. It was a turning point for me. When adoption finally didn’t feel like a “Plan B” after not having any children of my own, and instead I began to pray that if God wanted us to adopt, that he might drop a child into our life like He did for Dan and Joyce. Five months later, that’s exactly what God did.
My friendship with Dan continued to grow. We crossed paths again at the Kid U in Columbus in 2006 where he and Joyce got to meet Luke. (We still have the little toy they brought him as a gift.) In 2007 Dan served on the Kidology CP Team and through the application process for that I got know him even better.
When asked how he came to know Christ, Dan wrote:
I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home where both of my parents not only professed faith in Christ but lived it out in their daily lives. In December of 1973, my home church was conducting a Revival Meeting with Evangelist Ron Comfort. As he spoke during the Thursday evening service the Lord began to work in my life and for the first time I realized that my godly heritage was not enough, that I was lost and needed to be saved. I did not do anything about it that evening. However the Lord continued to convict me of my need, and that next day, at the age of eight, I curled up behind a chair in my grandma’s house and asked Christ to save me.
While a youth pastor in title, Dan explained his journey into children’s ministry:
When I came to Temple my job description stated that my primary responsibility was to head up the youth ministry and my secondary responsibility would be to “oversee and administer” age three through college. This worked fairly well for a couple of years until I found myself in a predicament, an overseer with no one to oversee. After endless efforts to recruit volunteers and many hours of prayer it seemed that God was leading me to take an active role in our children’s ministry. So I entered into the world of children’s ministry. I can’t say the transition was smooth. There were a lot of doubts and fears I had to overcome. For some reason speaking to younger kids intimidated me. I was very comfortable speaking to teens and adults, but I was afraid I could not put the truths of God’s Word on their level. I later found out that I was selling them short when it came to their ability to grasp spiritual truths. It is hard to believe, but this fall was the beginning of my sixth year of active involvement in children’s ministry. As they say time flies when you’re having fun. I use to say that youth ministry was my real passion, but that has really changed in the last several years. I love children’s ministry, and have found it to be a place where my creativity can really flourish. I continue to head our student ministry and still enjoy it, but the scales of my passion continue to tip more and more to the side of children’s ministry.
Dan was such a thoughtful man. He had that gentle and quiet spirit that I seem to always be working on. He was humble and focused on encouraging others. As a follower of my blog, he was aware of some of the trials I’ve been through and the lessons I’ve been learning in life and occasionally write about and so he brought a book to CPC to give me that had meant a lot to him. The book is WHAT MATTERS MOST (When NO is better than YES) by Doug Fields. One of the joys of large conferences is that I get to meet a lot of Kidology members or people who have appreciated my ministry, but no one has ever brought me a book before. I was taken aback by the simple thoughtful gesture to invest in me as a friend.
Dan, I am sure going to miss you. I feel like I was just at the beginning of a life-long friendship – but at least I’ll have all of eternity to make up the missed time here, because I’m not really ready to say good bye, but I thank you for being a friend to me. I needed it. Luke thanks you too for helping prepare his daddy to be ready the day the phone rang and he needed a home.
I still went on my daddy-son evening tonight. Mom had plans with a friend, so I took Luke out for some fun running around Best Buy and then we headed over to the nearest fast food place for dinner. We stopped at the door. And my heart went out to Kaylee who doesn’t have her daddy and won’t get those daddy-daughter nights. We turned and walked over to Appleby’s instead and I treated Luke the best I could and cherished every moment. He could see that I was sad and the occasional tears, even though I kept my tone and words light and positive for him. Yet he sensed something was wrong, and kept hugging me and kissing me throughout the meal. (He’d been watching with his coat on when I took the phone call and patiently waited through that phone call and the tearful explanation to Sara.)
Early today I was pretty stressed about a lot of “to do’s” that I am behind on. After Joyce called, it all evaporated. Oh, sure, I still have to do them… but they only need doing because I’m here to do them. Dan’s life will be the reminder to me to focus on WHAT MATTERS MOST because when our time on earth is over, it is all that we truly will leave behind.
Please pray for Joyce and Kaylee and for the kids at Temple Baptist Church Wednesday is the big Easter Extravaganza that Dan has been planning. May the Lord make Easter extra special as they realize that the same Jesus who rose from the dead has also raised Pastor Dan and together they are celebrating Easter where the Son never sets.