“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7
I am not the first, nor will I be the last to attempt to honor Dale with words of remembrance and tribute. Dale was truly a pioneer in children’s ministry. He laid foundations that many would build upon, even for years yet to come.
After all the tributes and blog entries and social media posts are written and read, they won’t come close to fully describing the impact Dale had on his singular mission of reaching the lost through creative ministry. We’ll have to wait until we join him in glory to see the complete picture of the countless ways God used this humble man.
I do not use the word humble lightly. While we all strive to keep a godly and sober perspective on any ‘success’ God may grant us and to hold with open hands any opportunities given us or sphere of influence we are entrusted with, Dale never sought success or influence. He simply followed his calling to creatively reach the lost.
And that is precisely why I held him in so high regard.
In an era where so many are concerned with branding or measuring success by ‘likes, followers or subscribers,’ Dale had no interest in such things. Of course, he knew their value in running a business, but he had no interest in making a name for himself personally. While he was the original source of so much in the world of children’s ministry, he was content, even happier, working quietly behind the scenes. Despite the many who know and are now sharing about his impact, there are so many more who are building upon his legacy and don’t even know his name or the stepping stones he laid out for them far in advance. And I know that is Dale’s preference. He truly lived out John 3:30,
“He must become greater;
I must become less.“
Many know of his role in creating One Way Street, (now Creative Ministry Solutions, a name I had casually suggested to him before he surprised me by using it!) the Children’s Pastors Conference, and Ministry Resources International. The latter, MRI, where I served on the board of directors, was when I got to know Dale more than our run-ins at conferences over the years. I got to observe his generous heart more closely.
We met monthly to consider ministry needs that were submitted from all over the globe and I watched as Dale’s desire was to help in any way we could. We shipped puppets, scripts, music, magic tricks, Gospel presentations and even those fun stacking cups all over the world. MRI was not a foundation endowed with a large fund that gave aid off of earned interest, it had a small checking account that we filled through offerings at Puppet Festivals and through donations from people who shared Dale’s passion to equip the least with the tools we often take for granted here in America. The balance in our bank account was never high, but it always seemed to have just what we needed to give to those we determined were wise choices to support.
But Dale didn’t just send funds or resources. Often, he would go himself with no regard for whether it was a “safe” country for Americans to travel to. If we could raise the money, he would just go. I have a sneaking suspicion he was likely one of our primary donors.
In an age when there are few true explorers any more, I often admired his boldness and courage to leave the comfort and security here in America and to travel wherever the Lord would lead him, taking puppets and evangelistic resources with him.
I am deeply sad to say goodbye to my friend, Dale. But I am so happy that I got to know him and even more so, that he was a genuine role model to me in a time when they are rare. Dale lived a life that was the embodiment of one of my life verses.
One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
Dale truly lived generously and proved you can never out-give God, for his resources are limitless! It is my heart felt desire that I might follow his example as I seek to invest in others until my time is up as well.
Then Dale and I can put on a puppet show for the angels!