Earlier this week, I had message letting me know that an amazing man had left this world. It was just a few lines but it unravelled me because this man was someone I measured others unwittingly against for many years. His name was Larry Dyck.
Larry was the senior pastor at our very first church. Jason was hired by an extraordinary little church on the west side of Kelowna, BC., fresh out of bible college. A church with a lot of white haired parishioners and a few young families had the vision to reach out to the community around them by hiring a youth pastor, despite the fact that there was literally maybe 6 youth in the church. We pulled up to that church in our '69 Volkswagen van, put every one of those kids in it, and spent the next months just experiencing what can really be called the glory days of youth ministry. We had great volunteers, kids coming out of the woodwork from all over the community and a pastor who became one of Jason's biggest fans and supporters even long after we left that job. Larry was the kind of pastor who believed that dings in the church walls and noise in Jason's office meant that Jason was doing a great job. He loved when the kids in the youth group would sit in the front rows on one side of the church and he would dialogue with them throughout his messages, keeping them engaged. He knew their names and remembered their stories, met their families and was always up for some fun. One of my favourite memories of church was a particular Grey Cup weekend where we had gathered for food and to watch the game at someone's house. The game went long and we were supposed to have church at 6 but we all sat poised at the edge of our seats, watching Larry for any indication that he was going to head to the church in the last few minutes that would allow him to begin church on time. He didn't. He sat right till the final whistle and then we all jumped into our vehicles, there was about 20 of us, and we flew down the highway to the church, unlocking doors and turning on lights just as the rest of the church pulled in around us. It just felt like a celebration that we could all watch a football game till the end, cheer all the way to the church and then jump into worship mode. It is things like that, little things, that set Larry apart from other leaders who felt they had to be above real lives to serve others. I just loved him.
Larry and his wife, Marilyn, set the bar incredibly high for other pastors in our lives to measure up to. Really, no one ever could. They became our family. They not only worked alongside us, they really shared their lives with us and taught us to do the same. We had a standing Saturday night date at their house ~ pizza and hockey ~ and were just as welcome in and out of the house as their own kids. We shared meals, movies, hockey games and books. We watched them in their marriage, their parenting, their ministry and their personal lives and we learned. We saw their imperfections and their strengths and loved them all the more. They lived openly and honestly and that is something we were so privileged to be part of.
Larry loved to laugh and it was contagious. He had this funny expression in which his eyes would get big listening to a story, he'd lean way back and then say, "No" to whatever you were telling him...and then it would come...the laugh, accompanied by a clap of his hands. I can hear it still. He was a denim shirt kinda guy, ran lots, worked hard...farm roots that ran deep, friendly through and through with that sense of hospitality that is inbred in prairie folks to just talk to anyone and share a story. He was straightforward and would ask those kind of questions that would lead you to realize that maybe the path you were on had deviated from the one you should be following, without shaming or judging, gently beckoning you back.
Our lives are so much richer for the time we had with Pastor Larry. I believe that heaven exists and that he's been welcomed home to the place that has been readied for him. I'm not sure we could ever have felt ready to let him go but I'm thankful that we were so loved by Larry and Marilyn, while he was here on earth. Our prayers are with Marilyn, Jeff, Jessica and Janine and the kids as they say goodbye to Larry tomorrow.