25th Jun, 2010

A Tribute to David Owen

In March of 2007 we readied ourselves for the adventure of a lifetime. We were leaving pretty much everything we knew to head to the United Kingdom for a six-month training course for missions. We had long flights in front of us and we were going to a place and culture we had never before been – The King’s Lodge in Nuneaton, England, a small working man’s town in the center of England.

As my wife, Tara, boarded the flight from New Jersey to Birmingham, England, she whispered a quick prayer that she would meet someone who would become a lasting relationship. Of course, as we were travelling with a 3-, 5- and 8- year old, that prayer quickly got lost in the shuffle of situating, settling, and satisfying our three kids. As Tara would now say, she didn’t even really notice the 70+ year old man sitting between the window and our then 3-year old daughter, Regan.

When you travel with young children and have flights that last more than five hours you always hope that your seat mates are the types that appreciate children. But, instead of having the appearance of being a grandmotherly or babysitter type, David seemed not excited at the prospect of a tired three-year old companion.

So, even though Tara had already forgotten her quick prayer, God had not. And, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, a relationship was being forged, the conversation beginning with the apologies of a tired mommy for the squirming of Regan who seemed unable to keep from bumping David.

Over the next two years, we spent many days and hours with David. He helped us wade through the English culture, which surprised us because it was so different from our own. He even came to The King’s Lodge to see us graduate from our Discipleship Training School. We visited Shakespeare’s birthplace and learned so many things about British culture from David. He was very proud of his country, and he loved teaching us everything from how to read street signs to the history of the railway in England. He loved trains and had visited train stations all over the world. He even took us to ride on one of the remaining steam engines.

David was truly a gentleman. He never fully embraced our children, but he was a man who had never had children of his own and even his one living relative, his brother, had also never had children. His wife was an invalid. Even though he didn’t know how to relate to our kids, we loved him and he loved us and he definitely warmed to the kids’ charms over time.

In the course of our relationship we learned that David seriously doubted that any “god” could allow the hate that causes things like the Crusades and the battles between the Catholics and the Protestants across Ireland and even in his country. His family had been French Huegenots and had suffered horrible violence from Catholics. So, we spent many hours talking about God and His love for a rebellious people. I don’t know if he ever resolved his personal doubts, but I know we shared tears together in those conversations.

We only recently learned of David’s death last November 25th. He never had internet in his home and would often travel to his local library to read this blog. He didn’t use email and we only communicated by written letter (post) or over the phone. It was when we called him on his birthday and discovered that the phone had been disconnected that we wrote and asked for a reply from anyone who received the letter. Shortly after that an attorney wrote to inform us of the news.

We miss David. And we looked forward to seeing him again during this trip to the UK. I hope he met God in his final days. His battle against cancer ended his life on this earth, but may his life continue on in the warmth of God’s love forever. He was truly a lovely man and a wonderful friend. I hope to see him again some day.

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