Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

Monday, April 3

Sharing the Faith

2016 was a difficult year for me and my wife, Joanne. We grieved the loss of five family members and two close friends. One of those deaths involved my best friend, Lonnie. I first met Lonnie in 1977 when he came to my law office in Russell. His wife had left him and their six-month-old baby girl, Sammie. A divorce was obtained, and Lonnie was granted full custody of Sammie, who he raised as a single parent in a loving home.

Lonnie and I later developed a friendship. We both enjoyed the outdoors and loved to hunt and fish. We spent a lot of outdoor time together. Eventually, we owned a boat dock at Lake Wilson and enjoyed fishing, camping and family activities at the lake.

Joanne and I were blessed with our first child, Sarah, in 1978. Being close in age, Sarah and Sammie became close childhood friends and playmates. When we were blessed with our second child, Natalie, she became part of the threesome childhood gang. Joanne became mom not only to our two daughters, but to Sammie as well.

In the late 1980s, work relocation separated us. Lonnie and I stayed in touch over the years through phone calls, letters, and occasional visits. When Lonnieís health began to decline several years ago, Sammie moved her dad so he could live with her and her family.

Lonnie was never one for church. He went into hospice care last fall, and my conversations became more intentional with both Lonnie and Sammie. Sammie, of strong faith, told me about conversations she and her family pastor had shared with her dad about faith and God. I also shared my faith with Lonnie.

We knew the end was approaching for Lonnie, so Joanne and I made plans to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with Lonnie and Sammieís family. On the Sunday before we were to leave, the Gospel reading was from Luke 23:33-43. As Jesus hung on the cross, he welcomed a despised sinner to paradise, while placing his own death in Godís hands. At the conclusion of Pastor Kristinís sermon, I felt a sense of peace and hope that God would welcome Lonnie, the unchurched, into his arms.

Later that afternoon, I received a call from Sammie that Lonnie was near death. She told me her dad had accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. I was able to say goodbye to my dear friend, knowing he was about to be received into the arms of Jesus. I know God does work in mysterious ways, and that he uses us as his stewards to bring the Good News of his salvation to others.

Larry D. Ehrlich

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