God is building His Kingdom on gifts of friendship – Quote from John Dawson
David Anderson, City Editor for the Oroville Mercury-Register put it most poignantly in his article: Pastor's Motorcycle Death Stuns Community : saying, The Thursday afternoon traffic death of a well known, widely loved and highly respected local pastor has plunged the Oroville community into shock and grief.
Pastor Don was our Pastor in Oroville, where we live. We are blessed to have two church homes, Trinity Bible Church when we are able to be home and Adobe Christian Center when we are in Petaluma. Ron has known Pastor Don four and a half years, but we have only come to develop a relationship with him over the past year a half. It is amazing how God can blend hearts in such an astoundingly short period of time. We have been truly blessed and very honored to know Pastor Don. We could never find words to express all he meant to us, let alone attempt to describe how he impacted the lives of those he knew for many, many years. We are grieved beyond description at the deep loss but immeasurably better for having known him. By his life and occasionally with words, Pastor Don intensified our desire to know the Lord in a deeper and more intimate way, and to seek to understand what the Kingdom of God here on earth “looks like.”
Scripture Verse: But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. Philippians 3:7-9
Our sincere desire is to bring honor and glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by honoring one of His precious servants. The intent of the following synopsis is to give a small reflection of the great ways that God used a man who was “recklessly abandoned” to Him through his humility, single-mindedness, and ability to live his values. Donna, Ben & Bernadette, Keli, Tim & Annie, Nathan, Eric and Andrew we love you and thank you for the many hours you sacrificed with your husband and dad so he could impact us and his world the way he did.
Following are highlights of the service held in Pastor Don's memory on Saturday, September 4, 2004.
So fittingly, the memorial service opened with Worship to our Lord and King. Ted and Laurie Leinhart led us to the throne room of God: the only place we could come with our heavy hearts to receive the shalom and encouragement only our Father can provide.
After worship, Reverend Ed Redfern, the Senior Pastor of Oroville Church of the Nazarene, expressed briefly his deep sense of grief over the loss of his long time friend and fellow Pastor. Rev. Ed has been a personal friend and co-laborer with Pastor Don for more than 25 years. He also read certificates from the Oroville Council and Assembly expressing appreciation and gratitude for Pastor Don's contribution to the community.
Reverend Leonard Lee, Pastor Don's brother-in-law, began by sharing that Pastor Don was the jar of clay, and the only thing of importance with the jar of clay was how well it holds the Treasure of Jesus Christ. Pastor Don held the Treasure well. He explained that the service to follow would weave a story, with each speaker sharing a piece of the picture that would paint a portrait of this “simple but enormously complex man” whose life glorified God and incalculably impacted his world for the Kingdom.
Pastor Don was born Peter Donald North on February 6, 1949. Rich North, Pastor Don's brother, reflected on the early years revealing that he was intense, driven and full of mischief even back then when his raw warrior spirit was being developed. It was during his high school years that he met the love of his life - - Donna Lambert. They were married on May 10, 1971 and later came to Oroville California, where Pastor Don's father and mother (Pete and Leona) were serving as Associate Pastors to Pastor Carl Minnick of Trinity Bible Church. Pastor Don began serving as Youth Pastor at Trinity, but was busy making plans to leave Oroville and serve the Lord in much more grandiose ways than he could in this small community. However, God had different plans. During a service Pastor Don made a commitment to serve with a ministry that would lead him to the greater world reach that he so desired, but God quietly told him no. Long after the service ended and everyone went home, Pastor Don sat alone wrestling with God. After several hours of struggling, he submitted to the Lord's plan and stayed in Oroville. Much to his chagrin he later learned that he was not only to stay in Oroville, but he was to become the Senior Pastor when Pastor Carl Minnick retired. This decision also came at the end of much arguing and grappling with God. One of his arguments was: I don't love these people and I don't even want to. But, again he submitted to Almighty God. God did such a precious and heart-changing work in this young man, that anyone you would speak with today would say; “I didn't just know him, he was my friend.” His favorite quote, God is building His Kingdom on gifts of friendship, was not something he just thought sounded good - - he lived it. You also didn't have to know Pastor Don very long to know that he loved Oroville. This did not happen overnight, but somewhere between the late 70's (when he schemed at least once every 3-4 years with his good friend, peer and then Youth Pastor, Ed Redfern, to leave Oroville) and now, he developed a deep love and commitment to the city of Oroville.
Reverend Carl Minnick also shed light on Pastor Don's years as Youth Pastor and the struggle to accept the call to Senior Pastor. But, more notably he challenged the more than 700 in attendance with the story of Elisha from II Kings 2; pronouncing, “someone needs to pick up the mantle.” Reverend Phil Hillier (cousin in-law) shared a tough challenge as well. God says: “I looked for a man to stand in the gap and found none. (Ezekiel 28:30) Would you be that man? Both these challenges give a good indication of the man that Pastor Don was, a man who lived his life in such a way that it demanded a commitment from others.
Pastor Don was committed to seeing the Kingdom of God advanced in his church, his city, the region and beyond.Reverend Larry Lane and Reverend Gaylord Enns, close friends and fellow servants with Pastor Don on various regional teams, added their experiences over many years along with insightful observations to the portrait of Pastor Don.Reverend Larry Lane reflected that Pastor Don built the kingdom by his presence. He was revered by many as the “Bishop of Oroville” due to his commitment and endless service to the church and community at large. He served on the Regional Leadership Team, on the Board of Directors for the School of Transformation and was part of the Pray California Facilitation Team. Rev. Larry encouraged us with the words of Christ: “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24 KJV) Reverend Gaylord Enns
Pastor Don had a burning desire to break down barriers in the Kingdom of God wherever he found them. This was especially evident in his close friendships with and love for the Native American peoples. Ray Shelton, former Pastor and Native American, shared that Pastor Don was a father to the Body of Christ. He followed protocol, which is giving love, honor and respect to others. Pastor Don valued the gifts that God placed in others; he lived out his protocol and beliefs. His last message was in the park and was indicative of his life. He challenged those listening to let love reach it's mark, to learn the art of the loving interview, to look beyond the obvious and let God choose our relationships. Ken Gilbert, a Tribal Leader, shared that Pastor Don recognized that God had placed Mr. Gilbert as a spiritual leader to his people. He related that many times he has felt like an alien in his native land, but Pastor Don never made him feel that way. Mr. Gilbert commented that he appreciated a man living out what God was speaking to him. He closed by claiming a promise from God's Word: Because Pastor Don has kept “His statues and His commandments….it will go well with him and his children.” (Deuteronomy 4:40)
Reverend Adrian Hills, Pastor of Wynn Memorial Church, with tears running down his face told how Pastor Don saw a “skinny, young black Pastor” and became a spiritual father and mentor to him. Rev. Adrian went on to say, “in his presence there was no race, no denominational lines. I always felt like he was my biggest cheerleader.” He related a story that is just one of a million examples of the way Pastor Don lived His faith. This past March, Pastor Don called Adrian with one of his ideas. On Palm Sunday Reverend Adrian's church marched down a main street in the City of Oroville from one direction and Pastor Don's church marched toward them coming in the opposite direction on the opposite side of the street. Members from both churches waved palm branches and shouted hosanna & praises to the King. When they met across from each other at an intersection they began shouting blessings to each other. Then as Reverend Adrian put it “Pastor Don and I made a big mistake by walking into the intersection and embracing each other. Our church members followed suit and we held up traffic for at least five minutes.” Reverend Adrian closed with a favorite statement from Pastor Don, which all of us heard many times: “God is up to something and it's bigger than you or I could ever imagine.”
Reverend Ed Redfern, the final speaker, reflected on Pastor Don's life in light of I John 2. As a young man, Pastor Don was strong and determined (14b), but somewhere along the line he moved to the stage of a father demonstrated by the fact that he knew Him that is from the beginning (13a). Pastor Don saw the Kingdom of God and was focused on unity. He reminded all in attendance that Pastor Don wanted the Church of Oroville to meet with the Church of Chico for a regional prayer walk on September 11th. He closed with: Jesus is up to something and we are not going to let the dream die.
Reverend Lee painted the final strokes on the canvas by sharing the reflections of Pastor Don's children. Following are some of their thoughts regarding their dad:
Our dad taught us that:
- Life is an adventure.
- The world is a giant playground God created for him to play in.
- What lasts in life is people.
- To make a difference in the life of people you cannot be a spectator in the lives of people.
- Our closest friends are the children of his closest friends. How's that for longevity of friendship.
- Our dad taught us to love knowledge.
- Our dad was humble and continued to grow.
- His expectations of us were high because he loved us so much.
Dad, the lessons of life you lived will live on in us. We are grateful to call you dad, friend and teacher.