My friend Rodney had a giant heart. He was always kind, considerate, generous, and reliable. He was the type of person that I wish I could be more like. We had many shared experiences together over the years.
His life ended at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was the first person that I knew to die of the disease at a time when no one thought that it would hit Colorado. His death had a very sobering impact on me. It would set the tone of mourning and loss that would last for the next two years.
About 25 years ago our church got involved in helping to alleviate poverty. We got involved with an organization that was building houses in Mexico. Many of the families that we built houses for were living in shacks made or cardboard boxes and shipping palettes.
Seeing the poverty that these people lived in was life changing. Amor Ministries had grown from a single guy crossing the border with a van full of clothing to build 20,000 homes. They created a plan for a team of people to build a house in four days.
Rodney was a part of our team. We took between 20-30 people each year to Juarez to build houses for the homeless. We gathered all of the tools and camping supplies for the trip over spring break and caravanned to Juarez.
Entire families would travel to the site and we would camp out during the construction. Amor would deliver all of the construction materials to the site and provide a training manual with detailed plans for how to build the house.
- Day 1 - dig footing and mix concrete for the foundation - Day 2 - frame the house and windows - Day 3 - insulating board, chicken wire, and roof - Day 4 - stucco and trim
Rodney was a great help on these trips. His calm demeanor and easy going style were quite welcome, when people were in a state of high stress during the trip.
Our religious traditions tend to be neither religious or traditional. We feel that the heart of the matter is most important, not the outward form. Our idea of baptism is no different.
We believe that baptism is a public acknowledgement of a commitment to follow Christ. It can happen anywhere where there is water. We have conducted baptism events in bathtubs, horse troughs, lakes and swimming pools.
We also believe that any follower of Christ is authorized to oversee the task. I often hear people say that they do not believe in any kind of organized religion. I tell them to join us because we are not at all organized.
One day we had a baptism in the swimming pool at the house of one of the church members. That day we had about 15 - 20 people get baptized. Among them were my son and Rodney. I had the privilege of baptizing both of them.
Later we had a barbecue and it was a great time. We feel that community is as important as teaching and singing.
My wife and I developed the habit of arriving at church early to visit with people. We call it prayer walking because that sounds super spiritual, but it is a much a social activity as a practice of advanced holiness.
We wander all over the church building and find people that getting ready for the church service. We ask them how things are going and if they have any concerns that we pray about with them.
We would always find Rodney making coffee upstairs and talk with him each week. In February Rodney started getting sick. He indicated that he had been to the ER and was having problems with blood pressure and breathing.
For several weeks we met with him and he was not getting better. When we pray for people we often get up close and personal if that is OK for the parties involved. We believe that physical contact can be a sign of respect and family and camaraderie.
The pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization on March 11. At that time no knew much about the distant threat posed by the coronavirus. It was hard for any of us to imagine that this mysterious killer was already in our midst.
He told me that it was very difficult to get tested for the coronavirus but that he was trying. Shortly after we visited he went into the hospital. He was eventually put on a ventilator and was fighting a high fever. Although the fever finally broke the disease attacked his organs and he died.
I was shocked and dismayed by Rodney's death. How could we lose such a precious man? Why were we so unprepared? Rodney's test came back after he died confirming that he had the coronavirus.
During the following year the government incompetency was fully revealed. It became clear that the government was in full denial and utterly unprepared to deal with the crisis. I will never forget the anger that I felt at those leaders who refused to acknowledge the suffering of so many.
Rodney's death was the harbinger of what was about to unfold in all of our lives. He was a precious friend and I miss him greatly. Losing Rodney was the first of many losses that I was to experience that year.