Our kids met first, then us adults. We’ve been friends ever since. We were moving to a new city in a new state – South Bend, Indiana – to try to start a new church there. We had rented an apartment and just pulled in with the U-Haul truck. Our son was 11 and our daughter was barely 6. The family in the apartment below us had the same! What a coincidence, you say! No – my faith runs way too deeply for such things. My God planned it that way. These two kids came out of the apartment to help the new kids move in. Soon their mom, Sue, introduced herself and when John came home, we met him. As I said, we’ve been friends ever since.
The apartments were temporary – the friendships permanent. They were building a house just down the street. That’s what my new friend John did. He was a contractor, but even more than that, he was a house designer, too. Dreamed up and drew up plans, then built them into houses. Big houses, luxurious houses, “very well done” houses. My dad was a contractor when I was younger and I had done a little carpentry and a lot of painting over the years, so I know quality. These were quality homes! John knew how to build them right.
We bought a house a couple of miles away – a small time Baptist preacher couldn’t afford one of John’s houses! For the next couple of years, our kids were inseparable and our friendship grew. I remember going once to mass with John and his family. I don’t think he expected us to accept his invitation, but they let their kids come to bible study in our home, so we went once with them. They attended our first Sunday worship when we moved from worship at our house to a rented building. John especially enjoyed the music and told me he liked southern gospel. Though Illinoians by birth, we had come north from several years in the south and our accents must have turned our contemporary music into southern gospel!
I beat John at the first game of pool we played in his new basement. He said he never thought a “padre” could shoot pool that well! He won as often as I did, but I couldn’t touch him at golf! John was a good golfer. Another new friend was starting a church in the area, too, and once we decided to hold a golf scramble as an outreach ministry. Each of us put together a few foursomes for the tourney and “somehow” John was on my team! Yes, we won.
John loved sports and naturally was a big Notre Dame fan. Being from Illinois and later, Arkansas, that was tough for me, but he taught me to at least like them. Once, he took us to a local high school-rivalry football game and out for pizza afterwards. He grilled a mean steak and some good ribs on occasion for us, too. Whatever John did, he did well. He often tried to include us in things with family and friends. Never golf, though – I wonder what that says about my golf game!?
We took turns for the next two years watching each others’ kids in order for each couple to have date nights without the kids around. It was great to have someone you could trust your kids with – John and Sue were definitely that. Once when we were together, the boys were acting up and it wasn’t appropriate for me to holler at Joshua, but I caught his attention and gave him “the look.” He immediately straightened up, told Joe and he followed suit. John asked what I had done and I said, “just gave Josh the look.” John said, “You’ve got to teach me that look sometime!”
Well, our church planting didn’t work out and we moved to central Illinois, but we remained good friends. Their kids visited us; we all went back up to visit them. They all came down for our son’s wedding – we all went up for their son’s funeral. A few years ago, Joe left us way too early, from our perspective. Happy times – sad times – and in between times, we stayed friends.
Sadly, this summer, John left us too early, too. I remember when the kids were little and my son led John’s son to faith in Christ. Joe immediately talked to his parents about it, concerned about their faith. John told me later that he had been pretty sure at the time that he was in right standing with God, but one night sometime later he made sure. He told me that one night he knelt beside his bed and prayed for assurance, asking Jesus to make sure that his faith was rightly placed – in the death and resurrection of Jesus, making Jesus, John’s Savior and Lord. Because of that, my faith says I’ll see John in heaven some day with Christ. Until then, Dear Lord, take care of my friend John!