Last week I heard about the passing of my youth pastor from high school. I say youth pastor just because that is the easiest title to describe him. He was much more than that. He played a large part in my spiritual development as a teenager but he continued to be my friend and a special person in my heart long after that. Also when you are from a small town, no one is just one thing to you. Honestly, I am still trying to wrap my brain around a world without Kerry Stokes.
He just loved people. He cared deeply, served tirelessly, shared generously. When I think about Mr. Kerry, (we called him mister as teenagers out of respect and it still was a hard habit to break even as we are adults with our own children) I can’t help but think of a few memories right off the top. One, our Houston mission trips and all the catchphrases that came from those special times. Two, his devotion to those he loved. And three, his full-forced, all-in, give-his-everything approach to sharing the Gospel.
We loved to tease him, parroting back the way he said hungry (hawngry) or the endless repeating of “Hey, who pulled my plug?” in reference to his air mattress on our mission trip. Yes, we gave him a hard time but it was our way of letting him know we loved him just the way he was. No one had more heart than Kerry Stokes. For every silly memory from those youthful times, there were more where he spoke truth over us, prayed with us, and supported us. I loved that he was real, he was not exactly polished, and he was 1000% there for me.
If I needed a big hug or someone to tell me the truth, I knew I could go to Kerry. He cheered for me at all of my basketball games in high school. In fact, I’m pretty sure he almost got tossed from a game at Scott County Central for disagreeing with the referees’ calls or lack thereof. He continued to support Charleston sports for as long as he could, being a dedicated fan for years. I don’t think he did it just because he liked sports. He did it because he had a love for people and encouraging was in his nature. He welcomed me and my family in his home whenever we were able, laughing and discussing and reminiscing. I never doubted his love for me or for anyone for that matter. He was a force to be reckoned with, a protector and a loyal friend.
Kerry was wholehearted in his desire to follow Jesus. When I read about Peter and his encounter with Jesus washing his feet, in my mind I see Kerry.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
That is how I saw Kerry live his life: Not just my feet Lord, but my hands and head as well! I heard him preach, sing, serve, give, go, baptize, marry, pray, share. He lived out the Great Commission. He impacted people for Jesus. He knew the urgency of calling out for people to follow Jesus. I am thankful for his willingness to obey the Lord. I know we needed someone to step up and lead a bunch of teenagers back then, and continue to love us after we were grown.
I will miss his singing, his preaching, his big grin combined with calling me “Bledsoe!” The knowledge that he is dancing with Jesus fills my heart to the brim, overjoyed that he is whole and celebrating with his Savior. My life will forever be impacted by his “yes” to the Lord.
When death and life commingle, brushing by one another for the briefest of moments, we get the tiniest glimpse of heaven knowing the one we loved is rejoicing with Jesus. I can feel the absolute reality of God and be certain that this life following Jesus is the only life to choose. I know Kerry lived fully, loved fully, and is now complete in Him.
2 Corinthians 4:6-18
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.