A gentle pastor faces death

Next Monday five old friends will visit Steve Shoemaker at the rehab center in Champaign-Urbana. Steve’s humor remains in top form despite the cancer that has limited his mobility and chunk the weight of his 6’8″ frame from 240 to 187 pounds.

Thinking about Monday’s visit, originally planned around the first presidential debate, I recalled a story about Steve jumping into a swimming pool dressed in a tuxedo after a wedding. It was locked in the Views from the Edge “draft” folder because we couldn’t convert the original piece from tpyepad to this platform. Today, in honor of Steve, we “converted it” for posting. The words belong to Bill Tammaeus, former columnist at the Kansas City Star.

The first time I boarded an airplane after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it was to fly to Champaign-Urbana, Ill., at the invitation of the Rev. Steve Shoemaker to speak to a YMCA gathering at the University of Illinois.

I knew I needed not to avoid planes after experiencing the death of my nephew Karleton, a passenger on the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on 9/11, and Steve’s invitation to speak made it necessary to get back on one.

I’ve been thinking about Steve a lot recently after learning that he has developed pancreatic cancer, which is expected to kill him within a few months. I follow his almost daily thoughts about that now on the CaringBridge.org website. Which is where I learned that the newspaper for Champaign-Urbana, The News-Gazette, just published this terrific story about Steve. [Aside: VFTE republished the News-Gazette story]

You can get a good sense of the kind of sweet, thoughtful man he is, a man whose Christian faith issues in much concern for life’s downtrodden people.

Steve first got connected to my family through my North Carolina sister, Barbara, and her husband, Jim, who are my late nephew’s parents. They became friends with Steve and his wife Nadja when they were neighbors in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Later Steve performed the wedding ceremony for some of Barb and Jim’s children, including Karleton.

I still laugh at the memory of Steve and Jim — fully dressed in tuxedos — diving into a swimming pool in joy at the wedding reception when Barb’s and Jim’s daughter Tiffany was married. It helps to know that Steve stands about 6-foot-8 and made quite a splash.

From that News-Gazette story, here’s a taste of Steve’s theology: “God has his eyes on the sparrow and not the eagle, on the people who are hurting. That’s the God that makes sense to me.”

God’s eye is on the sparrow.

 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 9, 2016

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