Sunday, March 14, 2010

Farewell to a Volunteer

I met Bill and Corriene Thompson in 2005 when they registered their granddaughter, Leah, in the kindergarten/first grade class that I oversaw at the time. They had just moved to Salem from California in an effort to breathe some cleaner air. I didn't know much about Bill and Corriene's background, but they soon became involved in Children's Ministries. Bill responded to our request for help in setting up the rooms each Saturday (he joined another grandpa in our ministry in this task) and Corriene came in to the church offices once a month to help take care of small group prep. It wasn't long until they both offered to oversee check-in every other month for their Leah's class.

Bill and Corriene both told me at different times that they wanted to make sure that even though Leah was being raised by her grandparents, they didn't want her to feel like she missed out on any exciting kid activities. I can still picture a Friday afternoon when Bill and Leah stopped in at the office to drop something off, dressed in snow pants. "We're headed to the mountain to ski!" Bill excitedly told me as Leah grinned next to him. "But we're starting to think maybe we should have waited until we got there to put on the snow pants."

Despite struggling with emphysema, Bill was faithful in helping with the weekly set up up. One of the times I was checking in with him and Bob (the other grandpa), Bill was hauling stacks of chairs and wheezing along the way. When I asked if he needed me to help, he said he was happy to do it and would take it at a pace he could handle. He was worried the chairs might fall and hurt me if I tried to move them.

It wasn't until a conversation with Corriene a few years later that I found out how specifically God designed their move to Oregon. Corriene was not a believer when they moved here, and Bill hadn't grown in his walk since he was young. But they knew they wanted to try to do things right in raising Leah, so they brought her to church. It was at one of our women's Bible studies that Corriene accepted the Lord, and Bill rededicated his life soon after.

This past summer, Bill was diagnosed with lung cancer, and a mighty battle began. I loved the joy and peace he showed, and he joked about how much he missed his hair (which I'm sure had already thinned years before). He still came to help with check in the weeks he wasn't suffering too much from the chemo and radiation treatments. Corriene came faithfully to help with prep. And then in September, Bill chose to be baptized again (he had done it 55 years before, but felt he needed to show his re-commitment). I watched in tears as he shared his testimony, and his wife watched with proud tears streaming down her face.

This past Tuesday, March 10, 2010, Bill went home to be with Jesus. I know I will miss him, and I can't imagine the loss Corriene and Leah are feeling. But I can only think with joy about the life this man ended with--what a testimony he lived before his granddaughter.

View his obituary (which he wrote) here.

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