Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Good bye for now, dear friend...

Tomorrow (July 24) will be two months since my friend, mentor and boss, Tim Dortch, passed away. In some ways, it feels like it was just yesterday he was giving me a hard time...about everything. And other days, it feels like a million years since I've seen his grin or shared a laugh with him.

If you never had a chance to meet him, I'm sorry for you. If you did have the pleasure, you will likely never forget him, and his passing has left a hole in your heart as well. 

Tim with Madam FoFo, her daughter and grandson.
This precious baby has hydrocephalus; Tim was instrumental
in coordinating the initial treatment of his condition.
I met Tim in June 2012, on my first trip to Haiti. I'll admit, my first thought was, "Are you kidding me? Is this guy for real?!" He was like Larry the Cable Guy and Billy Graham rolled into one person. Let that soak in for a minute...

And as I got to know him, I came to understand -- yes, he was indeed "for real." He was for real about enjoying life and laughing with friends. He was for real about his love for his family and his pride for his daughter. He was for real about loving people and pointing them to Jesus Christ. He was for real about living a life sold out for his Savior -- a life that looked absolutely crazy to most people. 

He took chances to help people, often putting himself in harm's way. He learned new skills to bring relief to people seemingly forgotten by so many. He often adapted the American way of doing things to accommodate culture and produce the best end result to help the greatest number of people.

But most of all...he just loved Jesus.

And because he loved Jesus, he loved people. His passion for the people of Haiti and the Dominican was contagious. Countless Americans have traveled home from that beautiful place ready to sell the farm and move to the Island of Hispaniola to do just what Tim did God and love people. 

Tim's FAITH was an amazing witness to everyone he met. He lived it daily. His choices reflected a belief in a God bigger than we can imagine. Until I met Tim, I'm not sure I truly understood what faith LOOKED it it responded to scary choices.

I remember one specific phone conversation with Tim about a year ago. I was wrestling with the decision to leave my academic appointment at Mississippi State and take this leap of faith to partner in ministry with HMM. I confessed my fears to him about "giving up" my benefits and my retirement and taking a significant cut in well as my fears about fundraising for the salary for my new position on the HMM staff.

He chuckled a little and asked, "Are you gonna take it with you to heaven?" 


"God is calling. Whatcha gonna do?" 

Silence...and then tears. 

His gentle way of calling me out was painful and humbling...but so needed. Friendship is like that sometimes. The perfectly timed call. The perfect words spoken. The kick in the seat of the pants we need to get going.

Tim Dortch was a good friend. 

While I was only blessed to call him "friend" for a short time, he made an eternal impact on me and countless others. I cannot imagine the loss his wife and daughter and other family and friends who have had him in their lives for much longer are experiencing.  

The hole is big. And the pain of loss is deep. It feels like it's never going to end. 

But I am grateful for the peace that comes in knowing Tim is rejoicing now. He is undoubtedly rigging things in heaven with ridiculous amounts of duct tape and teasing all the angels relentlessly. I pray he is pleased with the progress HMM is making as we work to carry out his vision for the Promised Land in Haiti and for the ministries in the Dominican. When I get frustrated or tired or just wonder if what I'm doing is having any impact for the kingdom, I think about Tim and his legacy...and I just keep on keepin' on. 

I am certain my dear friend heard those precious words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant!" as he entered those beautiful gates May 24, 2014. Until I see you again...
Tim Dortch, Anse-a-Pitre, Haiti : December 2013

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