Tuesday, May 24, 2016

An Example You Wouldn't Know

Six years ago this week, I helped conduct the funeral of a man in our church that many people even then would not have known—Carl Zerges. He was usually seen on his own, looking maybe just a little disheveled (it was his look). I’m sure that younger, newer families here probably didn’t notice him much, and he wasn’t one to draw attention to himself. He wasn’t your stereotypical kindly-looking older gentleman. And sometimes, if you wound up in conversation with him, it might take a little longer than you had planned. Carl’s story would not be one that would make a great book, and his life’s ups and downs were the kind that sometimes made you smile or wince, sometimes both at once.
Carl's years of more visible involvement were before my tenure (he served as an usher/greeter).  Even so, many people knew him—as there were more at the funeral than I would have guessed, and those who had known him best over the 20 plus years he was in our village knew he was special in a number of ways.  Sadly, it is often as people are preparing for their own or others’ funerals that I learn so much more about a person’s life and testimony, and that was the case here. Many of us heard the story of Carl's conversion for the first time, as well as stories about the change that faith brought into his life. 
He had been on the road regularly for business, traveling from his home in Cincinnati to Columbus or Cleveland, and often he passed through Cedarville. His life, by his own admission, was not happy and he knew he needed help, so during one of those drives through town he actually stopped here at the church—a landmark you can’t miss as you make the U.S. 42 jog through town. Through the witness of the staff, he came to know Jesus, and decided the best thing he could do was move here to learn more. So he did, and lived here until he died.
He became passionate to let other people know about Jesus, and he loved to find ways to help and give to others.  He welcomed me to town when I moved here with one of his favorite passions and gifts--good coffee beans!  He repeated that gift a few times, too. One story about Carl, though, stands out in my mind most clearly.
One of our missionaries returned home for a year of furlough.  Reporting to the church, the missionary shared a prayer request that the Lord might provide a vehicle for the family to use for the year.  Carl responded after the service, telling the missionary that because he recently purchased a new car and had two vehicles, he could give the missionary one to use.  Indeed Carl had a brand new Chrysler that was to replace an old clunker he had driven for years.  The next day, the missionary came to Carl's home to get the car, and was surprised when Carl handed him the keys--to the new Chrysler.  Carl kept driving the old car for the year. 
As I spoke to other people, I discovered that this was not out of character for him--it was normal.  The few who knew about this at the time were profoundly affected by his example.  I was, too, when I heard it. While I’ve known many who’ve been able to pass on their used items when they get new ones (including me), this sacrifice of the new for those in need is rare.
I’ve been privileged to know many godly people in my life who loved Jesus, knew the Scriptures, lived according to the truth, and set good examples. But I wonder if sometimes we have many more such examples around us (perhaps even in our own church) that might enrich us greatly, if we only knew. That’s why I try to engage people whose stories I’m not familiar with in conversations. It’s amazing what I can learn or be encouraged by.
So now, you all know about Carl. And maybe knowing about him will encourage you to seek out such examples, and maybe even emulate them!