He’s gone now, and I miss him more than I can tell you. He was not a remarkable man, by most human standards, but I am sure that he is sitting next to God, in the throne room of heaven, writing books or telling stories. A small man physically, he had a giant heart, and many times I saw it first hand. Because Dr. Ben, as the seminary staff called him, understood God’s command to love one another. He had served in the remotest parts of Africa, as a missionary, for many years with his wife and family – and now taught missions in the seminary I attended.
I met Dr. Kendrick as a student. I didn’t know him very well, and since I didn’t plan on going to third world countries as a missionary, I never took any of his classes. But he made it his business to know me. He would engage me in the hallways between classes, or ask me to sit with him at lunch and talk.
In fact, I admit that I thought the missionary thing was not the kind of ministry that I would ever be interested in. After all, let’s be real – how tough can it be to go out in the world and talk about God? Well, Dr. Kendrick, then 83 years old, taught me, over the years, that it was no easy task and that I was mistaken in my thoughts about missionaries in the field – and that everyone needed encouragement and love.
After I graduated, and as I started my doctoral studies, Dr. K, as I now called him, made it his habit to stay close to me. He always had time for me, and whenever I had a question, I found myself starting to stop by his office to chat. He would usher anyone else out, invite me in, and say, “Scott, we love you here, what can I do for you today?” And we would talk, and talk, and talk ……
And throughout the years it felt less campy, and I got over my embarrassment of seeing that little man run out into the hall and greet me as he recognized my steps heading toward his office. I think he even got to the point of expecting me, and I got to the point of looking forward to my talks with Dr. K. When I took my final exams and then defended my dissertation in a marathon session, Dr. K was there. And when I was finished, he shook my hand and said, “Call me Ben.” And that’s how it was from there on out – Scott and Ben, the unlikely duo.
I always found myself wanting to return to the place where it all started – school. I would head down for lunch with the guys, and as soon as I entered the corridor, I would hear Ben say, “He’s here”, and he would run out of his office, throw his arms around me, and give me the biggest hug you can imagine. And that old man, with a genuine twinkle in his eye, would tell me how much he loved me and how much I had meant to him in his life. You would think that I, in my mid-fifties, would find the whole thing a little embarrassing, but I looked forward to it. And I am not ashamed to tell you that it is a cool thing to be told, at my age, or any age for that matter, that you are loved, and valued and that the world is a better place because you are in it. I still get tears in my eyes remembering those times.
So my friend Ben is now gone – and I miss his hugs. Last time I visited the school, it seemed a little empty without him. But when I arrived, I heard Dr. Branine say, “Scott’s here”. How did he know? As he rounded the corner, he invited me it, hugging me in the process. “I’m taking over for Ben”, he said. And so it continues – the love, the hugs, the connection to men who love me, as mushy as it sounds. And I love it, every time!
So my encouragement to you today is this, from John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” The world will be a better place because of it and Ben will smile…..