This post is my nomination for Rev. Ken Koeman as the “CRC Pastor of the Decade Award” winner. I know, we don’t have such an award. We don’t have “lifetime achievement awards” either. And my friend Ken would be quick to point out that service is a privilege, and that all of us receive our reward in heaven, not on earth.
Yet Ken has such a special place in my heart. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Some of us have been blessed with a friend who shows exceptional support, wisdom, and kindness. Such friends are a precious gift. If you have one or have had one, you know the truth of what I am saying. Ken Koeman was such a friend for me. The reality is that he was such a friend for many.
Some knew Ken for a column he wrote a couple of decades ago in the denomination’s monthly magazine, The Banner. Others knew him as their pastor. Others knew him as a mentor, a confidant, an encourager, and a window into the will of God. He served churches in Albuquerque, NM, Portland, OR, Lynden, WA, and Bellevue, WA. By all accounts those in the communities where he lived knew him and respected him. His influence was much broader than just the congregation in which he served.
One of the unavoidable realities of growing older is that you see and experience the passing of dear friends. I’m nearing 66 years old, and since turning 60 I have had nearly a dozen dear persons in my life be called to their eternal home. Many of these are colleagues; many of them are so cherished. Even today I have a hard time speaking of them in the past tense. Yes, they were colleagues and they were cherished. Yet they will ever be dear and valued in my life and journey. I trust that you can understand the mixture of joy and grief in my reflections. I know that you will have opportunities to learn.
Of all the stories I could tell about my friend, Ken, perhaps the most profound story is the one of his passing. He discovered in late June 2018 that he had metastatic cancer. By August 8, 2018, he breathed his last breath this side of heaven. Such dramatic instances of tragic and sudden loss are not unprecedented. What made Ken’s journey remarkable and praiseworthy is that he used his gifts of writing and spiritual reflection to mark the road for the benefit of others. He journaled, almost daily, from the time of his diagnosis until just five days before his ultimate trip.
I was so moved by his reflections, as I was moved by his friendship. A few months following his departure I reached out to Ken’s family and we agreed to format Ken’s journal notes into a devotional book that could be shared with others. The title we selected is Seek Immediate Shelter. It is published and available as a tool for anyone who goes through grief, and for anyone who wants help looking at death’s reality through eyes of grace and faith.
The book is available for $15, including postage, and any profits made will be donated to the CRCNA at the direction of the Koeman family. You can contact me at [email protected] if you are interested.
My friend Ken Koeman was not just the pastor of the decade--for me he was my pastor and friend for five decades. Post graduation from Calvin College in 1968, my wife Colleen and I moved to Ft. Wingate, NM to teach in a large Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school for Navajo kids. The Koemans, Ken and Kay, had just moved to Albuquerque to serve the Chelwood CRC. We stopped in on Fall Saturday, and thus started a 50 year friendship. The 125 mile distance between us did not diminish our relationship.
Fourteen years later, we moved back to our hometown in Lynden, WA, where the Koemans had accepted a call to Sonlight CRC. Now we were neighbors, and forever friends, a friendship so rich and deep. I miss him so very much, because he was also my pastor, even after he retired, I viewed him as such. I was honored to speak at his funeral, but more honored to be his friend. Thanks be to God!
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