Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ron Shimkus with Jesus: My Friend, Mentor, Hero

Ron Shimkus - Top Left - Zimbabwe 2005
I learned yesterday morning that Ron Shimkus passed away in Zimbabwe of a heart-attack. Ron was in his late-60s (I think) and leaves behind a beloved wife, 3 adult children, grandchildren, and spiritual children and grandchildren all over the globe.

Not surprisingly, Ron died while on the front-line of ministry. For the past several years, Ron has poured his life in sharing Christ in Zimbabwe, caring for orphans and widows, and seeking justice for the poor. I met Ron in 1999 while attending Iowa State University and was blessed to have him pour into my life off-and-on the past 14 years.

As a life-long laborer with the Navigators, Ron has modeled for me what it means to preach the Gospel and to do good to neighbor. Ron was a heavenly man on earth, and now, based on his profession of faith in Jesus Christ, he is a heavenly man before His Father hearing, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

The most remarkable thing I remember about Ron Shimkus is the transformation I saw between 2002-2006. When I first met Ron he was marked by passion, determination and a clear focus on reaching hell-bound people for Jesus. On one occasion, Ron remarked, "If we're not sharing Christ with lost people, what the hell are we doing?"

Soon after this conversation, as a grown man just around the age of 60, Ron  identified serious areas in his soul needing God's touch of grace. He took a sabbatical for a year. He met with counselors. He read his tattered Bible and listened to the Holy Spirit. In the prime of his life, he didn't rest on his laurels or accept the status quo. He wanted to be like His Savior Jesus, and he opened himself to the work of God in his heart and life. And what happened?

In a just a few years, I saw a new man. He still desperately cared for hell-bound people. He desperately desired us to be faithful to Jesus' Great Commission. And yet, there was a tenderness, compassion, and empathy that oozed out of his veins. I saw the fruit of the Spirit in him like in few I've ever met; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control flowed out of his person.

I knew that this man had been with Jesus. And his being with Jesus has led to almost another decade of faithful service to His Lord and Savior. My heart aches to see him go.

A friend of mine and my wife both remarked, "I never thought he would go." Ron seemed invincible, unstoppable, a constant pace-setter, all-powerful even. And yet, he wasn't. He was just a man, a sinful man. His body was weak and broken both spiritually and physically. He knew this. He taught this truth to others. It's what led him to trust in Jesus alone as the one who is all-powerful. Jesus the all-powerful one let (let!) His body be broken to save men like Ron, and you and me, from our sin and brokenness. Ron knew there was no hope for salvation anywhere else (Acts 4:12). He trusted in Christ, and he taught me and anyone willing to listen to trust in Christ as well.

I love you Ron; I miss you Ron; and in Christ, I believe we will meet again.

To the glory of God the Father.

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