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Grateful for Strong Leaders
Lisa Ray Kappell
/ Categories: Family and Faith

Grateful for Strong Leaders

Day 82.. This weekend is a somber one. Not only is Memorial day tomorrow as we honor our fallen military men and women, but it is bittersweet back home in Kentuckiana. So many times in life we like to capture "the firsts", but today marked "the last" for a man I call a mentor and role model. 

Today I woke up excited to go to church. We have found a church in New York that brings with it a loving church family.. Every Sunday we are embraced by them. Back home, however, there is a farewell happening... And it kills me that I can't be there for it. Maybe it's for the best, I might cause a scene haha. My pastor of 30 years is retiring. I will sob to myself as I watch online. My family and I started going to Southeast Christian Church when I was just 10 years old. At the time, Bob Russell was the senior pastor, a true legend. Overtime, Bob, Dave Stone, and Kyle Idleman helped lead me (and so many others) into understanding and wanting to pursue a relationship with Jesus.

Dave Stone is an amazing man. His sermons came at a time when I was troubled in my teenage years. I remember the last place I wanted to go was church as a seventeen year old girl who was more interested in boys then Jesus. Not to mention my drug problem..you know the one where you were "drug" to church every Sunday Haha! But aren't I grateful that I had parents that did? Today I go to church, not because "I have to" but because "I can't wait!"  I thank my parents for dragging me there and Dave for his life changing messages.  

As a clueless 17 year old..I could sense there was something different about Dave, he had a light that shined bright and a genuine nature about him. I also knew that whatever it was he had, I wanted. On this beautiful sunny day, I am reading an article dedicated to the man who has impacted so many. Dave along the way, has met Tim Tebow, Max Lucado, Mac Powell from Third Day and considers them all to be friends.  "He loves them, but he also loves those who may feel forgotten"." His wife, Beth goes on to say, "It's restaurant servers and cooks in the kitchen, homeless men and women he meets, those at the post office and the bank." He met a homeless man after a baseball game and for the next year would bring him hot food, tried to help him find work along with his homeless friends, and would sometimes take the whole group out to dinner. 

I know I have felt forgotten, lost and confused especially as that teenage girl. I had a lot to learn and still do. I also know that when I am in the presence of God, really spending time with him, I no longer feel that way. 

Just a few things Dave taught me..to love and invest in others, and be considerate to all. He LEADS by example.  He opened my eyes during a critical time in my life. As so many teens, my priorities were out of whack. And now today during our family's current hardship, I am so grateful I had a leader like him in my life..God has been the only way we have not given up. Dave doesn't like the word "retirement", he uses the word "NEXT" to describe his next chapter in life. Absolutely! I too am excited for what is NEXT for Jeremy and my family and friends. 

As Dave, preached his last sermon today as Senior Pastor, I pray for God's wisdom and discernment as Kyle gets ready to take on the senior pastor role. Kyle says "We both know that God could use anybody He wants to do this. It's not because we've earned it or we deserve it or because we've worked hard enough..it is all God's grace. We want that to be our focus." I stop and think, what if more leaders in our country led in a way that gave glory to God, and not themselves? What kind of world would we live in?

So today I am grateful for strong leaders. Thank you Dave Stone. 

Love, 
Lisa Ray

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