Thursday, June 14, 2012

Remembering Robert Hevelka

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

It's always interesting to me to hear people's stories.  They often reveal so much about what they feel is important about themselves and their contribution.  Many of you won't know Robert Hevelka, but I liked his stories.  He was a long time elder and leader of First Christian Church who died last year in August.  He lived to be 95 years old.

On the visits that I made to his home over the years he told me more than once about how he had served on the search committee that brought Rev Robert Moffatt to Houston.  Proud of the fact Rev Moffatt served for over 20 years in ministry with First Christian, Robert felt he had helped set the church on a good foundation.  He told the story about one person they interviewed who turned out to be a womanizer.  "We caught him," Robert explained, "because we did a lot of checking and dug around a lot."

Again, you can tell a lot about what people feel is important about themselves and their contribution from the stories they tell.

Robert Hevelka was born on November 7, 1916.  I’m simply awed by the thought of what Robert must have experienced throughout his life.  Think of all the changes and new developments.

Even though for many years he was unable to be as active in the workings of the church, he was always interested in what was going on, especially with the leadership and larger direction of the church.  And the thing that I appreciated a great deal about Robert was that he was completely non-judgmental and supportive, always encouraging and offering a perspective of years of seeing the world and how it operated.

He would talk about his military experience;  an experience though short-lived was one he was very proud of.  Many are unaware, perhaps, that his limp was the result of being wounded by friendly fire on a training exercise.

All of us here at FCC experienced Bob as one of the kindest and most generous of men.  We remember him as quiet, but definitely no shrinking violet.  He was always ready to listen, always a smile on his face, humble.  He was selfless and unassuming.  And if we were to cap it all off, we’d say that Robert was…eternally optimistic.

Which leads me to one other story that I like to tell about Robert.  Not long before Laura Beth passed away, Cathy was with them in the doctor’s office for some issue one or the other was having.  As Cathy watched and listened to the exchanges between the doctor and these, his long time patients, it was so very evident that there was a mutual respect that had developed between them.  After all the questions had been answered, Robert and Laura with a great deal of admiration and affection expressed their gratitude to the doctor for the years of care and attention he had provided them.  The doctor received that gratitude, and they sat with each other in a moment of unplanned silence, looking at each other.  Then, a little misty-eyed, the doctor said, “I’m thankful to you.  Through all these years I rarely meet people like you.”  And to Robert he said in a very heartfelt way, “I’ve learned a lot from you ... about optimism.” 

Robert was, if nothing else, eternally optimistic.

This Sunday we are announcing a gift that Robert and Laura Beth prepared for in their life to be given upon their deaths.  Robert wasn't interested in a lot of fanfare.  He just was a good steward of the resources that he felt God had entrusted to him.  And so, through the Christian Church Foundation, Robert and Laura Beth planned for a gift to be given.  We will celebrate that this Sunday to make the point that here are a couple of saints who found vital lives in transformed lives.  Who found a way to live lives that did not conform to the world's ideals and values, but lives that were transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ;  all to the praise of God, in the name of Jesus, through the power and promise of the Holy Spirit.  Join us Sunday to share in this announcement.