Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ray Kuykendall--Simple Faith, Amazing Grace

Ray Kuykendall 1930-2014
"Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper 
    in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked."
Psalm 8:10 (NIV)

One of the first persons I met when Alma Jean and I first visited the Zion Mennonite Church over 50 years ago was Ray Kuykendall. I will always remember him, among other things, as the usher who greeted folks at the door with a smile and a welcome as warm as Florida sunshine.

I can't count all the times or recall all the ways Ray blessed me with his friendship in the twenty plus years we served as pastor at Zion, a relationship that came with lots of warm embraces, hearty greetings, and generous acts of kindness.

Ray really knew how to love people, not only in the way he welcomed folks at the church door, but in his acts of service to help people wherever he could, or in his years of driving the Summer Bible School bus, or in his later years, in working as a volunteer at Gift and Thrift. He was the kind of servant with a heart that made you feel like Jesus himself had just reached out to you and blessed you.

Ray would be the first to admit he wasn’t perfect, but in my mind he was truly a man of God, one I will always visualize as being assigned doorkeeper and usher duty in the life to come, making sure we each have a good seat at the welcome table.

So many of us will always love him and miss him.

Ben Risser, a former Zion member and now a pastor at Ridgeway Mennonite, composed the following song about Ray, one that was sung at his memorial service December 27.

Simple Faith

He was born back in the mountains, went to school through the sixth grade
Times were hard, his family poor, rich memories that seldom fade
He learned to love the forests, working hard with tender care
A reverence for God's handiwork and all things living there

He can spin a tale of huntin', turkeys, deer, and sometimes bear
He's loved the same woman, raised his children with great care
He knows the anxious wait for prayers to reach God's ears
Yet he's kept on keeping on for all his 84 long years

With a simple faith, simple plans
He's lived his life just trying to do the very best he can
Simple faith, simple plans
The way he loves the Lord makes him a giant of a man

He'll tell you he's not perfect and still stands in the need of grace
But his life's been used of God to let us see the Master's face
At church on Sunday morning, there's a hug and a welcome smile
Everyone's his neighbor and he'll go the extra mile

His hair has turned to silver and his hearing's somewhat poor
But his heart is just as big as God's great out-of-doors
He desires to follow Jesus with a soul that's young and strong
A simple testament to faith he's lived his whole life long
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