My first memory of Ken Koehler is a youth gathering trip we took to Denver Colorado. Ken was in charge of the districts youth ministry and I remember thinking what a massive undertaking that really was. If memory serves some 27,000 Missouri Synod kids showed up in Denver for that gathering. I don’t even remember how many buses went from North Dakota but I do remember one of them lost air-conditioning. We spent one night I believe, in Rapid City South Dakota and another night at a church gymnasium somewhere in northern Colorado. Very early in the morning we arrived at the hotel and spent a lot of time getting the rooms sorted out etc. It was a fascinating trip and it culminated in a major event that took place at the Red Rocks amphitheater. Huge storms moved in that evening and there was vicious lightening, hail and torrential rain. There are several ways out of the amphitheater and I had to go up the steps to where our bus was and in the confusion I lost track of most of my group. Things were so dangerous it was more important to get on a bus even if it wasn’t your bus. When I got to the top of the stairs there is a marvelous view of Denver and as far as I could see on the freeway there were police cars, ambulances, and I think some fire trucks streaming up to our position. It was a huge deal and I remember getting back to the hotel in time to watch Tom Brokaw talk about it on the news. I was inundated with phone calls but everybody made it with very few injuries. Ken, being a part of that leadership team, and really the one who had set everything up had a tremendous amount of responsibility. He handled it with aplomb and good humor and the extra added touch of a strong faith. On our departure from Denver we stopped at “Elitches Gardens” and had t-shirts painted with storm clouds and lightening bolts saying “I survived Red Rocks” and the date, which I have forgotten.
One of the strangest things and some thing I still cannot comprehend was the exhausting trip home and a repeat night in Rapid City. Everyone was obviously tired, frustrated because of the heat, and at that point just wanted to get home. The bus is loaded up and many of the kids immediately fell asleep and it seemed it was taking an inordinate amount of time to get going. Suddenly doors opened and Ken and some other people came out with arm falls of stuff that had been left behind. Evidently the kids were so exhausted they simply got up and crawled on the bus and left most of their belongings behind. There were boom boxes, small suitcases, stuffed animals, jackets, and all kinds of stuff simply piled up on the sidewalk waiting for the owner to come and get it. I think that was the first time I saw Ken exasperated.
Ken is a Director of Christian Education and without getting into all the details, I have to believe that has placed him in an interesting position with Pastors. Putting the best construction on everything I would have to believe that pastors would be happy to allow Ken to take projects on which are difficult and time-consuming and then stand to the side and criticize. I am a Pastor and I confess to my shame that I have done this. If anyone wants to argue with me about that I am open for discussion. My point in bringing it up is that Ken exercised patience, Christian submission and a great deal of tact in all the relationships I’ve seen him involved in.
Ken is something of a human dynamo and never really seems to sit still. Everything he undertakes he is in for the long-haul and he is in with the full intention of doing the best he possibly can. His work with the Main Street Living production of television services has been exemplary. I don’t know how much time is demanded but I’m sure it is incredible and Ken is constantly on top of situations that arise and problems that may happen.
Ken is been involved in evangelism in so many ways that it’s hard to count. He is a great example of Peters charge for Christians to “always be ready to give a defense of the hope that is in you“. I have watched him do personal witnessing in a winsome and humble manner in different situations and was very proud to have been there.
He is a fierce advocate for life and has the honor of basically being banned from the opinion page in liberal newspapers in North Dakota.
So I found it interesting the Ken’s pastor sent out a little email notice that Ken has spent 40 years of his life as a director of Christian education and he’s been at the same church for all those years. Bill Sharpe and I used to discuss the fact that as a church body we are not very good at recognizing or showing appreciation for workers at the district level. I don’t know how many celebrations there have been for Ken or how many times he has been thanked for his dedication. Whatever it is is probably not enough. So I want to take this time to thank him for all he has done as an example to me and my Christian confession. I want to thank him for all the thankless jobs he’s taken on over the years and dedicated himself to doing them well.
So thank you Ken, God’s continued blessings to you, and I pray he continue to equip you with strength and peace as you witness to his Glory in Christ the Savior.