Since at least the age of 17, Rick Shoemaker has found a way to be in church, worshipping his Lord nearly every Sunday. Much to his disappointment, his recent bout with cancer and pneumonia kept him from being where he most wanted to be. This past Sunday morning at just after 4 AM, Rick found a way to attend Sunday worship when he went home to be with the Lord. His family, friends, community, and congregation will never be the same. How does one encapsulate such a life of ministry and loving service in a single news article? My conclusion is that it cannot be done. I can speak of my experience and hope that in some small way the readers of this article identify and get a sense of his impact.
In 1979, although unaware at the time, my life changed forever when a young preacher and his family came to the First Baptist Church of New Carlisle to become our pastor. Having grown up in the church since birth, I had seen a few pastors come and move on to other assignments. But at the age of 14, I soon realized that this pastor would be unique. He immediately took an interest in providing opportunities for young people to have fun and serve in the church. It was as though he believed that we were not only the future of the church, but the present, as well. I found myself more than ever before wanting to be there every time the doors were open. I gained a love for serving and for the creative arts, as well, when Rick penned plays for us to perform. They always contained a great message that led people to Jesus Christ. In fact, it was after the performance of one of those plays that I found myself coming forward to the altar to surrender my life to full-time Christian service. I have had the privilege of serving with Rick in one capacity or another for the last 32 years and vocationally as his associate pastor for nearly the last 16 years. I have grown closer in my walk with Christ and learned so much from this great man. My life was forever changed because of Rick Shoemaker.
Were we to gather ourselves in a single room to share what a difference Rick has made in this world, the stories would never end. I had the honor of seeing the impact he had on his family. Rick’s wife Elizabeth was right at his side during his entire ministry. Rick married his teenage sweetheart and I can remember her involvement in his ministry from the very beginning. Most notably she tried her best to keep us kids in line as we went on mission trips to serve. It was evident that God had placed this special couple in our lives to change us forever. Their influence extended to their 2 wonderful daughters who grew up with us, served with us, and honor the Lord with their lives to this day. Rick’s grandchildren find themselves serving in the church even at their young ages. Rick and Elizabeth are the best “Bampa” and “Gugug” in the world to them. Rick’s influence is also easily seen in the lives of his extended family. His parents raised some wonderful children. Over the years Rick has been able to serve in ministry with his brother, sister, mom, and dad.
Rick was a great friend. He was always there for you when you needed him, sometimes at all hours of the night. Many times he received phone calls that awakened him with the tears of a friend in need. In my life, Rick has presided over the funerals of my grandfather, brother, father, and son. I was on vacation over 7 hours away when I got the call that my son Joe was struck by a car on his way to work. It was Rick who made that call and rushed over to the hospital as my son went on to be with Jesus. Right then and there, Rick Shoemaker was the father to my son that I couldn’t be. A myriad of people can relate similar stories of how Rick went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to his friends. Many of you reading this tribute right now can attest to Rick’s faithfulness in loving his fellow man.
Rick made a difference in his community. For years he has been the announcer for field day at New Carlisle Elementary School. He has judged speech contests, hosted community dinner theaters, and constantly looked for ways in which he could serve. You could find Rick praying the invocation at city council meetings and, most notably, writing a weekly column for this very newspaper. He has counseled hundreds of couples as they have tied the knot in marriage. He has presided over countless funerals and made a difference in the lives of many who did not have a church home. He was always ready to serve when asked and often looked for ways to help even before he might be called upon.
Finally, Rick forever changed the path of a small church in the country just outside of New Carlisle. Of the many things we could discuss in how Rick influenced First Baptist Church, it can be said that he had a heart for kids. In the early 1990’s, Rick presided over the construction of our gymnasium and child care center. He had to convince us that it was a step of faith for which God had called us. Construction was completed and the note was paid off in under 10 years under his direction. Today, our Wee Care Child Care center serves our community and congregation by providing daycare for children in a loving, Christian environment, Monday through Friday. That step of faith has provided jobs for people in our congregation as well as for those in our community. We are able to offer Upward basketball and cheerleading in our gymnasium for over 150 kids each year because of Rick. Many church and community events are hosted here because of the leadership and faithfulness of Rick Shoemaker.
In closing, the world is now a lesser place as we say goodbye to one of New Carlisle’s heroes. I will never be the same and I know that readers of this tribute will say a loud and collective amen to a life well-lived. Our loss is heaven’s gain. The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that for the Christian who has trusted Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior, there is a longing to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. Right now, Rick Shoemaker is living that dream.
Post a Comment