It’s the call you are never prepared to receive. It’s the call you can’t believe when you do receive it. It’s the call that causes time to stop.
I got this call on Monday night.
It was a call from the mom of a very good friend of mine. Through sobs she struggled to get the words out… my dear friend, her only son, Hal, was just killed in a motorcycle accident.
Hal Shrader had died? I stood there in shock. I couldn’t breathe.
It’ can’t be. No. No way. Please…NO!
Sadly, I came to understand it was true.
The words of Psalm 39 came flooding into my mind:
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.”
I don’t have enough words to express to you how much Hal means to me. I can’t begin to capture the extent of this loss. But I am going to try.
Hal grew up in my youth group years ago and I became his Youth Pastor. He first came into my life when he was about ten years old. I didn’t know then how much he and his family would come to mean to me and my family. This reality is what makes his death so devastating.
As he was growing up Hal began to sense God’s calling on his life. He attended a Bible College, did an internship with us at Central, became a youth pastor himself, spent time on the mission field, and eventually became the Lead Pastor of his own church.
Years ago I had the privilege of performing the wedding of Hal to the love of his life, Chrisie. She is simply darling and we fell in love with her too. At their wedding, Jeremy was the ring-bearer, and Amy was their flower-girl. It seems like just yesterday.
Hal and Chrisie went on to have two beautiful girls of their own, Mollie and Madison, now both in their twenties. How does time move so quickly?
I need to back up for a minute. When Hal was just a squirrely kid he had a best friend who he introduced me to. He was a guy named Dean Kuest. Both of these boys grew into wonderful men, men who love God and who both have become dear friends of mine. Both of these young men served as constant reminders to me that all the struggles of ministry are worth it.
Guys like Hal and Dean who grow up to love God are why investing in ministry is always worth it!
Most recently Hal has been serving as the Lead Pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church in Phoenix. He was simply an inspiring leader who was a rising star in the Mennonite community. Hal was even a featured speaker at their National Convention this past summer. He was a visionary and he lived on the cutting edge of creativity. He was different than most in that he was willing to go where ever he sensed God was leading him.
There are many things I will miss about Hal. I will miss his sharp wit and great sense of humor, his keen intellect, his curious mind, his perceptive grasp of culture, and his endless questions about ministry and leadership. My heart breaks just thinking about this.
The service for Hal will be held next Friday and the location is still yet to be determined. Please join me in praying for all who are affected by this loss. Pray for the body of Trinity Mennonite who have lost their Pastor, pray for Chrisie, and Mollie and Madison. Pray for Hal’s parents JB and Laretta Shrader, his sister Cindy, and his very good friend Dean, who is now our Glendale Campus Pastor! And while you are praying, please pray for Chrisie’s mom and dad, Paul and Janice Marshall, who are both leaders on our Glendale campus.
You see, it’s all about family. It’s all about the church being what the church is supposed to be, family! As painful as it can be, I can’t imagine not being a part of such a community. I am a much better person because I had a friend like Hal.
I want to close with a quote from my wife Lisa, “I can’t imagine the world without Hal.”