In 1988 I moved my family from Mesa to Edwardsville, Illinois. I had become a partner in a radio broadcast group and uprooted my family from the Valley of the Sun to what would be our headquarters in St. Louis.
It was a difficult move. We left family, the church and pastor who had fed us with God's Word and sacraments, lots of great friends, a nice home and neighborhood.
As we embarked on this new adventure my dear, sweet wife and I decided we could do one thing to make the transition easier - quickly find a new church home. We did so at Trinity Lutheran in Edwardsville.
The church also had a day school so all three of the kids were enrolled. We quickly got to know lots of other parents who warmly welcomed us, although many asked, "Why in the world did you move here? People from here move to Arizona!"
During our five years at Trinity we met lots of nice people and made some friendship that have lasted to this day. One of those friends was a retired gentleman named Loren Ligon.
Loren was a faithful worshipper and loved attending Bible classes. He took a shine to our family and always had a piece of candy in his pocket for our youngest daughter. Unfortunately, sometimes the candy didn't always have the wrapper on it. Katie remembered a time when Loren handed her a piece of candy covered with lint. She politely took the candy and then waited until Loren had moved on. The candy went in the garbage can.
After living in Edwardsville for five years I decided to leave the radio business and attend Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Loren was delighted with this decision and after we moved we would receive a small gift from him each month. It wasn't much but he wanted to show his support as best he could. Then, one day, he gave me the surprise of my life.
He called and asked if I could meet him at a certain place on a Saturday morning. I don't remember the name of the place now. But he said he wanted to buy me a cup of coffee. I thought we were meeting at a restaurant. But when I pulled up at the address Loren had given me, I was parked in front of a men's clothing store.
I walked in and found Loren with a couple of well dressed men. He announced, "Here is a future pastor and we've got to make sure he looks his best!" I said, "Loren, I thought we were meeting for a cup of coffee?" Loren replied, "We are - but first I have to buy you a suit of clothing!"
I protested. I told him he didn't need to do any such thing. I told him I had plenty of clothes. I said "no!"
Loren didn't take "no" for an answer. Before we were done, he had purchased for me a double-breasted black suit, a sport coat to match my black slacks, three pairs of black socks and a new pair of shoes. I don't know how much Loren spent that day (he wouldn't tell me) but it was a lot more than you'd spend on a cup of coffee.
Later, at a diner, I asked Loren about his generosity. "Why did you do this, Loren?"
"Because I can and because I want to." Loren, I learned, had helped support other seminarians through the years. He felt like he had a personal connection to me and my family so he saw his small monthly gifts and the suit of clothing as one way he could encourage us all.
Loren's support and interest in our family continued through my first two years at Seminary. Before my second year we met at the clothing store again. This time he bought a blue blazer, "An essential part of any man's wardrobe"), a couple of pairs of slacks and another pair of shoes. He also brought a big bag of hard candy that I was to give to Katie. Loren hadn't forgotten her love of sweets.
Our years at the seminary were exciting but also challenging. We had downsized and were living in a house less than half the size of the home we had owned. I received a small paycheck from the radio group (a generous offer on their part); otherwise, we lived on Sherri's paycheck. At times Sherri was a single parent, while my nose was buried in one book or another. We dealt with some pretty tough days.
But God used people like Loren Ligon to bless and encourage us. We had left a community where we really felt like we were fitting in only to start all over again. But were weren't forgotten. Not by Loren. And not by the Lord.