Thursday, June 4, 2009

At Rest

Saturday, March 14th, Dale's birthday, was spent with close family members in a private celebration of Dale's life in one of his favorite places on God's Earth - the Galiuro Mountains near Mammoth, AZ.
Beautiful words were spoken, prayers were said, tears fell and laughter was heard.

Dale Keith: In Remembrance by Chris Potts

Sometimes, watching him, I thought what a great detective he would have made. People just loved to visit with him, and they’d tell him things – things, sometimes they really hadn’t meant to tell him, or probably anyone else. Friends, strangers, neighbors, waitresses, cabdrivers … they all seemed to understand that he’d guard the secret, sense the urgency, catch the subtext, recognize the truth. And, of course, pray for them.

We all wanted Dale praying for us. Somehow, you kind of had the feeling his prayers went to the front of the line.

He was, always, so uncannily good with people. Any age, any race, any background. Pick a continent (Africa, Australia, Europe, North or South America); name an environment (a church aisle, a crowded plane, a country road, a banquet, a backyard, a bedside) and there he was, listening, hugging, sharing the Gospel simply and earnestly.

He thrived on his calling. Couldn’t sit still if his life depended on it. A dozen times, I sat beside him on 10-hour plane flights to Brazil … only, he rarely sat down. Before we landed, he’d know half the people on the plane – including those who didn’t speak English – having chatted or shown them pictures or prayed with them or led them to the Lord, between the cat-naps and the cabin service, somewhere over the Amazon.

Brazilians called him “the American who doesn’t act like an American.” It was the highest praise they could give the man who dropped out of the sky, every other year or so, to spend a few crowded days folding his long, lanky frame into and out of some pastor’s tiny car, striding boldly into mansions and hovels, schoolrooms and jail cells, sickrooms and the mayor’s office – spreading goodwill, fingering his way through the EvangeCube, and, more often than not, making a convert.

God anointed his efforts. Once, in a room of about 100 Brazilians, 98 came forward as Dale offered the invitation. Another night, his own translator turned around, at the altar call, to ask if she could invite Jesus into her heart, too.

He was such a cheerful, gracious evangelist that it was easy to miss how bold he was – blunt, even, if he thought someone was lying to themselves, or him, or God. And if someone tried to block the Gospel, or acted to dishonor God or His church, the easy smile would evaporate, and those warm eyes would suddenly blaze with a fire that unnerved those who’d misread his manners for meekness.

But, of course, it also takes a certain boldness to keep walking up and throwing your arms around everyone you meet. There just didn’t seem to be anyone Dale couldn’t envelop, even in countries where hugging isn’t the cultural norm. It was the Dale norm, and the world seemed to give him a pass on it.

Sometimes, I think we gave ourselves a pass, too. It was awfully easy, when Dale was on staff to take advantage of the blessing … to indulge the luxury of having someone around who would smile and hug the visitors and strangers, chat up the old folks, give a ride to the stranded, speak Spanish and move easily among those of other cultures, show up whether anyone else did or not, visit the sick and the shut-ins and share Christ at every turn.

It was like being on a ball team with one of those great, all-around players. Terrific asset, but a struggling team can lean hard on that one player’s reputation. And then, one day, he was gone – traded, overnight – and suddenly, it was a little more clear than it had been how much goes into making a church a church.

Love like his – for God, for people, for life – is so rare. Like all the best ones, he left us wanting more. More, not just of Dale, but of the God who enlivened and indwelled and inspired him with a purity and consistency we don’t always see, often enough, in each other. Dale was, we knew, the Christian who didn’t act like a Christian … he acted like Christ. And we cherished the reminder that some people still take their Father’s business seriously, and are content, like His Son, to go about doing good.

A few days from the end, he was telling me about an illustration he heard once, comparing death to the sailing of an ocean liner. Everyone crowds down to the dock to say goodbye, smiling, teary, and the ship pulls away, growing smaller and smaller on the horizon until someone, watching, finally says, “It’s gone.”

But of course, the ship isn’t gone. It’s merely slipped to the far side of that horizon, bound for another dock, where other friends are eagerly waiting for a wonderful reunion.

To those who still haven’t made the voyage, the ship seems to fade and vanish. But, in fact, Dale said, that isn’t true.

“The ship,” he said, “is in no way diminished by the journey.”

And he looked at me, and grinned.

A day or two later, he woke up, eyes wide, from a restless sleep, wiggling all over with excitement. “Oh,” he told his wife, Millie in a voice hushed with wonder, “Heaven is filled with such beautiful things! And you’re going to see them!”

And so we will. One of them will be that grin, waiting on the dock, and those arms, wide and waiting.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thank you!

To our family, our church family, our dearest and oldest and closest of friends:

As Dale so often said, "God is good!" We are so blessed that God allowed us to be a part of such a loving and caring "Family".

Just to say "Thank you" does not seem adequate. We truly appreciate all the love, prayers, encouragement and support during this most difficult time in our lives. We love you, The Dale Keith Family (Millie, Gene, Rebecca & Cliff)

We want to thank you all so much for your comforting words, messages, cards, letters, phone calls and visits.

We thank you for the gifts of flowers and food and your company, and a special thank you for your generous gifts. I have placed your donations in the ‘Dale Keith Mission Fund.’

As part of his memorial service Dale requested that an offering be received and designated for the mission fund of the church. Our family was truly honored when the Mission Committee announced that going forward the fund will be named the ‘Dale Keith Mission Fund’. This fund will be used exclusively for mission projects sponsored by our church. A few examples are: new church starts; mission trips such as Grace Medical Mission (twice each year a medical team travels to Guatemala) and Hurricane Katrina (help with cleanup efforts).

Donations can be made to this memorial fund and can be made payable to:

First Baptist Church Sun City
Attn: Dale Keith Mission Fund
11019 W. Peoria Ave.
Sun City, AZ 85351

Please check back for an update as we try to post some video taken during the memorial service for those that were not able to come in person.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Reverend Dale Keith

Rev. Dale Wayne Keith, pastor and missionary, passed away June 28 at his home in Sun City.

Born March 14, 1943, Rev. Keith was the second of five children born to Gollie and Maudie Keith of Tiptonville, Tennessee. Two of his siblings, Ted and Nellie, preceded him in death. He is survived by his wife, Mildred; his children, Gene, Becca, and Cliff; his siblings, Dennis and Betty; many nieces and nephews; and nine grandchildren.

He was working as a journeyman machinist at Magma Copper in San Manuel in 1976, when he was called to the Gospel ministry. He went on to serve as pastor or associate at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Benton, Arkansas; First Southern Baptist in Mammoth, Arizona; First Southern Baptist of Phoenix; First Baptist Church of Apache Junction; and First Baptist Church of Sun City, where he was serving at the time of his death. He also ministered the love of God faithfully on mission fields all over the world.

Shortly before his death, he looked up and said, “Let it be recorded: Dale Keith finished strong.” The record – both here and in the hearts of the many thousands blessed by his selfless service of Jesus Christ – shows exactly that.

Memorial services will be held on Saturday, July 5, at 10:30 AM at:

First Baptist Church of Sun City
11019 W. Peoria Ave.
Sun City, AZ 85351

Saturday, June 28, 2008

"You are my Sunshine"

"Let it be recorded: Dale Keith finished strong" Dad said this to us just a few days ago.

Dale Keith has gone to be with the Lord on this day, June 28th.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday June 27, 2008

Dale slept peacefully much of today (in between resting spells).

He has often told stories of beautiful vistas he has imagined and been surprised to see come to life in faraway places like Australia and Scotland; some as close as the valley and mountains where he grew up.

He has travelled far these past few days to revisit favorite and familiar places. I think he may be traveling even further and seeing more beautiful places than we can ever imagine.

God has some surprises for him yet!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday, June 26th

The medications are keeping Dale just near the surface of consciousness and are beginning to make some adjustments in his time schedule. He was awake and talked with Mom for a couple of hours in the night and is sleeping and waking in irregular patterns right now.

Fortunately, he hasn't had to increase the pain medications in the past few days, and he has been much more comfortable and has not complained of pain at all for the past couple days. He is continuing to grow weaker and was not able to come out of the bed today. He becomes very dizzy and disoriented just sitting up for a short time.

Today while Dad was resting in bed he said to me and Mom, "God can give us miracles. The way to get a miracle is to ask God."
"That's right!" we both agreed.
"So why don't you go ahead and ask? " he said.
So we did. We all held and hands and Mom prayed and acknowledged that only God has the power to give us a miracle, and acknowledged that God has a plan for Dale, as he does for all of us.
God's will be done!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wednesday, June 25th

Dale had a restful day, he spent most of today in bed and came out for about half an hour. When he was up he was still doing quite a bit of mental "work" and revisiting a lot of places he's been and friends he's met over the years.

He sat up for a while and had a little something to eat. It speaks volumes for his dedication to Millie; even when he is feeling tired or worn down, he would do anything for her. Anything that she asks of him, he does without hesitation, as always.

We read all your emails and cards (including the blog comments) to Dale today. Your words, thoughts and prayers lift us all and bouy us through this time. Dale smiles when names are mentioned and we know the rememberances are racing through his mind.

This photo is from last Wednesday