Densel Ray Ball II: A Demi-Eulogy

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Today’s post is going to be a very dangerous one. For while I won’t be speaking evil of the dead, I may not be speaking with high enough praise to satisfy everyone.

The deceased, Densel Ray Ball II, was a dear friend of mine, though definitely others knew him better and closer. My choices, and those of my family, took us out of his closer orbit, but still left my son and I within the greater orbit of his friendship.

Densel passed away on April 27, following complications from an automobile accident on the afternoon of April 21. He left behind his wife of 21 years, Denise, and two children, Jacqueline and Ty.scan0004

The service, as all funerals and eulogies tend to be, praised the man highly, as was true and right. People talked of his faith, of his care for others, the way he walked with his head up, reaching out to those around him. They portrayed the truth of his faithfulness: to his God, to his Family, to his Church, to his friends and fellowman.

I first knew Densel when he came to Cornerstone Wesleyan Church as pastor. We were between two churches, deciding which one to attend, and eventually chose the other church (close and specific programs). But we kept track of friends at Cornerstone through Facebook, and eventually when they started a men’s breakfast, my son and I started attending, and renewed old and developed new friendships.

And Densel was there, and I renewed friendship with him, and found his care and reach deepen with me and my son.

I also saw how he reached out to the staff at the restaurant, first at Home Town Buffet, and then Golden Corral. The way he observed everyone and reached out, and prayed for everyone, really was true.

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The amazing thing about it, was that once he established the connection, the rest of us, less open to reach out, learned and grew to continue the connection on the times he wasn’t there. He was faithful, seeing Christ in everyone, and he taught us all to learn how to do the same.

Yet, with all that, there was also another side to Densel. The oblivious side. Because that demeanor to reach out to everyone, doesn’t work for everyone. My wife never felt comfortable with it, and Densel never seemed to realize that fact, never changed or modified himself to meet her that way. Because of his obliviousness to who she was, she was never really able to get along with him. Likewise, for myself, I had personal reservations at the start, especially because of the way it caused dissonance in my family, and it took the time of a different angle for it to merge and grow on me, for me to be able to grow and gain an appreciation for his ministry and style, as I kept my own, while learning from him.

One other thing the funeral service did for me, was make me acutely aware of how far I felt myself fall from the standard Densel portrayed of faithfulness and selflessness. It did not bring me to despair, because it also emphasized the role of Christ’s love and mercy for us to be able to become new creatures, and experience and practice that faithfulness.

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The service also showed me how many people were touched by Densel, and I saw people I didn’t know knew him, and we all realized how much the body of Christ is one body, but many members.

Examples of Faith …

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Today’s post is about two examples of faith I heard about today: one very close to home and personal for me, the other around the globe, but just as powerful. The latter touches a global hotspot, the former, the greater community in which I live.

Local example

The first relates to Cornerstone Wesleyan Church. On Friday afternoon, April 21 , 2017, their pastor, Densel Ball, was involved in a car accident where he was thrown from the vehicle. He has sustained severe head injuries and was taken to the ICU at Overland Park Regional.

Cornerstone, the church, came into my family’s life back in 2007, when we were at the stage of moving from the mega-church we attended to something more community-oriented and local. When we were searching, we narrowed our focus to two churches, Cornerstone, and the Avondale Methodist church where we finally ended up going.

During that search, we made connections at both churches, and still maintain friendships at Cornerstone, even though it isn’t the one of the two we now regularly attend. There was a change in pastors about the time we were finalizing our decision — that was Densel arriving at Cornerstone.

Over the years we’ve kept in touch with Cornerstone, and seen the community of faith there that continued to develop around Densel’s leadership. And though we didn’t continue to attend Cornerstone, Densel made my son and I feel very much at home and a part of the community of believers when we attend the monthly men’s breakfast sponsored by Cornerstone.

So when I saw on Facebook this morning the post about the accident, and had to look back to yesterday to find the posts about the accident itself, it was a hard punch to the emotions. The Bells had recently gone through a surgery for a brain tumor for Densel’s wife, and now this for him.

Yet when you look at the Facebook page, you can see the circle of friends, of the church, of the faith, coming together in prayer. The drawing together of the community in faith, praying for healing, ready to trust whatever happens.

As I type this they CT scan today didn’t come back with good results, and the prognosis is still very critical. Though not there in person, I am filling in the circle of faith with my own prayers.

The church is having a prayer-oriented worship service tomorrow, continuing the ministry of the worship and the faith, as they have been taught well by their pastor.

Global Example

The second example comes from Egypt, and the Coptic Christians there. This article in Christianity Today tells the story of a widow forgiving the suicide terrorist who killed her husband on Palm Sunday. In a televised interview she noted:

“I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said his wife, children by her side. “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’

“‘You put my husband in a place I couldn’t have dreamed of.’”

This example of forgiveness is sending shock-waves through the Muslim communities in Egypt. It is also creating a resurgence of faith within the Coptic community itself. Christians in the Arab world have been declining in numbers in the past decades, with severe persecution driving them out.

The article also talks about the role of the Coptic Christians in the Arab Spring, something that I never saw in the media articles of the time. Yet that glow has faded, but a new opportunity of faith is arising, and my question is, will we of the West support, or hinder our brothers of faith in the Muslim world?

Epilogue

I mentioned that there would be two examples of faith, but I’ll allude to a third. This week I recorded and edited two quick video interviews to be used in our worship service at the Avondale Methodist church on Sunday. I won’t mention specific details, but they discuss a program of our church that in its own essential way is demonstrating the reach of the faith in the community.

The two main examples are just that, examples, of faith in action. We need to make sure that each of us continues to be examples when and wherever we have the chance, and to stay involved as communities of faith.

 

The disappearance of ‘alleluia’

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For someone like myself who grew up in a very non-liturgical Baptist church, some of the liturgical traditions seem a little crazy, or extreme. Yet the people in these traditions can sometime be very extreme in their observances and positions on them.

One such observance, a part of lent in many traditions, is not saying/singing the word “alleluia” during Lent.

The reasons for the observance have a legitimate philosophical and theological basis. As one website notes:

The point of the season is a kind of exile. While the event of the resurrection has occurred in history, the days of Lent serve as a reminder that we do not yet experience the kingdom in its fullness. We live in the hope of the resurrection, but the weakness of human existence is all too evident in this life. The omission of the alleluia is one symbolic way to enter into the spirit of the season of Lent. The days of Lent are days of penance and recollection of human weakness but also days of anticipation and so we long for the day when the kingdom is fully realized. To be deprived of certain things during the days of Lent is designed to create a longing for the realization of all that the life of Jesus promises.

Now, this has a direct, practical impact on those of us in the church music community.  There are a lot of songs that use these words. The selections of hymns and service music is affected. But in the choral community it has another impact. We are always rehearsing music a season in advance. That means we have to sing quite a few alleluias during the Lenten season to be ready for the glorious breakout of Easter.

But to some people that breaks the “alleluia” prohibition. I heard one fellow choral member tell a story about a lady who came down really hard on the choir in her church, the choir my story-telling friend belonged to. They wrestled with her, trying to explain the concept of rehearsal.

This extreme view has a different solution in some circles.Some choirs are not even allowed to rehearse with “alleluia”. I have heard that in some of those circles, the choirs have gone to rehearsing with “what’s it to you” during lent, in place of the “alleluias” they aren’t allowed to sing. That is a unique, and extreme, adherence, to tradition.

2017: starting and restarting and finishing

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A lot of things seem to have begin end dates of the new year.

Before I could ride my bicycle this morning, to properly track the numbers I want to on it, I had to reset the odometer so I could track my mileage for the year.

Last fall was open enrollment for health benefits at work. Since work provides several options to choose from, this year I chose to switch plans and lower premiums, so that means new cards, and providing new information to all our medical providers the next time we visit them.

I do a daily Bible reading. I used a through the Bible plan last year with some Old Testament each day and some New Testament most days. Now I need to look through plans offered and decide how I want to do it this year. Probably should have been looking before January 1, but will be doing that today. (note, took break writing the post here, and chose my plan — Historical, in the order written, as best guessed by scholars.)

I have all sorts of Google sheets that I track various numbers and activities. I’ll need to role each of those to start a new sheet for the year. need to decide if I want to update the format on any of them to better reflect the information I am trying to record. These sorts of things are always works-in-progress.

I have some goals for the year. Won’t mention most of them here. The fitness ones will be listed in tomorrow’s weekly fitness post.

I also have something to finish up this year. Two classes remaining in my Master’s Degree. Hopefully one here January-March (on how to research — prep for the thesis), and the final course September to December to write the thesis. I really need to discuss the topic with my adviser and settle on something I want to do. Problem is I get another good idea with each class I take. Need to find focus. But hopefully the degree will be completed this year. my actual hope is to March during the May 2018 ceremony.

A lot more things going on for the year. That is just a sample.

But it began well this morning. Seems very appropriate that the first day of the year is a Sunday, to spend the day in worship with communion and the fellowship of believers. And we even had a special guest today. My bad for not  writing the name down, but it was someone from South Korea, who is going back after being an exchange student somewhere in Texas. She was visiting us because 17 years ago she sang at the wedding of our pastor and his wife (they are naturalized US citizens who came here from South Korea).

She sang what seemed to me a medley of praise hymns while accompanying herself on the piano. As someone with 12 years of piano lessons, and a singer who has accompanied himself while singing, I know that isn’t easy. She had a good voice too. But it was the medley, and the message, that gave me chills of awe and praise. I’ve been moved my many special numbers at services, but today I was really moved, as I haven’t been in a long time.

I was glad I started my year in church.

Trunk or Treat

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Today’s post is announcing the Avondale United Methodist Church Trunk or Treat from 4-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016 in the church parking lot, 3101 NE Winn Road, Kansas City, Mo, 64117.

Below are some shots from the 2015 event:

The Hash Chorus

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Today’s post is a video look at a musical segment from Sunday’s services, both 8:30 and 10:50 a.m. It was also sort of an experiment.

At the beginning you can hear me explaining what the song — the hash chorus — is, and where I first picked it up. Those who remember this from my high school days will note that the set of songs isn’t the same as we did. That is one of the graces of this song, it changes over time.

I could tell that the song went over better with some than with others. The more familiar the songs were to people, the better it was. When I disappeared off the camera, it was to encourage the congregation to participate in the responsive singing of that particular song. Several people in the second service did this.

But the second service people also got more antsy with the songs. I could tell there were many that they didn’t know.

Yet it was a good demonstration of the variety of songs that we have and know, and the use of music and praise in worship, in fellowship, and in life generally.

We seldom get together with people and just sing, whether worship music or otherwise. This is something that seemed more common in past days. Today we let the professionals do it for us. But it should be something we should all do, same as breathing.

Community Day in Cooley Park/Heights

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(Taken from the AUMC newsletter)

September 17 is a big community event day. There is an opening
ceremony of the Literacy Center at Walnut Grove Apartments (10:00
a.m. – 2:00 p.m.). It is a reading room for children to read books and
adults who speak English as the second language to learn English. The
opening ceremony provides games, bouncy house, food, and library
cards. You can visit and look around the Literacy Center and meet
neighbors.
Also, there is a soccer event at Cooley Park (11:00 a.m.). It is
sponsored by the Bosnian Islamic Center, Kansas City Police
Department, Cooley Highland Neighborhood Association, and Kansas
City. KC Police, Bosnian Americans, and people in the neighborhood
will have a soccer tournament; I heard 5-6 soccer teams will play. Each
team consists of 6 players – the size of indoor soccer. Each game time
is 30 minutes. If you come an hour earlier (10:00 a.m.), you can join in
a team or participate in a tournament with your team. The Islamic
Center will grill burgers and prepare Bosnian foods to share with the
community. The Cooley Neighborhood Association, which include
many congregants of Avondale, supports it. Avondale UMC will
provide parking space for the event. This event should become the
place of meeting and building community. As one of Cooley Highland
Neighborhood community, I am very excited to announce this event to
the church. Also, as the pastor of Avondale UMC, I encourage you to
come to this event and “be the church.” Your presence should mean a
lot for the Islamic community. You can help parking and volunteer for
the event.
I hope to see you and your family and friends at the events and also at
the Little House Garage Sale scheduled on the same day (Sat. 9:00 a.m.
– 3:00 p.m.). Avondale UMC should become the sign of reconciliation
and collaboration for the community.
In Christ
Choongho Kwon
Avondale UMC