August 30, 2010

See Ya Later, Big Guy

Last Monday, our Pastor and good friend of twelve years, Louis Albert Purks, went home to be with the Lord.  His name meant "Shining Warrior" and he truly gave his life to shedding light to the world by fighting to bring souls to the Lord.  In the last week, this family has marveled at how many lives he influenced... and that is only in our limited knowledge.  He personally invested in the lives of everyone he encountered.   He and his wife, Gayle, founded the church we have called home since 1998.  He was active in discipleship and community outreach.  And he took an active role in home schooling his own children.

But Pastor didn't stop there.  He took an active role in the lives of every child in our church.  I remember once talking with his daughter Julie about how much our kids adored her dad and how if anything ever happened to us he'd have to adopt them because we don't have any family able to raise such a brood in the ways of the Lord.  Julie laughed and said, "Kathleen, if there should ever be an accident on a church trip, my parents will end up with a hundred kids."  That's how he was.

Most of society is under the impression that children are a nuisance until they reach a useful age.  But not Pastor Purks.  He believed quite the opposite.  Reach a child when he is young.  Love him.  Teach him.  Nurture him.  Share the things of the Lord with him.  And one day he will be useful.  I have had the honour of sitting on the sidelines and watching him reach out to the youth one child at a time and mold their lives for the better.  You would be hard pressed to find one child that spent any time at Victory Baptist Church who didn't have fond memories of Pastor Louis A. Purks.

In the fall of 1998, we were at church camp with the two girls we had at the time.  The dorm type cabins were separated two for the men and boys and two for the ladies and girls.  Pastor and Allen being the only two without young boys were bunk mates.  I guess Pastor felt sorry for him because as we were packing up to leave on Sunday afternoon, Pastor said, "Allen, you need a son to bring up here."

You know my Allen.  He had to make a joke out of it.  He pointed to me and said, "Tell that to her."  Then he went on to explain how we had been struggling with infertility and three doctors told us in no uncertain terms that we would never have anymore children and we should consider ourselves lucky that we had two... blah, blah, blah.

Pastor told him that he was going to pray for us to have a son.  The following weekend a couple that we were friends with went out of town leaving their 5 kids, including infant twins, with us for the weekend.  We had a great time with them.  Seven, kids.  Can you imagine that?  Well, when Pastor walked up to the pulpit that Sunday and saw us sitting there with a row full of children he joked about how quick that prayer was answered.

But seriously, when we found out two months later, to the shock of my doctor, we were expecting, he decided it surely must be a boy.  His logic was that if he got the baby prayer answered than God wasn't going to stop at a girl.  In fact, Pastor has this tradition.  Every new baby received a miniature New Testament and Psalms in which he would inscribe a special blessing.  It was always presented to the parents with a prayer for the newborn and the exhortation that we don't dedicate babies, but rather we dedicate parents to raise those babies in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  We call them the baby Bibles.  Pink for the girls and blue for the boys.  Pastor never bought the Bible until the baby was born.  But this time he bought the blue Bible and had it ready to go.

Well, that baby turned out to be Emma Rose, whom he called his little Almond Joy.  But he didn't give up hope that one day we'd get a son.  You can see why when our first son was born, Nathaniel Louis was named after this faithful friend.  These two have had a special relationship since the start.  They even nicknamed each other Big Louie and Little Louie. 

When we received the shocking news of his unexpected passing, our family sat for a long time talking of the many ways he has touched our lives.  It seems we could never run out of things to say.  Allen knew I would have to write a tribute to him and we decided it would be a family affair as the main point of this blog is about recording our family history and his legacy is too big to be kept to ourselves.

It is funny how the Lord works.  A disaster in our basement led us to sorting through a life time of our family photographs this week.  We came across many wonderful memories of our years under the leadership and guidance of this shepherd and the time that we were privileged to call him friend.

Pastor Purks retired to Texas earlier this year, leaving behind his son Pastor Jonathan Purks, whom he has discipled and groomed for this position.  Pastor Jonathan asked us to share brief statements or memories of his father.  Our family sat together collecting our memories into an email reply which I had to entitle, "As You Requested, but it is not brief."  Come on.  Have you ever known me to be brief?  We didn't even scratch the surface in our lengthy response.

I am including it here so that those that did not have the amazing honour of knowing him, but get a glimpse of what a man sold out for Christ can do with just 59 years on this earth.  May we all learn from his example of selfless love for lost souls and endless devotion to the things of the Lord.

Wow!  I have so many fond memories of Pastor and he influenced our family in so many ways… it is hard to know where to start. 

Allen said:  The three things that jump out at me about Pastor Purks are the first time I heard him preach in the cafeteria of my old high school, during a fifth Sunday service, before I got saved.  He was so loud my eardrums were vibrating.  It wasn’t until later that I realized it had nothing to do with how loud he was or my eardrums.

The time he came over on Christmas day through the snow to bring presents… we talked about Nathaniel’s illness and he said in the Bible when someone was sick they anointed them with olive oil.  So we got the olive oil, Pastor prayed over him and Nathaniel got better.

When he came to do our four week Bible study and I got saved on the couch in our little house. 

One of the first things that comes to my mind is how he held our newborns, often before their grandparents... and he didn’t care if they screamed the whole time or not... like when Emma had colic.

Once, when the rest of the family had gone to Texas for Thanksgiving, Pastor came to have Thanksgiving dinner at our town house.  The image of him standing on my front porch with flowers in one hand and a dish of celery stuffed with cheese whiz (is that even spelled right?) will forever be emblazoned on my mind.

His commitment to standing beside us, when our own families didn’t, through a long and painful court battle and then standing in the courtroom with us when the Lord turned the events completely around to bring it to a conclusion none of us ever expected… priceless memory…

His endless efforts to share the Gospel with my extended family… how can you forget that?

The baby Bibles… my kids have always cherished those… I always read from them first thing each morning to my newborns… not only were they their first Bibles it was the source of their first hearing of the New Testament in its entirety.
The holidays we spent together… without our own families around Pastor and his family became the family we longed for.

There was the Christmas that Pastor came to visit and we went out to the field across the highway and shot off Aedan’s new rocket together… and lost it.. forever.

And then, of course, there are the fun times… coming from a Catholic background… it was so refreshing to see Pastor’s lighter side.  Yes, the baby carrots in his nose was gross but  it was human, the lamp shade on his head, singing goofy songs, doing his amazing finger trick for the kids, telling jokes, teasing Frank… and yet, teaching the kids the difference between humor and silliness. 

A lesson that even my youngest son learned well.  When an unknowing person tells Samuel that his joke was silly he gets very serious and says, “Oh, that’s the bad one.” 

Did anyone mention his true and deep love for his family, church members, any child and even the strangers he met along the way?  He was a true example of how to reach everyone by building a relationship with them and sharing the gospel. 

I remember him sitting in our living room and praying with us when we lost our Abbey. 

And the way he said, “WEEEELLLL”  don’t know how you write that but you know what I mean!

Kaitlin said, “What I will always remember about Pastor is that he was always there to back me up, when our lost family would not. He was the one that was there in the courthouse with us.”

Brianna said: One of the (many) things I remember most about Pastor was the time(s) he would come over to dinner and do those finger and napkin games while we set the table. But there were also the times like when he was sitting on the bench while a bunch of us were on the swings and he talked to me about deeper things…he had such a passion for sharing Christ; and made everything very real. And –sorry Pastor Jonathan- but he will always be “Pastor”

Samuel says, “He is wise.”

Aedan said, “That even though he is in Heaven I will still remember him as “Pastor”

Emma remembers being his little almond joy and even though I wasn’t the boy he prayed for, he still loved me.

Nathaniel remembers celebrating his birthdays with Pastor, who never forgot one year.  Every now and then he wrote me letters.  There was the Louis club.  Little Louie and Big Louie.  All were preachers or were going to be preachers… when Judah Louis was born they decided to bring him into the fold, too. 

His vision for Heaven.  

His sense of humor.

His humility.  He was so wise and yet was the first to admit his mistakes and learn from them... and try to teach others from his errors.

Monday morning we will set off for the viewing, funeral service and burial of Pastor Louis Purks.  I don't know what the day will have in store.  But in the example of this shining warrior, I pray for opportunities to use these events as a way for our family to share the message of the Gospel.  That we can follow our Lord's command and do our part to fulfill the vision of our friend that no man shall leave this earth without the opportunity to believe.

I leave you today in the words of our Pastor Louis A. Purks, "Weeeeeellll, Darcy Gayle, we need to mosey along."         


  1. I am so sorry for your loss, but so grateful that your lives have been so enriched by knowing this man.

  2. I'm so sorry that he is gone now, but you know that he is in Heaven with the Lord this very minute! And just think of all the wonderful memories he left, and what an impact he made in the lives of his church family! He sounds like he was a truly amazing pastor and a truly amazing friend.

    Elizabeth Rose

  3. Kat, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your precious pastor/friend but praising at the same time that he has been PROMOTED TO GLORY and is resting in the arms of our Heavenly Father.

    My thoughts and prayer are with his family, as also with you and yours as well.