Today Pastor Dennis Turner entered into Heaven and met his Savior face to face.
"Well done good and faithful servant," I am certain he was told as He gazed into the eyes of the Risen King, the One he followed all the days of his life.
Pastor Dennis Turner was a faithful husband, father, and pastor. He loved his family and shepherded his flock, Christ.Church (formerly Eastside Community Church) with all his heart, mind, and soul. He preached the Gospel and made many disciples of Jesus.
I first met Pastor Dennis when I was in my early twenties while in college. I was coming out of a brief period of being 'against organized religion' following an upbringing in the Catholic Church. I had never been to a non-denominational Christian church before.
I believed in God and knew I wanted to seek Him. I was hungry for truth but didn't know where to turn. So I looked up churches in Wichita and decided to attend Eastside Community. And praise God, it was exactly where I needed to be.
It was there that I first heard and understood the Truth of the Gospel for the first time. It was there that I first realized that the Gospel was for ME, that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. Being a good person wasn't enough. I couldn't earn my way to Heaven. My sin had hung Jesus on the cross and He had died for me too. He was the only way to a relationship with my Heavenly Father.
I'll never forget repenting of my sin and choosing to put my faith in Him. It was Pastor Dennis and Eastside Community Church that gave me my first encounter with the real and Risen Jesus. It was where I fell in love with Jesus. It was where I learned to worship. It was my first real church home.
Fast forward a few years and I was engaged to be married. I had been baptized as a baby, but wanted to proclaim my renewed faith and be born again.
Pastor Dennis and his wife, Cathy, flew out to Florida and baptized me in the ocean the night before my wedding day. In the warm waves of the Gulf of Mexico, I went under the water as one person and came out a new creation in Christ.
Fast forward a few more years and I was living out of state and had discovered my husband was committing adultery and wanted a divorce. I was in shock and completely heartbroken. My whole world crumbled down and I was anxious and depressed.
I flew back to Wichita and Pastor Dennis welcomed me home and counseled me during one of the darkest seasons of my life. He offered me a job and I had the privilege of working with him as an Administrative Assistant in the church office. I still remember to this day some of the specific wisdom and love he spoke into my life during that season.
I spent many days in the sanctuary of the church, tears streaming down my face, wondering how I would ever survive the pain I was in. The betrayal and rejection I had faced felt impossible to heal from. But Jesus met me there in that sanctuary and slowly began to heal my heart.
Fast forward many more years later and I am remarried to a faithful man and have three children, one in Heaven and two on earth. We established a new home church and have been serving the Lord through our ministry, Bridget's Cradles.
But recently I heard the news that Pastor Dennis was very sick in the hospital and needed urgent prayers. Christ.Church held a 24/7 prayer vigil and I drove up to church after my boys had gone to bed. When I pulled up, the parking lot was full of cars and the sanctuary full of people falling on their knees in prayer for Pastor Dennis.
This was a testament to his life. Of how many people loved and respected him. He was a faithful man of God, one who never wavered or compromised on his beliefs. He loved Jesus more than anything and preached the Gospel until his last days on earth.
I was moved to tears to see the Body of Christ calling on the name of Jesus for his healing. He has loved and served his congregation well.
I will never be able to fully articulate the impact that Pastor Dennis has had on my life but I know that I am not the same person because of him. The eternal impact he has made on me and countless others will always be remembered.
He was a disciple of Jesus Christ living out the Great Commission to disciple others in Jesus' name and I am one of those disciples. God orchestrated for Dennis to be a part of my faith journey and his fingerprints will always be on my life and ministry.
I am grieved that I didn't get the chance to tell him how much he meant to me on earth, but I know without a doubt that I will see him again one day in Heaven. I will miss him so much and grieve his loss with his family, friends, and congregation.
I know and trust that the Lord will continue to use his life and legacy to proclaim the Good News of Jesus. For that is all that Pastor Dennis was living for - for the glory of God. I praise Jesus that death has been defeated and the grave does not have a hold on Dennis.
Until I see you again, Dennis, thank you for your faithful service to Jesus and for the impact you've made on my life. Will you hug my sweet Bridget for me? I can't wait to see you both again.
Friends, will you join me in praying for the Turner and Carrillo families as they grieve Dennis and celebrate his life?
May we all seek to live a life like Dennis - to love our families well and serve Jesus faithfully until our final breath.