Doing the Groundwork

When you’re a business consultant, you count your blessings when you come across a client who is receptive to your ideas, willing to accept your help, and desires to learn. Even rarer is when you and your client become trusted friends. And to have a client that becomes a part of your extended family; that’s the stuff of legends. I’m sharing this post with you to celebrate heaven’s arrival of a dear brother in Christ, mentor, and friend, Mr. Craig “Papa” Hoekenga; founder of Microboard Processing, Inc. in Seymour, CT.

My introduction to Mr. Craig came in July 2018. A bearded gentleman walked into the conference room our team was working in, made himself lunch, and quietly observed as I led our team through planning their first government proposal. Acknowledging each other with a smile and head nod, I continued with the task at hand, wondering who the quiet man was. His presence surprised none of the client representatives, so we continued with business as usual. Later that afternoon, they introduced me to Mr. Craig. The quiet, unassuming man who only smiled as I presented a lesson in Government Acquisitions 101 was one of the foremost process engineering and efficiency experts in the world.

As the afternoon wore on, various team members escaped the “war room” to gather data and other information needed for the next day’s sessions. After most had left, Mr. Craig shook my hand and said, “You did a lot of groundwork today. I’m sure glad God brought you here.” His words affirmed what I had felt in my spirit soon after arriving on site. He chuckled as I reminded him of the Seven Ps and commented that “No one had run out screaming and waving their arms, yet anyway.”

Over the next few days, this gentleman’s graciousness and kindness blessed me. How could one of the most powerful people in the GE culture of years ago be this calm, speak so gently, and exhibit such humility and love? But God. It seemed miraculous to me that in a few short days, I found much more than a supporter and friend. In Mr. Craig, I found a Christian brother who would mentor and guide me on my journey in faith. As I was preparing to leave that week, Mr. Craig offered me a copy of his booklet, “Answering the Call to Serve.”

Reading the copy that he had updated by hand, I gained further insight into the transformational power of salvation and surrender in one’s life. In the subsequent months and years after that first visit, our friendship grew both stronger and sweeter as we discussed building a legacy of faith. Visible in the company’s culture of caring and giving, and in the strong bonds of faith within the Hoekenga family, Mr. Craig left a legacy defined by his book’s subtitle. His legacy is found in the way he lived a life of faith, hope, and service in the light of the Scriptures.

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My friend planted good seed in well-prepared soil that will reap harvests for God’s kingdom long after his arrival in heaven. His life showed the importance of doing the groundwork. His groundwork was preparing the soil of his family’s hearts for service. Perhaps the greatest way to explain to those who never met this gentle servant of God is to share some of his own words with you.

“My story revolves around three simple and profound truths.
God is faithful (when we ‘test’ Him we find out).  We can never out give
or out love God. God’s work done in God’s way will never  lack God’s
supply. (Hudson Taylor, Missionary to China, 1832-1905)”

 The line he highlighted in his gift that means the most to me is; “When I am called home to be with the Lord, I want to leave this earth owning nothing, knowing that the hand that gives gathers.”–Craig Hoekenga

I want to end this post with something I shared with my friend before his journey home. I pray his family finds great peace and comfort in knowing they are living out the legacy of God’s love their earthly father and grandfather planted deep within their souls.

God’s blessings,

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50 thoughts on “Doing the Groundwork

  1. It’s so wonderful how God puts us together with just the people we need. My condolences to Mr. Craig’s family and to you as his friend. We know he is receiving his reward for a faithful life. What a blessing you have in all you gained from knowing him.

    1. It really is Ms. Barbara. Among my ending prayers each morning is thanking God for the wonderful people He’s brought into my life since He called me to write for Him and His kingdom. I so often feel so ill-equipped to be a Christian writer, yet God brings the right person with just the right message I need into my life. He did that with my friends Mr. Craig and his dear family, with you, and so many others He has blessed my life with. Thank you for reminding me that not all of rewards will be waiting for us in heaven’s glory. God sometimes shares them with us now; we call them friends.

    1. For the glory is His my friend. What a blessing it is to come alongside your family in worship and service. I’ll always cherish the counsel and advice your dad so graciously shared with me. I think some of the greatest lessons came not from his words of wisdom, but from his heart of service to others; in God’s name. Please know your mom and all of y’all remain in our prayers daily. God’s blessings gentle friend and sweet sister in Christ.

  2. Thank you JD for sharing your friend and his reminder to us to leave behind what matters and will not evaporate. My sympathy to you and his family, yet we have hope in knowing you will meet again.

    1. Thank you Ms. Marilyn. While there will always be grief when we lose a loved one, as you know better than most, there is also a great sense of joy when you know they were saved in Christ and we’ll see them again. Their temporary loss in our lives is filled with the memory of all they left behind in us. God’s blessings my friend; and thank you.

  3. The context of our earthly grieving somehow seems an inverse to God’s love and grace. Yet we grieve for those who impacted our life by sharing theirs. I am blessed to know you via these weak connections, J.D., and trust God’s grace fills your heart as you mourn the loss of a close friend.

    1. And I you Mr. Warren. While we naturally grieve the loss of friends and loved ones, we must remember to honor them by living our lives as closely to the standard they modelled for us as we can. While I will most likely never measure up to the giving my friend Mr. Craig did; I can give as freely as he did and in the same spirit of godly love that he demonstrated. I think that’s our goal; extend the legacy of those who impacted our lives with their presence.

  4. What a beautiful message! I am thankful for the mentors God has placed in my life. Those special people continue to guide me closer to Him each day. You are one of those people. Through your words, I find peace. Thank you J.D.

    1. As are you Ms. Mimi. I’ve gained so many wonderful new friends, mentors, and prayer warriors on this journey to become a Christian author. It can only be the divine grace of our Lord. Thank you so much for your kind words ma’am.

  5. What an amazing servant of God Mr. Craig was, J. D. Thank you for sharing his influence on your own spiritual walk, and showing us all, through him, what it means to love one another in the way God wants us to do. May he rest in the arms of Jesus.
    Blessings!

    1. I am certain he is doing exactly that Ms. Martha Jane! I’m just as certain the words of Matthew 25:23 were spoken upon Mr. Craig’s arrival in glory. “Well done my good and faithful servant…” I pray one day to be worthy of that same blessing. Thank you ma’am.

  6. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. What an example he lived out, and even in your tribute, he continues to be an example for us. I’m thankful your life was blessed by this friendship.

    1. Thank you Ms. Karen. I think some “giant footprints”/”boots” were left to fill by my friend’s passing, but I am certain that those whose lives was so positively impacted by his life are well-prepared to fill them. We may each only fill a small portion of that footprint, but as I suspect Mr. Craig would tell us; “It’s not how much you do, but how well you do it.” 🙂 God’s blessings ma’am.

    1. Thank you Ms. Cherrilynn. While losing a friend can be hard, losing a parent can sometimes seem unbearable. My prayers are that the Hoekenga family is filled with peace and comfort, knowing that each of them will only be separate from their husband, dad, father-in-love, and grandfather for just a short while.

  7. So touching and a sweet tribute to a godly man. Thank you for sharing this man’s life with us, J.D. It is always encouraging to hear about a godly mentor and friend. So sorry for your loss!

    1. Thank you Ms. Stephanie. My sorrow and grief over his passing is tempered by knowing I’ll see him again one day soon, and by the legacy of giving in godly love to the least among us that will be carried forward by his beautiful family. Mr. Craig Hoekenga will be greatly honored indeed.

  8. A beautiful tribute, J.D., and a reminder to us to honor those mentors and role models who shared their love and joy of giving with others. When someone shares with us the love of Jesus and lives a life that shows the Light of Jesus shining through in all they do, it changes everything. I know you are grieving for your friend, but what a wonderful legacy he has given to so many.

    1. Thank you, and “Amen” Ms. Katherine. Perhaps the greatest way that we can honor those who have influenced our lives so positively is to pass on the blessings they shared with you. I think that’s how we honor the love they shared with us; carrying their legacy forward. God’s blessings my friend.

  9. He certainly sounds like an amazing man of God and what a blessing it is when we find those with whom we share faith. From knowing you through our interactions online, I have no doubt he was richly blessed you you too, my friend.

    1. I hope Ms. Ann. Something I’ve tried to model in my life is the philosophy of “We get what we give.” I pray I’ve given as well as I’ve gotten through the blessings of our God and the wonderful folks He’s brought into my life.

  10. Thank you for today’s beautiful story. God sends wonderful friends to us, I’m sure, to share with us friendship and blessings.

    1. So very kind. Thank you Ms. Joyce. I remember the passing of your dear mama, Ms. Dot; and the terrible loss that was for your family. Joyous of course because she was a devoted child of God, but hard all the same. I can assure you that I see that same legacy of extending God’s love through your lives as I saw from your mom’s. God’s blessings sweet friend. You and your sister Ms. Jan have blessed my life greatly through the legacy your mom instilled in y’all.

  11. Begs the question, What will be said of me? What did I leave behind and is there any eternal value in it? Are people better or worse for having known me? Great post! Thankful for this man’s influence in your life as it has only served to bless me and multiple others who know you

  12. Dear J.D.,
    I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend and am certain he would be honored by your tribute. May we all live out our faith as fully and faithfully as he!

    My thoughts and prayers are with you as you grieve your friend.

    Peace and grace,
    Tammy

    1. Thank you Ms. Tammy your words are a sweet salve of kindness ma’am. I agree with you that this gentle man sat an example of living a surrendered life to God; and oh the rewards he’ll reap.

  13. J.D.,
    Thanks for such a lovely introduction to an amazing man. I can’t wait to meet him in heaven. My condolences on your loss. Rejoicing over his promotion.

    1. I’m looking forward to introducing many of my friends Ms. Lori, as we’ll all be one happy, reunited family. 🙂 I think Mr. Craig would have smiled broadly at the idea of having been “promoted.”

    1. Thank you Ms. Candyce. I know all y’all would have like him too. You just can’t help but love God’s people can you? At least those who are truly God’s.

  14. J. D. this was an excellent tribute to your friend, and testimony of the power of a life yielded to the Savior. How important that we keep up to the very end and finish well. Thanks so much for sharing this story of a good friend.

    1. “A life yielded”; I like that thought ma’am. It’s when we yield to God and get out of His way that He can grow us and groom us the best. Thank you so much ma’am. Let us finish well my friend.

  15. Buying up each and every opportunity to share the love of Jesus should be our goal. Our daily prayers should include something about bringing someone in my day to encourage and show what living a Christ-centered life should look like.
    “Pleasing Him, pleasing Him!
    We make that our goal
    A greater aim has no one
    Nor has there ever been
    So we make it our goal to please Him.”
    Song by Keith Lancaster

  16. Thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute to your friend. Indeed, his kindness and genuineness were the groundwork for his witness of faith to you. I’m sorry for your loss. In a devotional this morning the pastor said the resurrection is meaningless without death. All the more joy awaits.

  17. Thank you for introducing such a great man of faith to us. I see why you were kindred spirits from the start and connected immediately. His character and attributes seem so much like you. Love his quote about going home to heaven and your poem as well. Both beautiful and powerful from faithful men of God.

    1. I’m deeply honored Ms. Karen that you could even think that, but I sometimes think I have so far to go. Then again, it’s not what the world (or even we) think, but what God thinks and says about us that matters. Amen sweet friend. God’s blessings.

  18. Thank you for sharing about Mr. Craig! What a wonderful friendship you were blessed to have with him, and what an amazing legacy he left. Prayers for his family and for you.

    1. Thank you Ms. LuAnn. My friend Mr. Craig left behind a great example of legacy of faith that your Mr. Kenn writes and teaches about so well. Glad you enjoyed the poem ma’am. God’s blessings; and congratulations on the new home.

  19. Such beautiful words to honor his memory. How wonderful to have such a treasured friendship. You are now part of his legacy. How fortunate and blessed.

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