02 May Thanking God for our friend, Kris Goertzen
(Some helpful links are at the end of this post).
God miraculously made a way for us to move to Los Angles, California in 1988, and for me to attend The Master’s Seminary (TMS). Our family was able to be a part of Grace Community Church, where John MacArthur is Senior Pastor. We experienced so many blessings there, it is hard to recount them all. I would like to highlight one of them in this post – this is about our friendship with Rick and Kris Goertzen. I want to share this now, as Kris passed away last week (April 26, 2023) from ALS.
We moved to LA in 1988 (and lived there until 1992), and I completed my Master of Divinity degree at TMS. I also worked for a company in LA which London Life Insurance Company (LL) bought. I had been working as a computer programmer for LL for about eight years when they asked me to move to LA to help with a large computer system with this new company.
This was a miraculous answer to prayer as we had wanted to go to Master’s Seminary, but we could not afford to live in the US unless I worked, so God had London Life buy a company in LA which just happened to have the exact same computer system I had sort of become an expert on! So I was able to get a work Visa, meaning I had the ability to support my family and pay for four years of seminary.
The full story of how God did all of this is for another day, but all this to say, just prior to us moving there, LL sent me twice to LA, the first time for two weeks, the second time for a month. They asked me to go and spend my days helping the company learn their new system, but also so I could look for somewhere for our family to live.
On that first trip, on my first Sunday in LA, I went to services at Grace Community Church. During the greet and seat part of that first service I met a couple sitting right behind me (the worship center holds about 3500 people, so a real God thing). That couple was Rick and Kris Goertzen! They had just moved to LA themselves to start seminary that fall. We went out for a bite to eat after the service and they asked if we could connect when I came back for a month, as Cindy would be joining me for two of those weeks, so we did.
That began a very close friendship with lots of time together in school, ministry, and enjoying our friendship. Rick finished his MDiv in three years, and they were pastoring a church in south LA when we moved back to London. They then moved to a church in Kansas and a number of years ago to a church in Alabama. They were “Aunt Kris” and “Uncle Rick” to our oldest two kids, Mike and Christa, who were pre-teens during that time. Our kids loved them deeply – we all did. We spent so much time with Rick and Kris, learned much from them, and had a million laughs as they exhibit the joy of the Lord and have crazy funny personalities. To know them is to love them!
Due to the press of ministry for all of us and the geographical distances, we have not kept up nearly as much as we would have loved to over these years, but have such fond memories of our time with them and huge respect for them. Kris went on to become a pretty well-known women’s Bible teacher. We had her come and do a women’s conference at our church and Rick came and preached once for us when we were at Banting High School.
Just over two years ago, Kris started having some slurred speech and other physical struggles, initially leading them to think perhaps she had a mini-stroke. However, over several months and many tests, it was confirmed she had ALS. If you know ALS, you know it is a horrific illness, which basically (my understanding) slowly paralyzes your entire body, even though your mind is as it always was. Over the last two years, Kris slowly lost her ability to walk, then move her arms, then her speech, eventually only able to move her eyes. One can’t cough or clear one’s lungs, so usually the last thing to go is the ability to breathe and you suffocate.
Rick and Kris always had wonderful hearts for Christ, for His gospel, and His mission. This only grew over the years as they matured and served Christ. Even through this difficult season of Kris’s illness, they openly and vulnerably lived their life of faith as leaders before their family, their church, and through Kris’s discipling ministry of thousands of women. Kris openly said God was calling her not only to teach and show how to live for Christ, but also how to die with Christ.
We often seek to emphasize in our ministries and our preaching, as Scripture does, a high view of God – that He is Sovereign, in control of all things, always working His good will, in all our lives, and that all He does, even trials, suffering, and loss, are always and only for our good and always for His glory. If you have been around Redemption for any length of time you have heard this emphasis over and over.
Why? Because it is true! Scripture proclaims these things over and over and over and we all need a proper theology of God, especially in times of suffering and trials. One of the greatest gifts a church can give any congregant is a solid, Biblical theology of God – a high view of Him and His sovereignty.
Well, I share this story about Rick and Kris because I think they are living examples of all the theological truth we have sought to teach and exhort, urging each of us to know, believe, and live dependently on these truths. Remember our church mission statement, as one of the key truths is right there in the first words, “Redemption church exists to GLORIFY GOD, through the fulfillment of the great commission, in the spirit of the great commandment.”
With our new Soul Care Ministry we have been seeking to emphasize this truth more and more, we all must be first and foremost about God’s glory! Ask yourself every day in everything you do, “How can I glorify God today in this?” Included in this is in your suffering, your trials, your mourning, and your loss. This is when our faith is most severely tested, but also when our faith is most gloriously grown.
Kris lived this out, not only for their three children, their spouses, for her grandchildren, and for their church family, but for thousands of women, and even for all of us who are reading this now! Cindy and I have been profoundly influenced and encouraged, in Christ Jesus, by our friendship with Rick and Kris, but more so by how they walked through this season of suffering, right up to the passing of Kris.
I remember, my first semester at TMS in LA, the dean of our seminary was dying of cancer. He told us, I think it was our first chapel with him, that this semester, he was going to teach us how to die. He would come in many weeks and talk to us about dying as a believer in Jesus Christ, and then he died, with friends and profs, in his room, singing hymns as he entered into glory.
Kris did this same thing, giving an amazing and treasured gift to all of us. She taught all those in her life, by her words and by her example not only how to live for Christ, but how to die with Christ. So much of this is still available for you to read and watch through her social media accounts. She lived out Paul’s teaching, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Let’s be reminded, exhorted, encouraged, and confronted by Kris, through the truth of what she taught and lived, of God’s Word and of His will for each of us, His children, as revealed in His Word.
Below are a few links, which I hope will introduce you to Kris (and Rick), if you don’t know them, and also instruct and challenge your commitment of your walk with Christ. Today, beloved, today, repent of any idols in your heart and life, and ensure Christ is not just first, but everything in your heart, mind, and soul. You will never be disappointed, no matter what trials and trouble come, including ALS, if your life is fully surrendered to Jesus, loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Let me leave you with this one quote as Kris wrote, in her last weeks, “Oh this!? It’s nothing compared to the cross my dear Savior bore for me! I must keep reminding myself and my fellow sufferers that our momentary light afflictions are our privilege to carry for they draw us closer His heart where all things are put back in their proper perspective.”
Ps. You will see in her videos that Kris loved her funky glasses☺
- Kris’s teaching https://krisgoertzen.com and her YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/@KrisGoertzen. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.
- Church website – where Rick is Senior Pastor https://www.smcc.church
- Announcement Kris filmed to tell their church family and the woman she discipled from far and wide, a week after getting the diagnosis, June 2021 about her ALS. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGoOa9o2Uc8 and then this update in November 2021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwJFAsvwZIY
- Something she wrote on March 20, 2023 (a few weeks before her passing) and posted, using a special computer, which allowed her to type using eye motion. https://www.instagram.com/p/CqBiCXrusht/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
- Here is the funeral service for Kris, Friday, April 28th. Cindy and I watched this on-line, our last night in Florida on our vacation, as did hundreds and hundreds of others. We just kept thinking, thank you God for a life well lived, one devoted to Christ, an amazing example to us all (as are the examples of Rick and their children and spouses as they walk this path of mourning)! https://livestream.com/accounts/17946366/events/10843481/videos/236012065