05 January 2007

My Dad's Heart - A Tribute

Duane Desler was a great man. I was privileged to call him Dad.

As we look back on his life, perhaps it could be said that he died due to a weak heart. But that would only address his physical heart - the one that pumped blood and sustained his life. In fact, that heart was tired and weak.

But what simply cannot be ignored was his other heart - the essence of who he was. That heart was strong and vibrant! It was healthy and alive!

He had a heart of gold! The words patient, kind, and generous fit him like a glove. Dad was a stable rock for our family, a quiet pillar of strength for each one of us. Following my divorce, he willingly stepped into the role of being a Dad for my four children. Truly, if anything good can be said about me or my kids, much of the credit goes to my Dad. The faithful example he set and what he imparted into each of us is invaluable and beyond words.

Dad loved the Lord with all his heart! He loved to worship Him and nurtured a hunger for reading and studying God’s Word. He had a love for numbers and in a rather unique and fascinating way, that was a favorite method he had of worshipping His Lord.

Dad reached out, in his own simple and quiet manner, and left an impact on everyone he encountered. His influence even reached beyond the shores of United States. A 2-year old Kenyan boy bears his name; he’s likely the only Duane in all of East Africa!

Dad always had time to listen wholeheartedly, giving his undivided attention. Dad was always supportive of anything I set out to do. He was a ready source of wisdom and advice.

He had a servant’s heart. Whatever needed to be done, he did it with true humility and selflessness.

Dad’s insatiable curiosity and untiring quest to discover his world rubbed off on me. Who I am today is a direct result of my Dad’s influence.

I pray that I can live up to the incredible legacy my Dad left!

January 2007 Prayer Letter

Praise -

Collins and I recently spent 3 weeks together while he was out of school for the December month-long “holiday“. Part of our time together was on the road; we visited Charles and Agnes and their boys (including Duane) near Bukembe and also Karo’s parents in Siaya to see their newly finished well. The remainder of the time was spent in Nairobi. We continue to develop and nurture this relationship ordained by God. He’s a great kid and I always enjoy our time together!

I took an incredible trip to the northwestern corner of Kenya. I’ve long desired to go there. I went with Kim (one of the young guys in my church homegroup). We visited Lodwar, Kakuma town, Kakuma Refugee Camp, and Lake Turkana. This part of Kenya can be a rather dangerous area to travel in (because of the Turkana, a war-like people group), but the Lord protected us. I’ll post some photos and comments about it in a week or two.

Prayer Requests -

I’ve had a bit of a struggle adjusting to all the climate and cultural differences, getting over jetlag and simultaneously dealing with my grief.

Please pray with me that I’ll walk in the steps God has ordered for me while I’m home and as I help my Mom in this transition period.

A verse I had been meditating on for the last few weeks seems especially appropriate now that I’m home unexpectedly:

“Our very steps come from God; otherwise how would we know where we’re going?” Proverbs 20:24 (Message)

And these excerpts from Oswald Chambers’ early January readings also seem quite appropriate:

“I do not know what I’m going to do; the only thing I know is that God knows what He’s doing. God doesn’t tell me what He’s going to do - He reveals to me who He is. Will I completely surrender to Him until I’m not surprised one iota by anything He does?”

“As I go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight... but with the patient power of knowing God will go before me.”

“Step out into the invincible future with God.”

“As the attitude of my life becomes a continual willingness to ‘go out’ in dependence upon God, my life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus.”

Even though I’m not currently on the “mission field” of Kenya, while I’m at home in the States, I’ll still need to depend upon the generosity of some of you to support me financially. You can do so in one of two ways:

Direct -

Deb Smith
PO Box 34083
Omaha, NE 68134

OR through

Ripe For Harvest -
2824 N. Power Road #113282
Mesa, AZ 85215-1674
NOTE: Indicate #98 on your check

Thanks so much for all of your prayer and financial support! I do not take it for granted!

Leaving Kenya & Some Family Photos

My family - including my Mom, Greg (my brother), Rachel (Aaliyah's mom), and Jason (Jess' fiance)

My kids and grandkids - Tony, Caleb, Naomi, Mia, Jess, Zach, Aaliyah, me, Terran

We girls - Naomi, my Mom, Mia, Rachel, Jess, Aaliyah, me

Leaving Kenya -

My friend, Kim, and I were on the tail end of a week-long trip to northeastern Kenya. Since the only route back to Nairobi passes by Matunda, it was a natural decision to stop by my place there so he could see my house. Collins joined us as well. We would all spend the night before Kim and I headed back to Nairobi. Since it was nearing Christmas, when Kenya’s public transportation is overwhelmed, we had already booked our seats on a shuttle van.
Somehow, it seems very fitting that I was at my mud house when Naomi called me Thursday afternoon (Kenya time) about my Dad’s death. It’s always been a special place in my heart and my Dad was amazed at my having such a house. He often marveled that I could make and receive calls - from the other side of the world - from such a remote location on my cell phone.

In my estimation, it’s also quite amazing how God engineered my circumstances so that Collins was with me when I got the news. Four and a half years ago, the Lord had used me to minister to him when his Dad died. That, in fact, was how our relationship first began. Now the tables were turned and he comforted me in my time of grief!

Another detail, that truly has the Lord’s handprint on it, is having spent the previous week with Kim. In many ways, Kim reminds me of my Dad. They’re both quiet and gentle, kind and unassuming, deep thinkers and in love with the Lord and the Word. Incredibly, the two of us even talked often about my Dad during our trip.

Dad struggled valiantly with congestive heart failure for many, many years. He’d had numerous surgeries and treatments, including an implanted defibrillator/pacemaker. In his last two years, his heart amazing only functioned at 25% capability. So... in many ways, his death wasn’t so terribly unexpected. Of course, such news always comes as a blow and as an unexpected surprise.

Kim and I traveled back to Nairobi on Friday while Naomi efficiently booked a flight home for me (as she simultaneously packed for their family to drive to Omaha). Several of my friends came to be with me on Saturday. I tied up a bunch of loose ends and packed a few things. I also made arrangements for my stuff while I’m away.
Sunday (Christmas Eve), I attended church and stopped by Bishop and Margaret’s for dinner and a ride to the airport. Karo, Jeremiah, Jim, and Joy also came over. They’re all very wonderful friends!

My flights and connections all went well. Naomi picked me up at the Omaha airport (26 l-o-n-g hours later), and upon arriving at the house, I found my Mom, my brother, and all my kids and grandkids in a bustling living room full of activity. I finally met Mia (my six-month old granddaughter for the first time). Later that evening, my brother read us all the Christmas story from Luke, chapter 2. It’s a tradition my Dad had carried on for many, many years.

The next two days, as I suffered from the undeniable effects of jetlag, were hectic. Tuesday morning my parents’ pastor came to go over details for the funeral with all of us. That evening we all attended the visitation at the mortuary. In addition to many, many friends and family members, all of Dad’s siblings came from their various locations around the country.

Wednesday morning, we attended the burial service at the cemetery. Aaliyah sat on my lap. After the rest of the crowd made their way back to their cars, Caleb, Anna (a Kenyan friend of my parents), and I - in a manner similar to what’s done in Kenya - sprinkled dirt on Dad’s casket. Somehow it was an act of closure.

The funeral - or “celebration of life” - service was great! Les Beauchamp, Mom and Dad’s pastor at Trinity, did a super job of making it all very personal. He shared such details as the way Dad used to make my sister, brother, and I peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Sunday evenings. He would cut them into geometrical shapes and turn a few of them upside-down. We had to put them together like a puzzle before we could eat them!

Other features were a brief eulogy/tribute by me, a salvation challenge by my brother, and a poem read by Jason (Jess’ fiance), Caleb, Zach, and Terran. A few others spoke of the fatherly role Dad played in so many people’s lives. Much mention was made of the way Dad loved numbers and how he used numbers in the Bible to worship his Lord. Two servicemen made a ceremonial and moving presentation of the American flag to my Mom and a female bugler played “Taps”, all in honor of Dad’s four years in the Air Force.

Perhaps the thing that will most be remembered by all was the poignant piano and ballet piece performed by my daughters, Naomi and Jess. The two mediums - dance and music - powerfully elicited emotional responses from virtually all in attendance. It was a fitting and very personal tribute to the "papa" they dearly loved. He would have been so proud of them!

The day ended with a luncheon. During the visitation, funeral, and luncheon a photo montage DVD played along with the song, “I Can Only Imagine”. To be sure, all of us that knew Dad can only imagine him being in the very presence of his Lord and Savior worshipping freely, joyously, and with all his strength!

I plan to stay with my Mom through April in order to assist in this natural period of transition.

If any of you are interested in making a donation in honor of my Dad, Mom has established a non-profit organization to assist my brother and I in our missionary endeavors. For those of you that aren’t aware, my brother, Greg, goes to China now and then to evangelize and smuggle in Bibles.

Contributions can be made to:

Desler Family Ministries
8542 N. 47 St.
Omaha, NE 68152

Christmas Photos of the Family

Four generations of girls

My brother, Greg, reading the Christmas story from Luke, chapter 2 - just as my Dad had done every year

Jason, Tony, Jess, Aaliyah

More Family Photos

Aaliyah (3) and Jess
Greg about to carve the turkey
The guys - Todd, Zach, Terran (11) and Tony (3), Jason, Greg
Jason and Caleb
Mia - 6 months

Mom and Mia

Just a Few More

Todd and Naomi
Zach, Terran, and Tony
Aaliyah and Tony