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A Heart Like Art's  

At the age of nine, you haven’t lived long enough to sense greatness—let alone define it.  But there was something special about that summer at Camp Awana in Fredonia, Wisconsin.  

There was a guy there with a flat-top haircut and a twinkle that never left his eye.  He called himself Art.  Decades later, I can still hear him speaking to us kids that night in the “Long House.”  

Art told us the story of how when he was a kid, he really didn’t know Jesus as the leader of His life—His personal Savior.  But his mom and dad did.  So did his brother Roy.   When Roy was struck by Spinal Meningitis, he lay on his bed, dwindling away.  Exactly one night before he died, Roy pled with his mom and dad to challenge Art to receive Christ.   Art overhead the entire conversation and was deeply moved.  The next day, he made Jesus his Lord and Savior.

As Art told us all this, I saw tears forming in his eyes, then trickling down his cheeks.  I’d never seen a man cry before.  As best I could—at the age of nine—I tried to process all of this.  Even at that young age, I knew there was something right about a heart like Art’s.

Over the decades that followed, I continued to observe the heart of Art Rorheim: always tender on this matter of salvation.  Working part-time at Awana Headquarters, I watched as Art traveled the globe with his singular passion: more boys and girls for Christ.  I remember hearing his stories as he came home from far-flung places with engaging photos…exotic souvenirs…and—always—more tears.

It all came together on a Moody Radio trip I took with Awana to Kenya and Zambia.  Watching kids run around an Awana game circle scratched out in the African dust, I was fighting tears of my own as I processed just how far God has taken the Awana ministry that Art helped to create.

And now, Art Rorheim is gone.  He passed away earlier this week. But what a legacy.

Elisha of old asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.  I seek no such thing.  That would be far too great.  Me, I want a heart like Art’s: tender always…easily touched by lost people.  If I could have that legacy, the sun would never set on a day not lived for “more boys and girls for Christ.” 

 

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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