It has taken me several attempts to begin this blog post. I've started and stopped dozens of times. I need to do it though, because I want to share with you my thoughts about this amazing man of God who changed my life.
I met Pastor Jon Smith back in the late 80's. He was the worship Pastor at Hawaii Kai Christian Church. I had been singing my whole life and had sang many specials at church services, sang at special events with a christian band and in a youth for Christ ensemble and sang over seas with an international choir but I had never been up in front of people to lead them in worship. Worship was different! To me, worship is a private expression-highly personal; and being a private person, doing that up in the front of a congregation was something I was fearful of.
Pastor Jon however lovingly encouraged me and taught me that worship wasn't just standing in front of people leading them to a greater awareness and encounter with God but worship was a lifestyle. This is something that we should do at all times. Psalm 34:1 says, "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth". So whether or not I was in front of others or not, as a believer in Jesus, worship should be a part of everyday life.
When this photo was taken we had already been worshiping together for 7 years. I love to sing harmony and really enjoyed harmonizing with Pastor Jon. He encouraged me so much over the years and we were blessed with many opportunities to praise and worship together at many different places and events.
He was at my wedding, at the hospital when I gave birth to both of my kids. We still have the red Kalani High School baseball cap he brought my son Kalani when he was born. He blessed us then and he blessed us 17 years later when he prayed over Kalani at his High School Baccalaureate.
And then entertained us all at his graduation fiesta when he dressed as Carlos Santana or should I say, Carlos "Jon-Tanna" (as we dubbed him) and blessed us with his amazing guitar skills.
He was there for so many important moments in our life. I still remember him singing at Jessica's first birthday party at Hawaii School for Girls. He played his electric guitar and sang, "Isn't She Lovely" as Jessica was carried around the courtyard in Derek's arms waving at all the guests who had come to bless her.
And years later he was always there for her as he was for everyone. Always cheerful, always encouraging, always giving love and shining for Jesus.
On Sunday one of the gals who has only been on worship team for a year stated that he had a way of making everyone he encountered feel like they were his favorite! He made people he JUST met feel like he's known them and loved them forever. He was so kind. He always showed so much unconditional love to everyone and fulfilled God's greatest commandment to love God and love others more than himself!
We had seasons where we didn't see each other as often but when we did, nothing changed and it seemed from the time I met him doors continually opened that would allow us to minister together.
Time, distance or circumstances never changed him. He remained the same lovable pastor with the heart of a shepherd and a passion for worship.
Two weeks ago on a Friday evening we said goodbye. When we arrived at the house Linda warned us that he was struggling and may be a little incoherent. You see he had previously been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer and had been having some challenges due to it. When he saw us (about 60 people from the worship team and church staff) he smiled and managed to say very slowly his three famous words, "let's do dis" and the worship service began.
We worshiped for about an hour and no one wanted it to end. There were moments of awkward silence because we all hoped this night could go on forever and that Jon would be able to stay with us. Then something miraculous happened. After worship Jon was able to speak, the first thing he said was, "I saw HIM", as he pointed to heaven. He again set an example to us all of us as to what can happen when we encounter God's presence. We know it is there, in His presence that chains are broken, hearts are restored, physical ailments are healed. We all knew full well that God could have healed Jon but all trusted that no matter what happened, God was in control and we could trust His perfect will.
The miraculous part of the evening came at the end. Jon who had been a little incoherent was now alert. He asked to pray for us. He prayed the most precise, clear, beautiful prayer about how he desired God to bless us with a fire, zeal and passion for the Lord. As I listened to his beautiful prayer of blessing over us I realized in that moment that I had learned more from him in his last days on this earth than I had in all the years we've known one another. He demonstrated his confidence and trust in God and showed us what it truly meant to bless the Lord at all times. It was evident in the times he would show up at church, although very sick to be on the team and worship with us.
Creating cards for people is something I love to do. I have to admit however that creating this one for Pastor Jon was especially hard to make, at least not without many tears flowing through the process. I knew I had things I wanted to tell him before he went home to be with the Lord so I worked on a card with our new set Thoughtful Branches. It had the perfect sentiment to match my feelings for Pastor Jon. The words said, "you've always been there to lean on, to learn from and to look up to".
It was this card that I handed him on the last day I saw him. I cried so much writing the message inside as I poured my heart out telling this amazing man of God how much he meant to me.
As I hugged him he spoke words of encouragement and love to me and I told him I would try my hardest to make him proud by continuing to follow his example of love and servanthood. Then I handed him this card and gave him one final hug, a hug I will never forget as we said to each other, "I love you"
Last night I led worship at his memorial service. This was not an easy task because he was so amazing and worship was his specialty. He was SO incredibly gifted at leading others. At the families request I agreed and was honored, humbled and a little scared too!.
Jon and his wife Linda were always good about gently pushing me outside my comfort zone. I know it was for my own benefit and growth. It is the greatest challenges we face in life that can produce amazing growth when we respond to them as God desires.
Over 900 people showed up to celebrate his life. It was an amazing sight to see the hundreds of lives who had been changed because of his influence.
The worship team wanted to do something special for him so we ordered a guitar shaped floral arraignment. We wanted to surprise the Smith Family. The amazing thing is that they had the same idea! The family ordered the floral guitar on the right (in the photo above) which was an exact replica of one of his guitars.
Here is a close up of the one the worship team ordered.
Isn't it incredible. It was made by Rodney and Glenda Iaea of iaea floral designs in Hawaii. They did an amazing job and I will definitely call them in the future to order flowers.
I had to laugh cause instead of one guitar at the service Jon had two. I think he would have been pleased as he LOVED guitars. I once asked him "how many guitars have you owned in your lifetime and he couldn't even guess cause he was famous for trading them and upgrading them after he had saved up some money or on special occasions like his Birthday or Christmas.
At the service we saw so many friends we hadn't seen in years and we remembered the very special times we shared with this incredible man of God who touched and blessed all of our lives in so many ways.
God is moving in incredible ways at our church, New Hope Leeward and so many of the seeds Pastor Jon planted over the years are blossoming and producing fruit.
As a worship team, we want to honor him by remembering how much he loved God; how much he loved others and how selflessly he lived. We want to worship God the way he did, without ceasing.
When I think of him and I know I will often, I will continue to work hard at following His example. He loved Jesus with all of his heart and that love so freely flowed to every single person he encountered. He was someone who made a difference and went to the grave empty!
I will be forever grateful to God for blessing my life with the opportunity to know him. I will always look up to him. I will always love him.