Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7 NIV)
I first met Denis and June Lane in 1976, when I joined a church community that would eventually become Evangel Baptist Church, Singapore. I was in dental school. They were OMF missionaries stationed in Singapore. They had been involved in church planting in Malaya/Malaysia before moving on to various key leadership positions in OMF. The husband and wife team, together with a good friend, Dr Lucille Ramish, played a significant role in my spiritual formation. When they retired, the Lanes moved back to England. Denis passed away yesterday, Feb 1st, 2017. I regret that constraints of time and money meant that I didn’t get to see him for many years. And now I will have to wait for the new heavens and the new earth to see him again.
Denis, together with June, mentored me in various critical ways.
First, he was a powerful model of the Christian faith. Trained as a lawyer, Denis went on to do his theological education in Oak Hill Theological College. He entered missions at a time when there was no such thing as short-term missions. When you obeyed God’s call to go to a country/region, you were there for good. And bad. They were real people with real struggles and frustrations, but what remains with you is the sense that God was very real to them and their willingness to do whatever their Lord called them to do.
A good mentor gently and humbly suggests biblical wisdom where needed. Denis pointed me to Regent College at a time when I was bombarded by many suggestions as to where I should do my theological education. Regent then was a small school in Vancouver not known by many. Going to Regent was a key turning point of my life and ministry. (OMF also helped with a scholarship that was much needed.) When Hee Ling, my first wife, was at the end stage of her cancer, Denis and June came by to pray and advised me to hope for the best but to prepare for the worst. Not many had the courage to say this, but it was timely advice as Hee Ling was to pass away soon after that. (Denis was also a good friend of Michael, Bernice’s first husband.)
I think one of the most important gifts a mentor can give to his or her mentoree is encouragement. Denis and June faithfully encouraged me to be faithful to what God had called me to do. Denis also gave me much encouragement in the area of biblical preaching. Encouragement nurtures courage and strength. The Lanes, and Dr Ramish, affirmed me at a time when I was a cocky, impatient, judgemental, angry young man. (There will be those who say that I am now a cocky, impatient, judgemental, angry old man.) They could have cut me down to size but they patiently loved me and waited for the Lord to teach me.
The most precious gift a mentor gives a mentoree is time. Denis and June were always available whenever I had questions and difficulties. They initiated many meet ups. You know they were there for you. Looking back now, you better appreciate how precious their time was. They had many people and situations that needed their time. But they invested in my life. We are who we are because of those who loved us and invested their lives in us.
I received news of his passing when I was back in Penang for the Lunar New Year holidays, a time that surfaced many memories and many feelings. I felt sad that I never had the chance to see Denis one last time. I am glad he is with the Lord. I pray the Lord will help June in the days ahead. I pray that I am and will continue to be a good steward of Denis’s nurturing.