14 January 2019 | Binfield, UK [David Neal / tedNEWS]
Over 1,500 people from across the British Isles and from as far away as Denmark and America came together to celebrate the memory and loving service given by a young pastor, Andrew Davis, age 38. They were moved by his sudden tragic death following a clot on his lung, and by his leaving behind a courageous young family.
When Pastor Sam Davis was a ministerial student at Newbold College in the early 1980s, he often frequented the gymnasium to play and enjoy a game of five-a-side football with fellow students. Given the then-bare concrete walls and floor, every kick and every bounce of the ball ‘boomed’ as the sound echoed around the room.
Sam and Rowena were the parents of two toddlers, Anthea (aged 3), and Andrew (aged 18 months). Full of hope and optimism about the future, they lived sacrificially in the college’s ‘married students’ accommodation, Binfield Hall. However, they were committed to serving the Lord and His church, and looked forward to graduating, ministerial employment, and settling down as a family. Their future lay ahead, with all the bright optimism any family could reasonably expect. Not least, they recognised that the Lord was travelling with them. The journey took them through various fields of ministry as a district pastor, a youth director, and as President of the South England Conference.
Thirty-seven years later, those gathered in the same college gym on Tuesday, 7 January heard another ‘boom’, this time created by the beat of the Pathfinder Drum Corps. It was their way of saluting Sam’s son Andrew, also a pastor, mentor and leader, as they preceeded his coffin into what has now become a sports hall and multi-purpose meeting venue.
Leading the family was Andrew’s wife, Natasha, and their three young children, Leila, Malachi and Zoe. The unexpected and sudden death of a loved one causes compounded grief. As Andrew’s sister Anthea described in her eulogy, “The loss of Andrew to his family and community is colossal, and he is most desperately missed.”
Despite the shock of the sudden death, South England Conference President Pastor Emmanuel Osei emphasised in his welcome that the intent of the service was to celebrate and give thanks for Andrew’s life, emphasising that “the family mourn as those who have a hope.”
As Sam and Rowena Davis gave a tribute to their son, the only reaction of those present was to pray for them. To have to share the story of someone whom they’d loved, nurtured and sacrificed for was stirring. Naturally, they both shared some cheerful anecdotes about Andrew’s competitive nature, and the fun they had together. Rowena was quick to highlight how Andrew was loved unconditionally. Sam elaborated on this by saying that “God took hold of Andrew, changed him, shaped him and moulded him into what it was to be a husband and dad.” What shone through was that Sam and Andrew were best friends, soulmates. As Sam concluded, he reiterated the context by saying, “When God causes you to down the bitter cup of bereavement, remember that He’s the one holding it to your lips.”
Andrew’s student peer group are now all serving as pastors. Matthew Herel shared on their behalf the educational, professional and spiritual journey they have been on together, and how Andrew took the lead to make sure that ‘no man was left behind’.
We do not have space to report on how Andrew was loved by the members he served in Brixton, Colchester, Ipswich, Clacton and then Newbold College churches, or his active ministry to children and youth. His most recent pastoral appointment was to the Reading district and local church elders Boikie Osupeng and Steve Griffiths both spoke of his vision, enthusiasm and passion for outreach and evangelism.
Natasha, surrounded by her three children, shared a tribute on a pre-prepared video, sharing how much they loved the one they now miss so much.
Pastor Jonathan Burnett, in his sermon, explained how Andrew was named after the disciple Andrew (the introducer) by his parents. As if in a direct challenge to the forces of evil, he reminded listeners of the devil’s intention to destroy Jesus. “If you think you can destroy a seed by burying him, you are mistaken.” Within minutes of making that statement, the preacher appealed for a response, and two young men responded by committing themselves to prepare to serve in full-time pastoral ministry.
Pastor Andrew Davis has left a legacy of brilliance, excellence and commitment – to his Lord and Saviour, to the church he served, and, by no means least, to his beloved Natasha, Leila, Malachi and Zoe. Maranatha!
A fuller version of this report can be found in the 24 January Messenger, Official Journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the UK and Ireland.
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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