Walk beside me… just be my friend.


““Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow

Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead

Walk beside me… just be my friend.””

- Albert Camus

This blog is hard to write.

It is such, as we try to describe our beloved friend and partner, Jim Engel, who recently passed away. Sometimes we wonder, what are the words and where are the words to say all that is in our hearts? It is such now.

There are the pieces of biographical information that we could share with all of you that would describe Jim’s life to a certain extent. He was a professor, a marketing researcher, and in general, a very, very smart guy. He regaled us with stories of adventures in far off lands – to too many countries to count on one hand or even on 10 hands. He told us stories of taking Bibles into faraway places, because he believed with such faith in the goodness and teachings of the Bible. Jim’s life was filled with adventure upon adventure, it always seemed to us.

So Jim helped us know more fully that we could venture to a place, Kenya, with sureness of heart and with steadiness of faith and with courage in tow. And, he spoke to us of the importance of reaching out our hands in humility, without smart “answers”, but rather with open ears to others and to one another. He taught us more about being a friend first, trusting that out of that friendship a most remarkable organization could grow. Well, it has and it is and we couldn’t be more thankful to Jim for his steady encouragement of our organization’s underpinning values of faith, hope and love….and the sure idea that the greatest of these is love, for Jim so dearly loved the practice of servant leadership.

If we were in danger of taking ourselves too seriously, Jim made us laugh, really hard and really long. He would call himself the “mzee” (old wise one) and his eyes would twinkle at the idea, almost daring us to challenge his sure knowledge that we needed a village – not just ourselves. We recall walks on red dirt roads with Jim in Kenya, just as fun and lively as they were instructive, all in the same lump of faithful delight, with people laughing all around….as he urged us to “make haste slowly”, an old African proverb.

At the end of his life, Jim bravely faced a final battle of Alzheimer’s disease; his family stood by his side with such love and devotion, including his beloved and beautiful wife, Sharon, his three daughters, as well as a son-in-law and grandchildren. But even as he fought this battle, we’re sure, just sure, that his heart and faith were steady to the very end, in all ways that really matter.

So dear Jim, this is not the end. For we know that you are with us evermore, in spirit, encouraging us all on…..and you will always, always be dancing with us under that beautiful African tree. Your big and wise heart will live on in our organization, and in our hearts most especially, as we seek to love others, as Christ loved us.

And so we say asante sana (thank you), dear friend.



- Julie Keller