My friends all ask me what the highlight of my trip to the US was. It’s a difficult question. I would rather focus on the most significant moment(s) of my trip. My most significant moments were by far the time I spent with Dallas, Opal and Kim Shafer. Dallas and Opal are our grandparents – not because they’re South Africans or the parents of one of our parents.
When we arrived in Colorado Springs they were the first people who invited us into their home. In my journal next to the 19th of September 2000 I wrote down the directions to their house. It was one of hundreds of invitations. Somewhere during these visits God carved a path into our hearts. What at first started as a casual acquaintance developed into a deep familial bond. Lollie and I spent hours with them.
We ate wonderful food in their house, Opal always tested new recipes on us and it was always a blessing to hear via Dallas that Opal has a new one and that we should come and play guinea pigs. Together we conspired for the kingdom, prayed and talked through heartache. We played and laughed deep into the wee hours of the night.
Dallas was the one who taught me most of what it means to be a shepherd. Not because I listened to his lectures. It was because I had insight into his life. For the first three or four months I sat in on every single counseling session he ministered in. Only time and proper reflection will tell how much of what is written into my pastoral reflexes came via Dallas. [Although I must say, like most authors in the prefaces of their books, that all my deficiencies are fully mine and cannot be blamed on him]. These actions of a man of God, supported by one of the most precious women of God, have changed me and Lollie. What they’ve poured into us seeps through to others. In our house in Africa is a picture of our daughter Tayla being dedicated in a beautiful dress that Dallas and Opal gave us. Even though Tayla and Liam, our children, never met Dallas and Opal they will definitely continue to hear stories.
The most significant moments of my trip were the times I could sit with these two dear saints of God (together with their wonderful serving daughter Kim). It was the gift of my trip. To be. With them. When I left after our final visit I was in an emotional state. Seeing Dallas’ fight against the cancer shook me to the core.
I took a run through Ute Valley Park, retracing memories of where Dallas rode with us through this park on his mountain bike. As I ran I reflected on Dallas’ footprints in my life and finally my body could not keep it in anymore – tears rolled down my face. His is a wonderful example of a life lived well and I’ll always thank God for Him and Opal.