Coming and Going: Thank You, Steve and Dianne

Friday, Steve and Dianne Gahagan stopped by the associational office to say their goodbyes. Tomorrow their rental truck pulls out from the home next door to Oak Park Baptist Church which the congregation has been providing them for nearly 2 years now. They will be facing an 11-hour drive back to South Carolina.

For 21 months, Steve has been the construction coordinator for NAMB’s “Operation NOAH Rebuild,” overseeing the reconstruction of hundreds and hundreds of homes in our area, as well as quite a few churches. Dianne has been the office manager, taking the calls and emails from churches around the country interested in bringing teams of volunteers this way to help us and overseeing a hundred related details.

They’re leaving and we’re grieving.

Nearly two years ago, Jim Burton of the North American Mission Board told me about this couple whom he had just hired. Steve has a background in construction and had been working with Habitat for Humanity in South Carolina. Dianne had a business background and was most recently the chief financial officer for a huge corporation. “We are so blessed to be getting this outstanding couple,” he said.

Nothing that has happened since has changed our mind about that assessment.

Our pastors will remember the times when Steve stood at our (then) weekly meetings to report on the work of NOAH and the volunteers coming our way. He always inspired us without fail, and I found myself in awe of the spirit of Christ in this man.

The work of NOAH goes on, under the capable direction of Mickey Caison and, locally, David Maxwell and his wife Wanda. We appreciate them and thank them for their commitment to helping our people and our churches continue the work of restoration.

But, it’s not going to be the same. Steve and Dianne won a huge place in the hearts of all our people.

Before they left today, he asked me to communicate to our pastors their deep love and respect for you. These incredible people who have labored night and day for all this time actually have seen it as a blessing and a privilege. You can see why we treasure them so much.

I gave Steve and Dianne Hebrews 6:10. “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have shown toward His name in having ministered to the saints and in still ministering.” That verse has their names all over it.

I can’t think of them without remembering something funny. A year ago, Steve told me they were making a presentation of their work back in South Carolina and would I draw a cartoon they could use, something having to do with the rebuilding of New Orleans. I don’t recall the details of the drawing, except that it showed Noah (the biblical one) standing beside this huge ark with the animals filing in. When I finished, I said to Steve, “What shall we name the ark?” He said, “Name it ‘Miss Dianne.'”

I lettered on the side of the ark, “Miss Diane.” Now, I knew better than to do that without asking how they spelled her name. I’ve found so many variations of people’s names over the years, when I start to write a guy’s name on a drawing, even if it’s Joe or Bill, I ask him how he spells it. Anyway, after I finished, Steve said, “She puts two ‘n’s in Dianne.” Uh oh.

You can’t erase with these permanent art pens, and since I’d colored it, we couldn’t use white-out. So I did the best I could to make it right, then sat down and wrote her a note to explain what had happened. In the note, I doubled every ‘n’ in the letter. I said, “Your husbannd did nnot tell me you put two nns in Dianne. I wish I had knnownn that.”

They got a kick out of that, and it forever burned the spelling of her name into my brain.

We thank God for this husband and wife team, our dear brother and sister. I assured them that they’ve not seen the last of us. After all, we have to drive through South Carolina to get to our son Marty’s home in Charlotte. We’ll have to meet at Mama Penn’s in Andersonville for lunch.

If you are familiar with that area, you know what I’m talking about. It ain’t the same as sharing po-boys and crawfish etouffee, but for country cooking, you can’t beat it.

We’ll be in touch. And we’ll be lifting you in prayer as the Father shows you what’s next on His agenda for you.

Friday, the airport reported that all the planes incoming and outgoing were filled to capacity. Mardi Gra-ers were arriving in town for the big weekend, and many local residents were riding the same planes out. For many schoolchildren and some working people, the entire week is a holiday, so families often plan their vacations for this time. The two most popular destinations, we learned, were Orlando and Denver. Orlando, you know about: Disney World. But Denver? That’s families taking skiing vacations. Many from around here spend Mardi Gras in Breckenridge.

Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. Tuesday, in addition to being Fat Tuesday with all that brings to this part of the world, is “Super Tuesday” in presidential primaries, with 24 states voting.

Me, I’ll be teaching Romans all day Sunday at Riverside Baptist Church in Mobile, on Dauphin Island Parkway. If you’re in the area, you’ll be welcomed. First session begins at 9:45 am, then I’ll teach during the 11 o’clock worship service, then at 5 pm and 6 pm. On the drive home, I’ll catch the last half of the Super Bowl on the car radio.

I know it infuriates people who think we should stay open on Mardi Gras day as a protest against the paganism of the holiday and a witness to the world, but this city shuts down on Tuesday, and our office will, too. It’ll be a great day for sleeping late and getting some work done around the house.

Greg Hand says Vieux Carre’ Baptist Church in the Quarter will have their building open from now until next Tuesday night at midnight. Various out-of-town church teams are coming to minister and witness. Some will stay on duty at the little church building around the clock, offering refreshments and counsel to anyone coming in, whether accidentally or by divine purpose.

As Greg and Wren Hand will tell you, the only reason to be there is that you love the Quarter and are called by God. It’s something else.

Rob Wilton–who has pulled together a group to form a new church in Uptown; they’re calling themselves Vintage Church and meeting on Tulane’s campus at our Baptist Collegiate Ministry Building on Freret Street–informs us that his group will be providing a free all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast at the BCM building for Tulane students. Now get this–it will be Tuesday morning from 2 to 5 am. (That’s not a typo. They are well aware where they are located.)

One more reason I know the Lord did not call me to student evangelism!

Wednesday morning, you’ll see people all over town wearing a thumbprint of ashes on their foreheads. They will have been to church and prayed for forgiveness for what they did or thought about doing the day before. It’s an interesting tradition, and reminds us all that we are “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Might be a good idea to wear those year round. It’s an important reminder as we are coming and going.

2 thoughts on “Coming and Going: Thank You, Steve and Dianne

  1. I am heartbroken and will miss Steve and Dianne immensely. They leave a big hole in the kingdom work here.

    May God bless both of you! I love you guys!

  2. My wife, Karen, had the pleasure of serving for a full month (two weeks at a time) with Dianne and Steve in 2006. It was a great privilege to get to know them and witness their love for what God had so clearly called them to do. They will certainly be missed.

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