I didn't know Ken McHenry, our principal and upper grades teacher at the Lawrenceburg, Tn/Bill Egley School. Lawrenceburg has had a church school for nearly 100 years; the church, the school, and the Adventist Hospital were all founded in the area around the same time and were given birth by Adventist "missionaries" from Madison, who, in the decades following the establishment of Madison College, were part of a wave of graduates who joined others in spreading out across the world, the south, and closer to home, Tennessee and Kentucky. They left behind medical clinics and schools and while many of those institutions are gone, a few continue a century old legacy where education and good health partner with the church in changing lives. The Lawrenceburg Adventist hospital was sold years ago, but the church, the school, and dedicated pastors and teachers have served continually there for almost a century of time.
Though this was only Ken's second year teaching at Lawrenceburg, he was right at home. Small schools, small classrooms, and the beautiful rural south were among the things Ken loved and as I shared today with Chris Juhl, I learned that despite his age - 70 years old - Ken wanted to be in the classroom teaching. I learned a few other things about Ken this past weekend, a few days after he died following some complications from a surgery he had over a year ago.
Ken was from Illinois and had worked for years in a John Deere factory. This followed high school graduation and a three year stint as a U.S. Marine. It was after enduring multiple lay-offs and call backs to work in manufacturing that Ken decided he had enough of life on the assembly line and experienced a 'call' to teaching. At the mature age of 48 he finished his teaching degree and for the next 20 years would teach in Tennessee, Indiana, the St. Louis area, and at an age when most are ready to do anything but keep working, Ken returned to the classroom and his beloved students. More than just sharing the "Three R's" - readin' riting' and rithmatic' (yes I know it's misspelled) Ken loved to share astronomy, nature, the wonders of Creation, and yes .. . share Jesus.
It was my privilege to get to know about Ken's life and legacy this past week. As far as I know, I never met him, but yet I was honored to preach a sermon in tribute to him, as well as for the encouragement of the Lawrenceburg church, who know the pain of loosing someone loved. This past Sabbath I was present in Lawrenceburg for Ken's memorial service. I wasn't able to stay through the afternoon but I felt humbly honored after I received a mid-week invitation from Pastor Schomburg to speak for worship and re-arranged my schedule to do so. My sermon? One of my favorite in all the Bible - the story, told in the words of a man named John, of how Jesus traveled to Bethany one day, to "wake up" his friend Lazarus, who had fallen asleep (had died) and according to Jesus, just needed to be "awakened."
Ken's next conscious moments will be the day of the "Great Awakening." I look forward to meeting Ken McHenry soon. Till then, I found it quite fitting and not without importance that Chris Juhl showed me today the special DVD made and produced by the NAD, on the occasion of the NAD Teachers Convention held at the Opryland Hotel in the summer of 2012. This special DVD was eventually made available to all of the teachers who attended, and there were a lot of them!
On the cover of the DVD, along with pictures of Dan Jackson, Dwight Nelson and other speakers, is a prominent picture of one of the teacher attendees . . . one, and only one 'teacher/attendee' picture, among the nearly 8,000 educators who were present that week. A cover picture, of one teacher, sitting likely on the front row of one of the seminars with his wife. The teacher? Ken McHenry and his wife Jeannette. Sitting where he loved to sit, the front row, where he could ask questions, engage in the presentation, and learn something new to share with his kids. A true professional who didn't mind teaching in small places, in small classrooms, investing his life in the lives of a few really fortunate kids. Well done Ken. We will see you in the morning!