I don't know exactly when we met the first time. I remember Leah in Portugal in 1995 when I was new there. She talked to me of her family while they were taking Portuguese lessons before spending time in Mozambique in the near future. I don't quite remember Dave there...
For me Dave was always an "African" friend. He'd grown up as an MK in another part of the continent. His family worked in Australia and Kenya where his legend was passed among old acquaintances and new friends. We all knew him as the slightly gruff guy with a heart of gold. He'd do anything for anyone in need. He embraced you into his family quickly. He was determinedly practical, and bent on doing things right and teaching others to do the same.
As a single girl in Mozambique sorting out documents and shopping and all that, I was scheduled for monthly visits to Dave and Leah's home over the border in South Africa. I played with their kids and ate their food and Dave drove me around to places I needed to visit to buy things I didn't understand, like camping equipment and "pyrethrum" concentrate.
As a single guy in Mozambique, Mikael was often taken under Dave's wing with car questions... and car acquisitions and tire replacements and too many other practical things. I think Dave was one of Mikael's heroes: a practical guy where Mikael was more intellectual, but they both had a real love for coke and cheese curls back then.
Both Dave and Leah watched our blossoming "non-romance" for the months we were getting to know each other. They were there for our engagement. They smiled and teased like family. They even invited us to go along on their family vacation to Victoria Falls as newly a newly engaged couple. We squeezed into their van with 4 kids and drove halfway across Africa together. We thrived in their wisdom and experience in many ways. Their kids were dear to us and seemed kinda like nieces and nephews.
When the time came to order a wedding dress, it was Dave who scoped out the wedding shops in town for me. That is real LOVE and SERVICE: a mechanic hunting for bridal shops! It was Leah who came along to help me choose and order a dress... like a big sister, she took pictures for me to send to Mom who couldn't be there.
They always welcomed us warmly, even when our stay would be inconvenient. We appreciate that now, more than ever, as we have kids of our own. There aren't many people with that gift for hospitality and joy of sharing their time with others. We felt so special! But I know hundreds of others felt special too.
In 1998 we flipped our LandCruiser in a dry riverbed in Mozambique. We were towed to a World Vision camp on the Zimbabwe border. Through sketchy radio contact we let people know we had trouble and planned to get to Harare somehow. I think 4 missions cooperated to pass the info around. Once we were safe in Harare, I remember a phone call from Dave, "How are you guys? Do you need Uncle Dave to come and get you?" We were a thousand miles away in another country, but I KNEW in my heart that Dave would jump in the car, probably at his own expense, and drive up to help us out if needed. We were well taken care of, but it meant so much to have him say that just then.
I can't tell all the stories of our times together through the years. We worked on the same "team" in Mozambique for over 15 years. All of our kids were born and knew Uncle Dave. My kids wrecked his special mango tree the year it finally had fruit on it; I know that was a hard one to swallow, but he never said a word. We ate many pancakes and lots of pizza at his house. He always joked with us like family.
Last week Dave's long battle with cancer ended. His family now lives with a hole that time will fill with the memories of the years of hugs and roadtrips and family dinners and jokes and quirks and grumbles and lots of helping hands offered over and over again to everyone along the way. They will smile through tears more than they want to. They will hurt and heal and hurt some more.
Dave will dance... I'm sure he will. I remember I thought it a sweetly funny that he always requested that song "Dance, dance, wherever you may be... I am the Lord of the dance said he..." He didn't seem to be a dancer here on Earth, but I'll bet he is one in Heaven. He could be hanging out with my Dad on a heavenly building crew discussing how things should be done in the mansion building department. I suppose if you have an eternity to meet and know people, they will eventually find each other and I'd like to think they will have a good laugh together when they do.