The joy of loss

I am in tears, sitting in a restaurant right now. I just finished reading an email about someone passing away last night who has had a life-altering influence on me. His name was Raymond Kimbell and I loved this man.

Can you love someone you haven’t seen for 10 years but keep tabs on through the grapevine now and then? Yes you can, as evidenced by the 3 napkins collecting my tears here in this Planet Sub.

Ray and Agnes Kimbell are these humble, incredibly loving people who have impacted hundreds, maybe thousands of people in the name of Jesus. Last night, Ray went home to be with Jesus.

The tears I’m spilling are born out of pain for the Kimbell family’s loss–and the rest of the world’s–but they are also happy ones. Ray is in the place and with The Presence he has been describing for decades. His family has been such an influential blessing in my life–in my entire family’s life. If it were not for Ray and Agnes inviting me to a fateful retreat weekend back in November of 1993, when would I have heard about the incredible love Jesus Christ has for me? God is big and I’m sure someone would have come along, but the Kimbell family is who got me somewhere to finally recognize the Spirit whispering to me.

I loved playing Stump Ray at Sunday School every week. I’d ask him the biggest, toughest questions about Godstuff I could think of and he’d answer it every week. In one of those rare occasions when I did stump him, he helped me learn an answer. He cared so much about people and was so gentle, joyful, and sincere. I knew he loved me. I loved him back. He encouraged me to search the Scriptures and get to know God better for myself. I still have those Bible verses memorized that he challenged us to write down and stick into our wallets. And that’s saying something since my memory is horrible.

One of my other favorite memories of Ray is when I got back from a mission trip to Malawi. I brought him and Agnes souvenirs. They were busts–wooden carvings of an African’s profile. Ray asked what they were and, to play a joke, I answered that they were idols. Their faces! It was hilarious to watch their big smiles instantly turn into morbid confusion. I’ve always wondered if they thought something like, “this poor kid is following Jesus and is now so super confused that he got us IDOLS?!?!?”

[If that happened to you, what the what would you do with idols given to you?!?]

I am who I am today because of Ray and Agnes. My family members know Jesus better because the Kimbells invited me to a retreat where I met The Christ. My dad is in the LORD’s presence because of Ray influencing me to talk to people about Jesus. My wife and two daughters are in my life because I follow this Savior whom my Sunday School teacher taught me about.

Like I wrote to Agnes:
“Thank you. Thank you for loving Jesus and allowing His love to overflow out of your hearts, into your kids’ lives, and into the lives of people in your church community. Thank you for raising [their youngest son] John to love God. He discipled me, in essence, encouraged me, challenged me, loved me. I love you all so much.”

I typed up a blessing to pray over her life. I hope that it’s answered.

“May the LORD’s peace be upon you. May the joy we have in Jesus of Nazareth fill your souls. May you experience all of your days the love of God that is deeper, truer, and more incredible than anything this world can ever offer.”


If you’re still with me, I think that one of the most important things you can hope for when this portion of life ends is for people to feel this way about you. Are you pouring yourself into others? Are you loving people because of the love you receive from Jesus? Is the miracle God has done in your life getting told to others who long to experience the miracle of God speaking into their lives, too?

May you make a difference in this world, one that ripples through so many others’ lives. I only hope that I can love like Ray Kimbell loved. His love reminds me a whole lot of Jesus’.


About Brian Swanson

Christ follower. Screw up. Stained with grace. Ruined by Jesus.
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1 Response to The joy of loss

  1. Jennifer Owens says:

    One of the best things I learned at the Joyce Meyer event this past weekend was spoken by Pricillia Shirer (Tony Evans daughter) who said, your biggest ministry is within your own sphere. There couldn’t be a better example of that than this story! This man wasn’t involved in a great ministry traveling around speaking to stadiums of people. But he touched the lives of those around him, who then in turn touched others. Every young person you touch is a result of his ministry! How beautiful!!

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