This post will be neither about Virginia nor Curby and Gina. Last week I received tragic news that a long-time friend and brother in Christ, Shane Ewen, was killed in a car crash on South Pass between Lander and Big Piney, Wyoming. He was traveling with his wife, Casey, and infant daughter, Ellie. Another truck slid into their lane in icy, blizzard conditions and immediately took the life of their daughter. Shane and Casey were flown to separate hospitals in Billings, MT, where Shane passed away the next morning after being taken off life support. Casey survived with serious injuries to her arms, legs and back. She is still recovering and getting a little stronger everyday. While it seems a miracle that her life was spared, everyone knows of the pain and grieving she has ahead. Pray for the Lord's mercy and grace to be made known to Casey in the coming months.
I met Shane when we were in junior high. He was from Gillette, Wyoming, and we got to know each other at Youth Encounter, a Christian camp held annually at Mountain Top Baptist Assembly in Casper, Wyoming. What I remember most about him from that early meeting is that he had a great sense of humor and played the violin better than anyone I knew. Granted, I hadn't run across many violinists at that point, but I was astute enough to know he was good. The next time I ran into Shane was at a forensics tournament in Laramie, WY. We both participated in Humorous Interpretation, which was a wonderful place for people like us to be who God created us to be! Shane proved to be just as good at acting as he was at playing the violin. He performed a wonderful skit about a shepherd's perspective of the first Christmas, embellished with a great British accent and his famous facial expressions. Even as a young high school kid Shane leveraged his opportunities to share the story of Jesus with others, something that I haven't forgotten to this day. Needless to say, he won just about every competition he entered that year.
One thing you may not know about Shane and I (for those of you who knew him) is that we went repelling for the first time together. Repelling was one of Shane's passions. We were both working at RA camp (the Southern Baptist version of Boy Scouts) one summer and there was a lull in the day. Someone had set up a 30' repelling wall at the camp, and they left the ropes and harnesses just sitting around. What else would you expect two energetic high school kids to do? We quickly hooked ourselves in and repelled for about two hours. We must have climbed the ladder to the top of that tower at least 100 times each. Shane continued repelling and seeking adventure after that day. I had the pleasure of going repelling with him a couple of different times after that, and it was always fun. The picture you see is of Shane repelling Australian style, which means face down for those of you who don't know the lingo.
Shane and I continued to be friends throughout high school. We would run into each other at church events across the state, as well as high school events such as the All-State Choir, Orchestra and Band. We graduated from high school (being a loyal Natrona Mustang, I never held it against Shane for being a Campbell County Camel ;-)) and he moved to Texas to attend Howard Payne University. We would still see each other in the summer when we came back to Casper to help with Youth Encounter. A few summers flew by, and I moved to Grapevine, Texas to teach 4th grade. Believe it or not, Shane also lived in that area as he attended Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary. I would call him from time to time to see how he was doing. He was a youth minister in the Forth Worth area, and he also was a cast member for The Promise, a beautiful play about the life of Jesus. I went to see him perform a couple of times, due in part to the fact that he was able to get tickets for me. I remember catching up with him after the show and talking about old times.
Soon after that time Shane came back to Wyoming to be a youth pastor in Rock Springs, where he also became increasingly more involved with Youth Encounter. I would still come back to Wyoming in the summer to help with the camp in any way, and our friendship continued to grow. We would sit around the main cabin at night playing guitar, telling jokes and singing silly songs. He was an unbelievably talented person. He could bring a room full of youth down in laughter, then silence them the next moment with his teaching. He loved people and modeled Christ in a way I have seen from very few people. He never withheld his talents, whether it was singing, playing the guitar or fiddle or teaching the bible. He continually urged the youth to pursue a deeper relationship with Christ, and he challenged me along the way.
I can think of only a few people in my life who have modeled Christ as Shane did. He was a friend and brother in the Lord, but he was also a role model who I looked up to and received encouragement from. I looked forward to introducing my wife to Shane, as he did to me soon after he was married to Casey. I wanted Gina to know him and be encouraged by his gentle spirit and wonderful sense of humor. Now that meeting will have to wait a while, but I am strengthened by the hope that we will get to see each other again. This world has lost a faithful servant but Heaven has gained a mighty warrior.
If you want to read more about Casey's progress, you can follow this link to the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention website, where Shane worked. Please keep her in your prayers as she seeks both physical and emotional healing. I am encouraged to know that she is looking to Jesus for her strength in this time.
God bless you all!