(Published in the Christian Courier, October 11, 2010)
When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die the world cries and you rejoice. Indian Proverb.
On September 9, 2010, suffering from complications due to Alzheimer’s, Wayne Drost, 71, went home to glory. Without a doubt, he rejoiced to meet his Saviour, but many of us cried. And, perhaps, as the proverb says, on some metaphysical plane, even the world cried. Wayne’s grandson, Alex, hobbling around on crutches at the Philadelphia airport, was met by President Obama himself who stopped to inquire why he was travelling alone in such a condition. Alex replied that he was returning to university after attending his grandfather’s funeral. The President asked him to pass on his condolences to the family. When I heard this remarkable true story, I thought it was fitting: a kind of holy insider joke – the most important leader on the planet pausing to pay his respects to one of God’s most unassuming leaders.
It affirmed what I wanted to do … express my gratitude for Wayne’s life of visionary leadership. He was wholly dedicated to the reformational task of building up Christian institutions in education, in labour, and in the community that would function as living testaments in our secular society to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Wayne embodied the sacrificial kind of pioneering and persevering leadership that Churchill described: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
I worked with Wayne on the Education Committee of Lambton Christian High School. I remember word for word one sentence that Wayne spoke at a meeting. The committee was having a heated discussion about something that I forget and he said, his brown eyes fierce, “I am so grateful that at the end of the day I can get down on my knees and confess the sins that I commit to my Lord.” That stayed with me. A leader who admits his sin. A leader who knows things will go wrong, but leads anyway.
Wayne was the first principal of London District Christian Secondary School. His impact on the Christian school movement in Ontario cannot be overstated. Gary VanArragon, former principal of Woodland Christian High, remembers Wayne’s influence: “When I became a principal in 1992 and attended principals’ meetings, his vision of leadership in Christian schools did a great deal to give me the courage to lead. In all the years that we worked together, his passion never failed and his commitment to Christian education remained fresh and inspiring to me. I remember high school principals’ meetings … where we spent hours in intense discussions about mission, vision and programs for Christian high schools, discussions in which Wayne played a leading role. I remember his insistence that these conversations not be abstract but focus on the actual operations of our schools. He wanted those schools to be places where students could be trained to be world changers for the kingdom of God, whether they worked on their family farms or were business executives or wherever their life’s path led them.”
Herman Proper spoke for the Alliance of Christian Schools at Wayne’s retirement in 1999, thanking him for his leadership on the Board and for his conscientious committee work. In meetings across the province for decades, Wayne spelled out his contagious vision of what Christ could do in education with a few willing and faithful disciples.
Wayne also played a significant role in the Christian Labour Association of Canada. He served on the CLAC National Board for thirty years, including seven years as President. CLAC representative, Hank Beekhuis, reviewed Wayne’s legacy of passionate commitment to that organization at the memorial service. He concluded by noting with conviction that Jesus would welcome Wayne with the words of Matthew 25:21: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
After his retirement, Wayne did not rest. He served on the Board of Vision Nursing Home in Sarnia, once again acting as chairperson and inspiring others to give of themselves. In recognition of his diligent community service, a number of scholarships offered by Vision bear his name.
Wayne also turned his attention to the church in his senior years, eager to offer his energy to local ministry. He served as chair of council and also as visiting elder. He was a good listener and his counsel always focused on the hope found in the person of Jesus Christ.
Wayne’s memorial service was held on September 13, 2010 at the Redeemer CRC in Sarnia. Pastor Jim Poelman commented: “If Wayne was not your friend, you would have had to wonder what was wrong, not with Wayne, but with you. Kind, generous, wise, caring, fun, true, supportive. These are some of the adjectives that spring to mind in describing Wayne. He was a leader in every community in which he lived and we are the better for his servant-like leadership.”
Wayne’s substantive contributions to the community were supported by his family – his wife, May, his daughters and sons-in-law, grandchildren, and extended family. Also here, close to home, Wayne served as a leader, a public example of faithfulness and support. In her eulogy daughter Pam Beattie said, “Of course the most important relationship in Dad’s life besides his one with the Lord has been his marriage. Dad and Mom celebrated their forty-seventh wedding anniversary this past June. The fact that we can count the number of “serious” arguments they had during that time on one hand is a testimony not only to careful and conscientious parenting but also their devotion to each other. Our Mom and Dad’s relationship has been inspirational to us all; their marriage exemplary of loving faithfulness.”
Knowing that I wanted to write this tribute, May warned me not to make Wayne out to be a saint. He had his flaws and failures. But for me and countless others, he was a model of forthright and humble leadership. And we need that example of “a long obedience in the same direction” because it’s our turn to take up the reformational challenge.
Henry Adams said, “A teacher affects eternity; no one can tell where his influence stops.” The Apostles’ Creed calls the church “the communion of saints.” So, Wayne, my friend, I will name you teacher and saint and seek to follow. Thanks for showing me the way.