Tag Archives: Dave Lemaire

How to show Christian values at work — without talking about religion

As I visit churches, many sermons I hear lack practical application to our daily lives with demonstrable clear takeaways. They don’t give biblically down-to-earth advice and admonition to guide the daily lives of Christians, to encourage and enable them to be as distinctive as were the early Christians.

In my church visits here, I recall hearing only one sermon full of practicality containing admonition for maintaining one’s physical, mental and spiritual health. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease, for example, are on the upswing. Yet, many church dinners tend to be unhealthy, reflecting a lack of knowledge about the link between diet and disease. Why, for the most part, would churches remain silent on practical advice and knowledgeable practices to their flocks?

Last Sunday, I was treated to another practical sermon at The Crossing in Chugiak. Titled “An Honest Day’s Work,” it was given by Dave Lemaire, a layman with deep roots in men’s ministry. A lifelong Alaskan, Dave has operated businesses and worked in a variety of positions in the transportation industry from the Kenai Peninsula to the North Slope. In July, I wrote about Dave and Michelle Lemaire’s Copper River Float Ministry in this column.

Introducing Lemaire, The Crossing’s senior pastor, the Rev. Brad Rud, said he’d invited Dave to speak about being a Christian and work. My first-ever sermon on this topic, it fascinated me.

Early in his sermon, Lemaire, holding up his Bible, repeated a frequently used statement at The Crossing: “This is my Bible. It is the word of God. In this book are the keys to an abundant life, a joy-filled life and eternal life. I will take God at his word. Amen.”

Early on he cited Ephesians 2:8-10: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Lemaire stressed that we’re “God’s handiwork,” his masterpiece. Other key texts used to support his talk were Colossians 3:22-4:1, Titus 2:9-10, 1 Peter 2:15-21, and 1 Timothy 6:1-2. Supported by this Scripture, he proceeded to provide a framework for employer and employee conduct and relationships.

Breaking down the day of the average American to 8.9 hours working, 7.7 hours sleeping, 2.5 hours of leisure, one hour on household needs, 1.2 hours caring for others and one hour of doing other things, Lemaire said work offers our best opportunity to affect more people for Christ than any other daily activity, adding our work should say much about our character.

If we’re doing an honest day’s work, people will see Jesus in us. Throughout his talk, Lemaire told of multiple work instances in his and others lives where employers saw honesty in their work habits, opening the door for employers to understand true Christians can represent Christ just by performing their work justly.

On the part of employees, Lemaire underscored the toll employee-theft takes on businesses — $20 billion yearly, while break-ins and thefts by customers’ cost businesses — $13 billion yearly. He stressed employees should not steal, be dedicated to their employers and work with sincerity, as God is always watching, and others too.

In a past work life, I worked with businesses to address time-theft, estimated by many researchers to be 10 percent of what the average employee is paid. While not quantified specifically, Lemaire addressed time theft, time wasted on the job, texts, emails and other personal business at work supported by Scripture points.

Working responsibly during our work time, not wasting time, being responsible with employer resources, being obedient and respectful, giving our best, being loyal and letting our work point people to Christ were all Scripture-driven points Lemaire underscored.

He summarized the gist of being a true Christian in the workplace by this statement: “We make the message of Christ effective in the workplace without preaching the Gospel.” Personally, I’ve worked for “Christian” employers who were anything but Christ-like in the workplace.

He stressed fairness in the workplace works both ways. Similarly, employers should treat employees in the same way employers themselves wish to be treated. This means being honest with them, paying them fairly and with integrity. Employees need to see employers demonstrating their own work ethic and making good business decisions. He cited the need for employer loyalty to employees, by not threatening them or always appearing to be looking for replacements.

Lemaire’s sermon can be watched online at vimeo.com/187096414. Covering much ground in 33 minutes, he offered great advice for anyone. Think of it. If rightly followed, Bible studies, face-to-face witnessing, or personal testimonies would be of less importance if more employees and employers followed this advice. In an encouraging manner, Lemaire shared stories of employees expecting to be fired for making mistakes, but not losing their jobs when they honestly came clean with their employers.

This message needs to be heard at many more churches.

Beer and hymns this Sunday

Hymn singing at the “Beer and Hymns” events has proven to be a blessing to those who participate. Unfortunately, I’ve heard Anchorage pastors denounce this event as a beer bash; it’s anything but. Rather, it’s a coming together of people of faith to sing praises to their God and to show financial support for Lutheran Social Services of Alaska.

Participants pay for their meal and beverages, sing hymns for two hours and donate money. Between $6,000 and $10,000 are raised in this short time several times a year.

Event founder, retired Rev. Dan Bollerud, formerly of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, is the driving force behind it. Recently he said that, “With all the anger and rancor that we are surrounded with, as seen daily on the news, you might feel the need for a healing experience. The Gospels call us to reach out and care for the least, the lost and the lonely in this world. This time will allow you an opportunity to reach out to these children of God in the fellowship of friends.”

If you like good food, great hymns and heartfelt fellowship, the last Anchorage Beer and Hymns evening for 2016 will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday evening at O’Brady’s in South Anchorage. I’ll be there too.

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, churchvisits.com.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

Ministering to men, one oar stroke at a time

As the spray from a stretch of rapids splashed over my face on the Gulkana River recently, I turned back to look at the man rowing our raft. Reading the water like an eagle, he was trying to use the power of the river in the safest way possible. Stretching behind us were nine other rafts, each carrying an oarsman and three or four men. The timeless rhythm of the sound of the water and the stroking of the oars brought me back to when I first met Dave Lemaire.

I’d been invited to a men’s “beast feast,” a wild game dinner, at Baxter Road Bible Church several years ago. After dinner, Dave shared a sobering personal account of the kidnapping and brutal murder of his 11-year-old daughter, Mandy, in 1991. He broke down several times as he shared the pain and suffering of that tragedy with the other men. He recalled how his faith in God sustained him during that time, through the trial, and subsequent appeals. In 1999, adding to his pain, the Alaska Supreme Court overturned the original verdict, ordering a retrial. The convicted man was not released from prison while awaiting retrial, and subsequently died before a new trial could be held.

The years after Mandy’s death were filled with bitterness and pain. Dave hadn’t given up on God, but underwent a period of recovery, questioning why it happened. Understandably he was disappointed with God and the church. At one point, speaking on camera for the television program “Ice Cold Killers,” Dave said, “If I didn’t believe my daughter was in heaven, I’d have no reason to live.” He told me he wasn’t suicidal but it was a dark moment in his life. His marriage to his wife of 13 years was destroyed in the aftermath of Mandy’s death.

Fortunately, he met a childhood friend, Michelle, who went on a blind date with him. It didn’t go well initially. Michelle Lemaire said, “When we met as adults, we went out on a blind date. He had just performed a funeral for a child whose parents could not get a pastor to perform it because they did not attend church. He told me all about his life and everything about Mandy. When I left, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never go out with him again.

“Besides having too many problems, he was shorter than me, had kids still at home, and had a beard — three strikes in my book. But after much soul-searching and a vision that I believe was from God, I looked at his heart and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was a man of integrity. A man I could trust with my heart.” They married in 1997.

Dave is a consummate outdoorsman. In 2000, he and Michelle started a ministry for men calledCopper River Float Ministry based out of Glenallen. After the first father-son float trip he conducted for a Palmer church, Dave was invited to join a men’s breakfast there, as they were asking for another trip. His “aha” moment was discovering the participants remembered a talk given six months ago, but not the talking points from the previous Sunday’s sermon.

Now, after 16 years, Dave and a dedicated group of volunteers take groups of men from area churches on up to four 1 1/2-day float trips each year down the Gulkana River for fellowship, to fish and to be fed spiritually. Lemaire’s stated goal for these trips is that participating men form a relationship with Christ and relationships with other men in their church. He encourages what he terms “a ranger buddy type of friendship that can push you toward your goals; someone who’s there with you through thick and thin.”

Participants pay a fee to participate; this trip was $70 per person. The trip was for Clear Water Church, a 3-year-old church meeting at Wendler Middle School. It’s rapidly growing and needed this connecting experience for the congregation’s men. Trips and participants are generally for a specific church, and, with a few exceptions, for men only. The oarsmen come from various churches and denominations. Usually churches arrange for a speaker of their own. Talks are given after supper on the first day, and after breakfast and lunch on the second day. The speaker on my trip was Taylor Davis, team leader for Cru, formerly Campus Crusade, in Anchorage.

Most men fished along the way for grayling and king salmon. King fishing closed at midnight that first day, so there was a rush to fish as much as possible; three kings were caught by midnight. Arriving at a sandbar, we set up sleep and cook tents, and a port-a-potty. Dinner, fresh red salmon, Dave’s trademark blackened recipe, was tasty. Breakfast was eggs and biscuits with gravy the next morning. Lunch served at noon the following day, featured Michelle Lemaire’s chili and hearty tomato soup.

“It was the best men’s connecting event we’ve had,” said the pastor of Clear Water, Mike Merriner. “Twenty-two guys, many of whom did not know each other, now know each other’s names. They shared a common experience. It was the beginning of relationships for a lot of these guys; from now on out. My sense of the trip was it was a fundamental occasion to hang out with each other and foster a sense of community.”

“I agree guys that have been on the trip have developed relationships with trip participants and are more involved in the church and what it’s doing,” said James Embree, adult ministries pastor at Lazy Mountain Bible Church in Palmer. “When you have close friends involved in the church, you become closer to the church.”

“A great opportunity, a great ministry. It’s a shame it’s only a couple of trips per year,” said Henry Couser, pastor of Rabbit Creek Community Church.

Dave and Michelle perform a marvelous service for men and churches in Alaska. It’s a real example of building “servant hearts.”

About the Author

Men’s retreat offered more than fishing – 7/19/14

Recently, I accompanied a group of men, mostly members of Baxter Road Bible Church, a popular East Anchorage church, on a float and fishing trip down the Gulkana River. Actually, I first heard about the trip when I attended the Beast Feast at BRBC, which I chronicled on my ADN Church Visits blog. The cost was minimal, I was free and so I signed up.

The trip is offered by Copper River Float Ministry of Glennallen. Started by Dave Lemaire more than 12 years ago, it was a major factor in his personal recovery from the kidnapping, rape and murder of his daughter in 1991. Dave’s wife, Michelle, is his onshore facilitator of food, facilities and scheduling. The ministry is staffed by an awesome group of men volunteers, trained yearly to gain or maintain cataraft or rubber raft skills. Ages of the ministry’s volunteers range from the 20s to the 70s.

Lemaire limits the trip to four churches each summer. To take advantage of this experience, churches must book their trips up to two years in advance. Offering three men’s trips and one women’s trip each summer, CRFM also has women volunteers accompanying women participants on their trip.

Originally, more than 30 men from BRBC signed up for the trip but it conflicted with the Luis Palau appearance that weekend and half the men decided not to go. Departing early morning June 6, we carpooled or used the church van to drive to the Gulkana River bridge north of Glennallen. Transferring gear to a bus, it was north to Poplar Grove and a hike downhill to the river where the boats were moored. The ministry volunteers had floated them downstream from Sourdough the previous evening. At riverside, Lemaire introduced his crew, giving us a thorough safety lecture ending with prayer. Pastor Jason Severs of Old Paths Baptist Church in Glennallen presented each trip participant with a Bible printed on waterproof paper, a missionary initiative of his members.

Floating downriver for about six hours, we covered about half of the 36 miles we would float on the water. We pulled into a rocky, sandy beach area and the volunteers made camp, erecting several large tents, a canopy-covered cooking area, laying campfires and preparing for dinner. Guys went fishing along the shore. Some of us fished on the float down, as the kings were just beginning to appear. One of our party caught a nice, bright king but the rest did not score any fish on the trip. A few men were unsettled by sets of extremely large grizzly paw prints while setting up camp. Lemaire guessed they had been there a week or two prior to our arrival.

Dinner and breakfast, overseen and cooked by Lemaire, were tasty. Grace was said before each meal, not an unordinary practice for many Christians today. After dinner, Josh Heffner, a layman from Wasilla, talked briefly with us around the campfire. Using an example of building a house, he detailed clearing the building site and bulldozing to a suitable level before laying foundations. He invited the men present to “take time on the beach to examine your foundation.” He similarly talked before breakfast and after lunch the next day, using related themes. Encouraging the men to create good foundations, he reminded us of Christ’s parable of “The House on the Rock,” so they were secure. These brief talks were not pushy, were by nature reflective and appreciated.

BRBC’s associate pastor John Carpenter took a low-key role on the trip, which I liked as he works with these men regularly. He shared: “It’s always been more difficult, for whatever reason, to get men to connect and plug in at church. Men are more willing to let down their guard on the float trip, responding more readily and deeply to the message of the Gospel, taking a more active role upon return.”

Several men shared thoughts.

Adrian Ortiz said: “The Lord is involved in this ministry. I had a great opportunity to draw nearer to God.”

Paul Thiel enjoyed “time on the river with some great guys,” further noting, “I needed a break and would invite others to experience it. The food? I’ve never eaten such good food in the wilderness. The chili and cornbread lunch was totally worth going!”

Carlton Rice really liked Lemaire’s initial statement that “This was not a fishing trip to talk about God but a trip to commune with God and also have a chance to do some fishing.”

Over the course of the trip, Don Hennessey and I established an acquaintance. He enjoyed the trip, liking the solitude of the forest, the sounds of the animals and the river, further sharing: “The closeness of nature helped me draw closer to the Lord. I especially liked the waterproof Bible we were all given at the beginning of the trip.”

Dave Lemaire has experienced more pain than many of us will ever have to endure. Clearly he has a heart for men and an ability to attract volunteers. If you ever have a chance to experience this trip, do so. He recently became a part-time director of men’s ministries at The Crossing in Birchwood, a rapidly growing suburban Anchorage area church. Either way you meet him, it will be worthwhile.

My experience was delightful, drawing me closer to God and nature, much more than any other men’s retreat I’ve done.

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, Church Visits, at adn.com/churchvisits.

Original ADN Article