On Builders and Boosters . . . Like the Kesslers
by Kyle Kelley
Shortly after I finished last issue's article on that cloud of witnesses, I got word of a generous gift from the estate of one of those in that cloud, Elizabeth Kessler.
Al and Elizabeth were my neighbors just a couple of streets over. We shared rides to Alexandria for CBF meetings. Never will you a find a more consistent, grounded, encouraging couple.
Al was the original town cryer, in Paul Revere fashion, who traveled the state with John Goodwin back in the early 1990s talking to churches and pastors about the changes in Baptist life and this new upstart Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
A childhood friend of Frank Stagg, Al turned to his buddy to explain some of the nuances of interpretation and claims being thrown around back in the day, and quickly understood what needed to be done. Al was a promoter in the best sense of the word. He was a builder with tireless positive energy. With his characteristic phrase, "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you," he was one of the handful who willed CBF-LA into being by the grace of God.
Al and Elizabeth met at the phone company where she worked for him. They married later in life after Al's first wife died. She cared for him through some difficult final years as his health failed. Though both had their share of sorrow, it was hard to get a complaint from them.
I served all together over 20 years at First Shreveport with the Kesslers where they were a consistent presence, a calm encouragement. They were very supportive of the new start Church for the Highlands and would frequently ask me for an update.
Whenever I stopped for a visit in her final years of widowhood, Elizabeth wanted the latest information and invariably would not let me leave without a check for CBF and a boost of encouragement. The greatest gift was being in the presence of one so completely comfortable inside her skin, so certain of her place and to Whom she belonged.
Elizabeth soldiered on with dialysis and complications of diabetes, yet each month would mail out a copy of the latest prayer letter from Romany Missionaries Keith Holmes and Mary van Rheenen. I think of Elizabeth each month now when I post the Holmes prayer letter on our website (the latest is in this email.)
A little over a year ago, she knew it was time to discontinue dialysis. Ronney Joe Webb, Missions Minister at First Baptist, commented to me on her serenity and utter peacefulness in her decision, even joy at the new life which awaited.
My first thought upon receiving the estate gift was the bittersweet realization she was not around for me to thank. But then again . . . there is this great cloud of witness thing of the early church. I sense a serene smile gazing down who shares in my gratitude in this time of Thanksgiving.
Al and Elizabeth Kessler at Emmanuel-Alexandria for
CBF meeting in 2004.