Tim is dead.


Tim died ten days ago. We found out last Monday, during our day of prayer.

To say we were shocked is an understatement. His death was very sudden. Tim had been living in Arkansas and doing great there. No one expected him to die of a heart attack at his age.

You likely remember Tim from “the hazelnut cream story.”

That’s the tale of how our former Outreach Director, Doug Van Ramshorst, broke through Tim’s hostility and silence by buying him a cup of coffee every night he saw him on Outreach. Instead of trying to engage Tim in conversation, Doug simply placed the coffee next to Tim on the bench where he would sit each night waiting for his customers to drive up, and then walked away.

It took more than three months of these silent interactions, but Tim finally spoke to Doug. He spoke five words, to be exact: “I like the hazelnut cream.” That was it. So Doug began putting hazelnut cream in the coffee he silently placed next to Tim every night on the bench outside the 7-11 on Broadway and Waveland.

And after about another month, Tim began really opening up to Doug: talking with him, sharing with him, becoming his friend. He opened up about his family issues (he was the black sheep son of a preacher), his mental health struggles, and the shame he felt about not being a part of his young son’s life. He came down to the Ministry Center and began turning his life around. He overcame his heroin addiction. He got his CDL license and became a truck driver. He reconciled with his family. He became a part of his son’s life again.

And he relapsed. More than once, actually. But we refused to give up on him, so he refused to give up on himself. Eventually, he moved to Arkansas to work on his aunt’s farm. He did well there, and moved on to another job on his own. Recently, Tim was awarded partial custody of his son: a confirmation of both the enormous progress he’d made and the transforming power of God in his life.

But while Tim may have been done with hard living, hard living wasn’t done with him. Even though he had been clean and sober for years, it turns out that all the drugs and street living had taken a massive (and silent) toll on his heart. Last Sunday, it suddenly gave out on him. He was 39.

Death is never easy to deal with, but it is particularly difficult when someone is ripped away as suddenly as Tim was. His parents are without their son. His son is without his father. His girlfriend is without her partner. And we are without our friend.

At the same time, we are filled with gratitude for the gift the God gave us in Tim. We rarely get to see our guys transform to the extent that Tim did. The sense of loss we feel is partly the result of thinking that we knew how his story would end. His death is a reminder that we don’t know how anyone’s story will end, including our own. It is a reminder for us always to give thanks for the lives we have, for the other lives of which we get to be a part, and for the parts we get to play in those lives.

We miss Tim. We thank God for Tim. And we pray for Tim and for his family.

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