We all have those people in our lives who have done more for us than they ever will know or realize. There are certainly parents, family, and many people close to us who form us and provide for us. Then there is another group of people who you know have done for you, or what they have done has made lasting impact and no one else does. One such person for me is a fellow pastor with whom I attended seminary. He is Rev. Perry Copus. Unlike most of my seminary friends though, we did not meet at Concordia Wisconsin (where I attended undergrad) nor at seminary. We were not the same age. For Perry is a second career pastor.
Before he attended seminary, Perry and his wife Belinda set me on a course. They were recently out of college, recently married, and had just joined as members of Faith Lutheran Church in Plano, TX. I was a smart-mouthed, unappreciative 5th grader. I went to Sunday School even though I asked every week if I could not attend, but my parents always had me go. Then this couple volunteers to teach and lead the 5th grade Sunday School and it changed my life.
You see, Perry and Belinda did not try and get cute or do off the wall things in Sunday School. Occasionally I recall them bringing donuts, but that’s about it. They did however teach me the Scriptures. I will never forget that year connecting that these accounts happened in real time and history. The same history that often neglects the accounts but is learned in school. They prayed with us. They attended worship faithfully in Divine Service with us. They read us the Scriptures and lead us through the lessons from the sheet probably supplied by Concordia Publishing House.
The next year kinda shocked me. There they were… they volunteered to teach our now 6th grade class again. Same thing that year. Just the Scriptures. Always proclaiming the Gospel. They didn’t always have the answers. Sometimes they encouraged us to ask Pastor Hill or Pastor Frick, sometimes just ask our parents. And they followed up. They asked if we got our question answered.
It was Christmas that 6th grade year that we were just casually wondering and talking and I recall Perry and Belinda asking me with Pastor Frick standing there if I had thought of being a pastor. Truthfully, that was already the thought. Most people around church knew that, my pastors certainly did, so did my family. I suspect Perry and Belinda did too. They mentioned how great it will be share this gift of Christ with people and encouraged me. The next Sunday, nothing was mentioned. They just shared Jesus with me in Sunday School.
After those two years I watched. This couple attended church faithfully. Had no children and yet were always around helping in Sunday School, VBS, just saying hi after church. They attended confirmation, even gave me a card and gift. When I graduated high school they did the same. All throughout they would mention how great it was to share the Gospel with others. I was attending Concordia Wisconsin, to be a teacher (since I didn’t want to tell my high school friends I was going to be a pastor I declared an education degree, that lasted a semester.) They encouraged and highlighted the great gift and blessing it is to share the Gospel. It wasn’t all the time, just very simple and consistent. An encouragement to remain faithful and keep the Gospel forward.
As I was in undergrad my mom informed me that Perry was going to seminary. With Faith Lutheran there is a long tradition of men becoming pastors, to which I am thankful. This was no shock. Perry just joined the list in the prayer of the church. They always prayed for me and others as well. But I was thrilled. When I began at Concordia Theological Seminary Perry was in his final year. On the first day after chapel he wrapped his arm around me and said that he was happy to see me there. It was a great encouragement. Perry didn’t know it, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there. The next day he saw me and walked with me the chapel. He continued to be there to lead me to where Jesus was, in the preached Word. Belinda, now a mother and seminarian wife, took the time that week to come say hi, ask how things were going, and encourage.
I have always admired Perry and Belinda. They gave me great gifts in sharing the Gospel with me for two years in Sunday School. They modeled what life looks like in faith and love. Only now, Perry has stage 4 colon cancer. He has now posted on Caring Bridge his backstory and updates. I read it as I am alone in my church office. I feared. It’s brought me to tears. Not of fear, but of joy. He confesses and proclaims throughout his postings. The death and resurrection of Jesus.
Thank you Perry and Belinda. Thanks for always sharing Jesus. You never knew how much you’ve lead me to being a pastor, but you did for you always shared the Gospel in fullness and joy. You’ve prayed with me and for me in serving the Gospel. Now, I pray with you and for you as Perry continues with cancer. I pray for the treatment and for the family. May the Lord Jesus, crucified, dead, buried, risen, and ascended continue to comfort you with His gifts. Forgiven of sin, given the gifts of Christ on the cross, and raised with Him in Baptism may He continue to keep you faithful and true.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!“Now to My Father I depart, from earth to heav’n ascending, And, heavn’ly wisdom to impart, The Holy Spirit sending; In trouble He will comfort you and teach you always to be true and into truth shall lead you.” Dear Christians One and All Rejoice, LSB 556, stanza 9.
Perry had successful surgery removing several tumors around the gall bladders, small intestine, and liver. Belinda reported on Facebook that after surgery and hot-chemo bath, Perry appears well, doctors have removed all visible tumors. He will remain in ICU for several days and remain hospitalized and recovering for a couple weeks. Continued prayers for the family are appreciated as well as for the congregation he serves.
Lord Jesus Christ, receive our thanks for hearing our prayers on behalf of Perry who has successfully undergone surgery, and for giving to the surgeons and medical team the skills that have been effectually administered. Restore him to health and strength, in Your time and according to Your good and gracious will; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (LSB, Pastoral Care Companion, Prayer After Surgery)
Belinda has been posting regularly on Facebook for those of us around the country. She has posted that Perry is able to walk small amounts and sit up in a chair and be bathed. Minimal talking as it is painful. Nausea and pain abound and are being managed. He should be moved soon out of ICU and into a regular hospital room.