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“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” — Matthew 20:16

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2005 Rodney T. Martin Award

Daniel Stoepker

Daniel Stoepker

Daniel Stoepker

This award, given during the PHEWA Biennial Business Meeting, is named for Rodney T. Martin who served as Executive Director of PHEWA from 1972 through 1990. The award recognizes a significant long-term contribution made by the recipient to the ministry of PHEWA. It was first presented in 1993. The 2005 award honored Elder Daniel Stoepker.

The following words from the Rev. Janie Spahr accompanied the 2005 Rodney T. Martin Award presentation to Dan Stoepker at the Social Justice Biennial Conference in Tucson, Arizona, Jan. 15:

Our Dan,

The one who sees the world as magical and real, all at the same time.
The one who gives us hope when our dreams seem dashed.
The one whose faith lightens lives of children and inspires adults to believe.
The one who takes in boarders of all kinds and welcomes us as family, no matter who we are or where we are from.
The one whose ministry and hospitality — Dan says — comes from his love for Jesus.
The one who comes from Dutch Reformed roots and is a full-fledged Presbyterian.
The one who carries the Rainbow flag with pride and dignity.
The one who has children named Marvelous and Wonderful!
The one who is a proud Grandpa.
The one who, even when he feels tired and is so sick, listens to our problems and cheers us on.
The one who continues to carry many of his beloved friends to the other side, offering sanctuary and safety to express their fears as well as tears.
The one who served as a Commissioner from Detroit Presbytery to the General Assembly.
The one who testified for people with HIV and AIDS, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The one who is hip in every way, who is a fashion plate wherever he goes – giving further meaning to “witty, pretty and gay” !!
The one who loves his home church, Westminster Presbyterian in Detroit, Michigan, where he has served in leadership for many years.
The one who serves faithfully, the Presbyterian AIDS Network, and who loves serving on the PHEWA Board.
The one who calls us to live and speak our truth OUT LOUD.
The one who, like Rod Martin, gives his all, every day, for what he believes and knows in his heart.
Yes, the one who walks the talk.
The one we call friend, who touches our lives with wonder, hope and joy.

With love and gratitude for you, our Dan, who sheds More Light so that one day soon, all will freely live and serve. You are the best, Dan. Congratulations, Dan Stoepker!! We are so, so proud of who you are!!

We love you and I love you !

The following words by Rodney T. Martin were presented to Dan Stoepker during the Feb. 5 meeting of the Presbytery of Detroit where Dan was again honored for being the well-deserved recipient of the Rodney T. Martin Award:

Dear Dan . . .

I am honored — and humbled — by the addition of your name to the list of persons who have been named recipients of the Rodney T. Martin Award. Those who desig­nated you as:  “… the heart and soul of the Presbyterian Church’s commitment to rid the world of the scourge of AIDS and to strengthen the church’s witness and minis­try with persons living with HIV/AIDS and their fam­ilies and loved ones …” are, in my opinion, right on in keeping with the intent of the Award, “… to recognize a significant long-term contribution to the ministry of PHEWA.”

You certainly have made such a contribution.

The past few weeks have once again forced us all — in the face of the Tsunami tragedy, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz with its horrible recognition of perhaps the most inhumane, protracted act in human history, and, yes, the continuing scourge of HIV/AIDS world-wide — to consider the question of where is God in all of this.

A young doctor who survived Auschwitz said, on his liberation from that place, “… we didn’t see God when we expected him, so we have no choice but to do what he was supposed to do; we will protect the weak, we will love, we will comfort.  From now on, the responsibility is all ours …”

Dan, while you and I rely heavily on God for the nurturing of our own faith, our ministries reflect, I believe rightfully so, the words of the young doctor — the responsibility is all ours.

You and I have not met physically but that will come in another time, perhaps on another shore. In the meantime, I share with you the honor of this moment in your ministry and leave you with a favorite blessing of the Franciscan Fathers:

“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of all people that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.”