My NNU colleagues and I were shocked in late May by the sudden death of Dr. Ed Robinson, our vice president for academic affairs. Barely a month before his retirement, Ed passed suddenly in his sleep.
For nearly three decades, I’ve known Ed in a variety of roles: first as one of my seminary professors, next as a faculty colleague, then as an encouraging friend, and finally as a mentoring administrator. Ed’s impact was widespread and his passing leaves a significant void in many of our lives.
When Ed and Nancy returned to Nampa in 2011, he created our Office of Leadership Studies as part of NNU’s Wesley Center by focusing on servant leadership as an expression of our university’s mission and vision.
Ed hit the ground running, in both large and small ways. For instance, upon Ed’s arrival, two large concrete planters flanked our building’s front entry. But since the white petunias overflowing in them had to be hand-watered, they needed someone to tend them daily. Modeling the kind of servanthood he championed, Ed took on this role.
One weekend, Ed and Nancy quietly spruced up these planters by adding a splurge of color with red Geraniums and lanky green Dracaena spikes. The addition was dramatic the following Monday as our entry was now marked by floral thrills, fills, and spills in addition to the surrounding foliage landscaped by previous generations of Williams Hall emeriti and their spouses. This small gesture created a more welcoming environment for our students, staff, and faculty.
A couple of weeks after Ed’s memorial service in early June, Kim and I traveled to Spain as the capstone of my recent faculty sabbatical. There we hiked the final 100-plus kilometers of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient Christian pilgrimage path. Kim and I are deeply grateful for the ways Ed and Nancy championed this sabbatical component through their own personal support and encouragement.
The Camino de Santiago literally means “the Way of Saint James.” It is attributed to the Apostle James, who was nicknamed by Jesus as one of the “Sons of Thunder” in Mark 3.17. This network of ancient Spanish pathways has carried countless pilgrims, or peregrinos, for ages. Legend holds that Saint Francis of Assisi made this journey himself in the 13th century. This year alone, the Spanish government expects more than 200,000 peregrinos to walk, cycle, or ride horseback to his shrine in Santiago de Compostela.
The camino straddles some incredible Spanish landscape, especially when the various paths converge in Galicia for the final week or two of the journey. For as many as eleven hours per day, Kim and I hiked through everything from morning fog, rain, cold, and broiling humidity across rolling farmland, alongside wandering streams, through dense woodlands and between ancient stone hamlets, and ancient Galician farming villages.
The day before Kim and I began our camino, we wandered through a small storefront flower shop in the village of Sarria. The beauty cultivated by the florist inspired me to purchase some Lavender and Aster seed packets to carry with me along the way.
Each day that followed, I scattered a few of those seeds near the numerous churches, monasteries, roadside crosses, and abbey cemeteries arrayed along the camino like pearls on a necklace. For me, it was a tangible gesture of thanks for the life and ministry of Ed Robinson: someone who lived out his theology for decades by casting seeds of influence into the lives of so many students and colleagues.
Along the way, I wondered at times about the potential yield of all my sowing. It’s a question that also applies to life. Would any of these seeds germinate? Would they be able to put down roots among the competing weeds and wildflowers? Would anyone even notice? Would my meager efforts make any difference at all?
In the end, I find solace in the words of Proverbs 11, where the writer challenges us to “Keep on sowing your seed, for you never know which will grow — perhaps it all will” (3.17).
Along the way, perhaps it all will.
No, it already has — in me.