You don't often think of your heroes being people. Real people. Ones who make you laugh so hard you snort, who say crazy things in one breath and inspire you with genius in the next, who share a meal with you. Usually, they hold this mythical place in your heart and mind as the guru of words that have shaped you, of epic stories of triumph personified, of dedication that never dims. These everyday and highfalutin experiences comprised my experience with Don Richardson.
I first "met" Don in the pages of the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement reader where I was challenged, inspired, and changed forever in my missiology and hope for the spread of the gospel among the unreached peoples of the world. And, because I'm one of those students who read the little bio of each article's author/s, I discovered that Don wrote the book Peace Child -- another book that shaped me.
As a passionate Perspectives alumni, I attended the national gathering in 2016 and heard the rumor that Don was there. Over the several days, I'd ask people "Have you seen Don? I'd love to meet him" because my fangirl response in life is almost universally about authors. My mission was clear, I was going to find him. But three days in and my bags were packed to head home without even one "sighting" of Don.
My carpool ride rolls up to curb, and I open the door to hop in with the group and low and behold, I had the privilege of squishing up next to the man himself.
I'm not going to lie, I was a bit starstruck. All the carefully crafted words I'd thought of to spark interesting conversation fled me and we let others in the car guide the conversation.
However, my story is just one more illustration of the Lord's goodness, because while the car ride was an awkward beginning, God bought me time to recover by sending a fierce thunder and rain storm by the time we arrived at the airport. Consequently, Don and I got stuck in that terminal for over 4 hours together and had a rollicking good time.
All my "clever" conversational starters were nothing to the delight of sharing a cheeseburger and fries and discussing Don's latest ideas for books. His insightful analysis of the last decade's worth of media and cinema pointing a generation to fantastical heroes and glorifying anti-heroes had him sharing a wild sci-fi/fantasy novel idea he was mentally crafting. Between cracks of thunder, pelting rain, and french fries we had a conversation I'll never forget. In both the theme of the novel and our wide ranging conversation he wove missiological truths.
I thank God for that moment.
Don was known far and wide and was much beloved. Many others have stories like mine and much deeper relationships and connections to him. To that end, there will be an amazing tribute to him in the upcoming issue of Mission Frontiers magazine to look forward to.
~ DG Wynn