It’s not just the last week of living in our house after 17 years, it’s also the last week of working with the bloke who helped plant Providence Church Midland with me. He’s a young man who has been crucial to the whole venture. In fact without him I am pretty sure we would not have gotten off the ground.

So let me pay tribute to my young friend Damon Sokolowski (or Damo or Soko or something shorter than Damon Sokolowski).

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Damo: always able to build things from the ground up

Damo and I met about two years before we planted Midland, when I was guest lecturer at a theological class he was taking.  I was immediately struck by two things, his earnest intelligence and his love for Jesus’ gospel mission.  We talked a bit, planned to meet up to chat, then kept in touch via email.

Things transpired.  I got sick and took a year off to recover. I then started working again, albeit very part time with Providence Church, a household church network established the year before by a good friend.

It was then Damon got in touch once more.  We’d started thinking about doing a Providence church plant in our area, about 18 kilometres from the Perth CBD.  It was Damo’s local stomping ground, and healthy churches were thin on the ground in what is a strongly working class setting.

Before too long Damo had signed up, and soon we were meeting in a household in our area, and door-knocking thousands of houses in our working class suburbs to test the spiritual temperature of the area.

Now here’s the thing about Damo.  He’s precise.  He’s a stickler for detail.  He does eye exercises every morning for goodness sake!  My door knocking approach would have been haphazard at best, like a bee following the honey trail.  Damo had the whole area mapped out, a great set of questions to ask people that weren’t too confronting, and a whole bunch of resources to hand out.

Damo has great strengths.  He would claim to be a jack of all trades and master of none, but that’s probably just him being self-deferential.  His ability to build things from the ground up, to break the inertia, is second-to-none.  My favourite room in the whole world  – the studio in which most of my words are written – was planned and plotted by me, but the hard work of putting it together was primarily Damo, as the picture above shows.

He can build walls, run businesses, play guitar and lead church singing, preach well, create organisational structure, teach a class of grade ones in a local primary school, share the good news of Jesus clearly and lovingly to just about anyone, lead his lovely family well, and kick a great footy (he was once scouted by Essendon, but glandular fever providentially put paid to a footy career that would have seen him turn out for the dark force that is the Essendon Bombers).

When Providence paid Damo a day per week wage he put in two days work.  When we paid him two days, he put in four.  When we finally got around to paying him what he was doing already, he upped it again.  He’s one of the hardest workers I know, and if you’ve ever met his dad Leon, a recently retired police sergeant, you can see it runs in the family.

Most of all Damo loves Jesus, and has a deep passion for the lost that led him to help plant Midland and that will, I am sure, lead him, Becky and their little ones, to further flung fields overseas to share with those totally unreached with the good news. In the five years he worked with Providence as it has grown from 14 people in our lounge to over 140 people, he has unwaveringly asked “What would Jesus want us to do?”

So I am going to miss Damo, although I am excited about his – and Becky’s – new venture, working “down south” as we’d say, helping strengthen a Christian college.

Damo’s just turned 31.  So five years is a good chunk of time to work in one place. I don’t think of Providence Church Midland being the poorer without him, though, because his primary goal has been to ensure that we find our richness in Jesus.  He’s left a great legacy, and now that we are no longer a church plant, but a young established church, he can reflect on a job well done.

And if you ever need a wall built, a studio erected, or a guitarist-singer to lead the service at short notice….