Eldon Tenniswood Funeral Service - May 25, 2003

Eldon Tenniswood, 1904-2003
Service at Mountain Ranch Convention Grounds,
Sunday May 25, 2003, at 5:00 p.m.


Around 3pm, the many, many friends there were invited to file by the casket. Then at 4:15 they began seating everyone and that took about 30 minutes for all the friends, family, workers to file in. During these times, Karen Bone, Bill Walker, and Jana Printz played the piano. As Jana played "Alone with God," all of the brothers gathered around the casket and carefully closed it, placing the wreath on top.


The congregation sang #228 "Rich are the Moments of Blessing." Steve Peirson read a summary of Eldon's years in the work, family in the work, and surviving family. Then he prayed beginning with "Father, we are almost speechless."


Ed Alexander spoke, also echoing those same words. I'm almost speechless to have a part in this service. Besides my parents, no one has had more effect on my life than Eldon. I feel like I am having a part in my own parent's funeral. It's hard to settle on one scripture to express the feeling we have today. Thinking of Paul's last message to the church at Ephesus, in Acts 20. There are 4 specific points from this:

1) 20:18-19, "Ye know, from that first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews." We don't have words to express the appreciation we have for the humility, the kindness, and above all the godly firmness that Eldon has given to all. In my first year in the work, in the Sacramento area, we were leaving from a gospel meeting, riding in the car and Eldon said to me, "That was very nice what you shared with us tonight, Ed, it was a good thought and I enjoyed it. But do you have scripture to back it up? We have NO other foundation than the scripture so we want to never say something that we can't back up, even if we believe it to be true."

2) 26-27, "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." There was never a time when Eldon didn't declare to us the counsel of God. Whether we appreciated it or wanted to hear it or not. That is not easy - it's easier for a servant of God not to tell the whole truth. I'm so grateful for a man who was willing to tell me the truth.

3) 24, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." I never have been around a more selfless man, have never labored with one so completely unmoved by discomfort, opposition, rejection, or misunderstanding when it had to do with sharing the gospel. He had a great depth of love for the hearts of all but nothing moved him to change. I labored with him 30 years after the first time and he hadn't changed.

4) 28-29, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." In every visit I've had with Eldon in the last few years, his concern for the future has become more and more evident. Just because of the nature of a flock of sheep, we know that the wolves will gather. I hope we can be faithful and true delivering the firm commitment that Eldon had, in our own generation.


Harold Hilton - "Behave and be true." In my late teen years, Eldon came to live with us for two months while recovering from surgery. I didn't know why until after entering the ministry, why he would choose to go to a home with children. Now, if I were to need a place to go and their nerves could stand it, I would prefer to go to a home where there are children. While he was there, he connected with this rebel and I'm glad. After entering the ministry, when he was going to be leaving for a time, he would always say, "Boys, behave yourselves." And when he would return, he would ask, "Did you behave yourself?" I Samuel 18:14, "David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him." More than any other companion, he asked me, "Did you behave yourself?" And I'm glad - because I have found the Lord is with me as I "behave myself."

With Greg (Olson)'s permission, I'm going to tell you a story. Two years ago this morning, during Mountain Ranch 2, I saw Greg here in the dining area and I asked him if he would like to say hello to Uncle Eldon. I told him Eldon probably wouldn't know him, but that he had known Greg's grandparents well. We went up to the house and up the stairs to the second floor. We knocked on his door and he said, "Come in."

We found him lying back on his bed with his legs up on pillows as they often were. I went over and shook his hand and then told him, "Greg wanted to say, 'Hi,' he's Burt and Frieda's grandson." Greg went over to the bed and shook his hand. We backed up into chairs there in the room. I told him that Greg would like to tell him something. Greg said, "Uncle Eldon, I've offered for the ministry." He sat up and slid his legs off the bed and straightened himself up as we've seen him do so many times. He walked over to Greg and said, "If you've offered your life for this ministry, I want to shake your hand again." He backed up and sat on his bed. We offered to help him back in, but he preferred to sit on the edge and he said to Greg, "Greg, I'm finished. I've had a wonderful life in this ministry, but I'm done. We need helpers." He looked in his eyes and said to him "Be true to your companion, be true to the Lord."

We give thanks today for the godly man from Michigan who was true to his family, to his companions, to the church, and to his Lord. He once told me that if you're true to your companion and to your family, it seemed to him the chances were pretty good that you'd have a successful ministry. We want to behave and be true for Jesus' sake.


#387, "Bravely Tread the Path" - sung by John Parish, Scott Wainwright, Bill Walker, Linda Passage, Heather Hansen, Lois Austin, Jill Christianson, Trisa Chavez (Jana Printz played piano I think)


Paul Sharp - It's a privilege to be included - I didn't expect it. The first time I met Eldon was at Post Falls convention about 50 years ago. He read Isaiah 52:1, "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion, put on thy beautiful garments." He was awakening us to our condition before God, to the needs around us, and to opportunities before us. In the years since, when I've heard him speak, he's been doing the same things. Isaiah 53:2, "For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him."

 

I don't know Eldon's family well, but I know the human ties were close. The severing of human ties at a funeral is costly. Those are meant to teach us about heavenly, eternal ties. If human ties were easily broken and without pain, they would be a poor reflection of our ties to Christ and our eternal family. Isaiah 52:7, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth."

 

A brother once spoke of the man who fell among thieves, who was left half dead along the way. They say that the hearing is likely the last sense to go as death approaches. This man likely would've heard footsteps approaching and hope may have arisen in his heart but the footsteps belonged to the priest and they receded in the distance, as did the next set of footsteps belonging to the Levite. When the third set of footsteps was heard, it may've been hard to muster any hope, but those feet stopped where the need was. Those were beautiful feet. I hope we understand the cost it took for Eldon to tread the path he trod in the ministry these years. I have no question that he wasn't like others - he, too, would've been drawn to other paths that might have led to closer human ties (he may've had sons, daughters, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren here today). But how beautiful are the feet of those who go where the need is.


He's asleep today, sleeping in Jesus, but I wonder if in death he can give us a wake up call. It's not an easy path that leads into the ministry, nor is it an easy path that leads to continuance. It says the feet are beautiful "upon the mountains" - it's a costly climb. But, we wonder if young folks today can be awakened to the need. Eldon saw a future for this kingdom - he faced the ups and downs, and the disappointments, but he continued to believe that God is on the throne and that there's a future to this kingdom.

 

Isaiah 52:10, "The Lord made bare His holy arm." In our speak, this means he rolled up his sleeves and got into action. He provided a redeemer. At a home in Michigan, almost 100 years ago, there was joy on earth as a baby boy was born. Long before that babe, there was born a redeemer who came to earth. A day came when that redeemer became his (Eldon's) redeemer and we know that on that day there was joy in heaven. This tells us 1) the value of one soul and 2) how the "great multitude that no man could number" was formed - one by one, sinners repenting and making Christ their soul's redeemer. Isaiah 53:11, "He shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied, by His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities." In Isaiah 53, we read about many things Eldon couldn't do because only Christ could do them, but at the close of the chapter, verse 12, we read about something Christ did that we also have the privilege of doing. To the best of my knowledge, Eldon did it very successfully, as he "poured out his soul unto death."

 

Speaking in terms of his service, with all his heart he died to himself for Christ's sake. It's our privilege as it was his. I believe that Eldon demanded more of himself than of others, but he did try to believe the best of others and this set him up for some disappointments. I know that I have disappointed him but I'm thankful that he forgave me and continued to be a true friend to me. Eldon didn't deviate from what he believed and knew to be right. He wasn't frightened by any price that this might require of him. In Revelations 6:9, those under the altar whose souls were slain for the word of God - they suffered until death for the testimony they held. John was talking about the testimony of Jesus, that they (and Eldon) suffered for. One might say that Eldon drew the line and held to it, but he didn't - God drew the line and Eldon held to it.

 

In a recent meeting someone chose #234 "I live in triumph Lord, for Thou hast made Thy triumphs mine." This came as such a revelation to me. I've lived in defeat more than I should have or than I needed to. We're not recommending defeat. Also thinking of hymn #317 which says "Sweet is the rest when after weary toil, I do not glory in the battle's spoil. The victor's crown, all honours, let them be to Thee alone who gives the victory." It's not our triumph. Today is a day of triumph, but it's because of our Master's triumph. Another hymn, #294, "and wouldst thou know the secret of constant victory? Let in the Overcomer and he will conquer thee: Thy broken spirit, taken in sweet captivity, shall glory in His triumph and share His victory." Even in our defeats, we can live in triumph because the Lord has made His triumphs ours. But, this is so only if we share in the battle, in the struggle. We'll continue to share Christ's triumphs and victories in eternity.

 

This casket will be placed in the ground and the shell inside it also. But there's a resurrection day coming and Eldon will share in that. Victory over sin and Satan. The beautiful garments that were given to Eldon when he made his choice, there have been times when they became spotted. But he went back to the source of help and hope and continued to wash them in the blood of the lamb. White robes are given to every one, can be given because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The robes remain spotless throughout eternity. If the world or the flesh had marked Christ, he and we would've all been lost. But, He lived in triumph and we share in His victory. We thank God today.


 

Dick Middleton- After Eldon had been in the work about 16 years, he got lockjaw and was given sulfa (a new drug out) without enough water. This caused him to have poor health and he was inactive for awhile. This was about the end of 1944. He, his father, and his sister (who labored 40 years in Brazil and was on a home visit) were invited to San Diego. They came and were introduced to the desert, jumping cacti and all - I was responsible for picking him up and bringing him out to the desert and I ran out of gas! He then went to special meetings in AZ and was invited to labor in CA. He was with Chester Sweetland in 1945-46 and the latter part of that year, I started with them in the work. I was with him all of the next year, and then again a year later. He had to teach me the same lessons every time! Once he told me about something a former companion used to do as warning for me and then he found me guilty of it the very next day.

 

Joshua 1:2, "Moses My servant is dead, now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel." He AND all the people were to go on. Eldon has given us wonderful examples and counsels. Moses had pointed the way and they needed to continue on in it - in reality, Moses had just followed the cloud. He was a leader. "Follow me as I have followed Christ." To be able to lead we must be following Christ. Acts 20 - Sober warning, remembering what Jesus said, that the love of many should wax cold because iniquity would abound. In Revelations, it said that they (the Ephesians) had left their first love. Paul diligently tried to protect God's people. Eldon was so conscious of this danger, and he had the courage to warn us. God has promised strength for the day. Eldon found that each day and we understand how he found it. We want to be careful of the example we give to those who may be influenced by it.

 

All of the workers stood, faced the congregation, and sang #408, "No Reputation."

 

Pallbearers: Richard Wulf, Rob Newman, John VanDenBerg, Joe Alexander, Scott Boswell, Gary Myers