I shared with my church on September 1 that I am going to begin working as the associate director at Hope Center Indy starting October 1. This was my brother’s position at the Hope Center, and it is incredibly bittersweet that I am going to continue the work he started. I’m thankful that I could share some things that were on my heart as I have sensed God leading me to this transition. I shared some things that I have been feeling with my sorrow over losing David. Life has taken a lot of unexpected turns for me, but God is giving me peace—and even joy—as I try to do the next right thing each day.
My family has a lot of stories about my brother that we love to share. I’d like to share a few stories here about David’s giving heart. I believe that the ways David gave to church, missions, and people in need stored up for himself treasures in heaven. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus says to his disciples, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
We remember so many examples of how David gave his time and money to things that had eternal value. These inspire us to ask ourselves, “Am I being selfish with my money or giving to others in need? Am I giving towards the work of the gospel so more people can know Jesus’ love for them?”
When David was about 10 years old, our church, Brookville Road Community Church, was preparing to build an addition to our building because we had outgrown our sanctuary. Today our church has grown because of the building addition that we finally moved into in 2005. But back then the church family had to figure out how to finance this growth. Our dad, Pastor Hubert, shared the vision of the new sanctuary, Cafe, Playland, nurseries, etc. that would need to be built, and he challenged the congregation members to consider doing something to earn extra money to give towards the building campaign. My brother was only 10 years old at the time, but he wrote down on a card that he would give $800 for the new building.
When my dad saw that he wrote down $800, he asked Dave where he was going to get this money. They brainstormed and finally came up with the project: my brother, along with Mom and Dad, would paint my grandparents’ fence posts because Grandpa was looking to hire someone to paint them.
They worked several days in the heat of the summer to paint the fence posts. When they were finished, Grandpa wrote them a check for $1,000. Dad told David that he would give the $800 to the building campaign.
Then David said, “Dad, I was thinking about the other $200. Do you think it would be okay if—“
Dad thought he knew what David was going to say. He thought he would ask if it was okay if he took the $200 and bought a new video game system or some other fun thing for himself. Dad was prepared to tell him yes because he was already so proud of him for working hard to give this money to the new church building.
But Dave had a different idea.
He said, “Dad, do you think it would be okay if I gave the other $200 to Pastor Tele and the missions in Brazil?”
Dad nodded his head and smiled, “Yeah, Dave, I think that would be okay.”
A few weeks after David passed away, Pastor Tele saw my dad and told him a story that none of us had known. While he was still in college, David went on a missions trip with Dad to Brazil. There he met a man who worked in maintenance at the church in Brazil, and he met his young daughter who was about 7 years old. David became friends with him and realized he could not afford to send his daughter to the Christian international school for her to get a good education. David responded to a scholarship request from the international school for this young girl. He told Pastor Tele that he couldn’t do much, but he had his savings, and the Lord was asking him to help with this family. David paid $700 toward this young girls studies to allow her to attend that school.
A lady named Malissa Terry spoke with me after David’s celebration of life service. I had known Malissa from VBS, and she works with my friend at a Christian daycare. I didn’t realized that she and David had served together when David was serving in the Yeshua Society, which is a ministry serving people in impoverished areas in Indianapolis. I loved the way Malissa talked of how David took her teenage son under his wing and how he encouraged her to be a leader. I also loved the story she shared about how David realized a lady didn’t have a carseat for her baby, so David drove to Walmart at night and bought the carseat with his own money.
I want you to read Malissa’s words she wrote about David: “David served God in ministry in such a quiet, faithful, loving, way. I am honored to have served for about 3 years alongside David in an outreach ministry, and I, along with my son Christian both have so many fond, and hilarious memories of David Nolen. David used to take Christian to play basketball and although Christian was really good... David was better and would not LET Christian beat him! It was funny because Christian would talk so much smack and David would grin his great big grin and just shake his head, ‘No... It ain't gonna happen.’ And it didn't! David made Christian try his best, he pulled the best out of him, and I was grateful.
David sat with me and Pastor Mo Wildey all night long in the ER with Christian one night. He was cheerful at 3 am, in the waiting room. We talked about the miracles of God, the Azusa Street conference that we both watched... He was as excited as I was about the move of the Holy Spirit, the prophetic words that came forth during the conference. We almost had church in that waiting room!
David taught a Bible study one night at the outreach ministry that really inspired me. Afterwards, when we talked, he offered to send me his study notes. I was amazed. That ministry was an outreach of Brookville Road Community Church, it came to the apartments where I lived, many of us had broken homes, living in poverty. I came from day one, and God kept me coming, and I served in any capacity that I could. The entire time, David treated me with so much kindness, and respect. ( I used to tell him I could tell he had big sisters!) He didn't look at my circumstances. I'm guessing he just saw me as a person that also loved Jesus. He sent me his study notes and discussed them with me as a colleague, an equal. I will never forget that, and I still have that email. There's that saying, people will forget what you said, or did but will never forget how you made them feel. Nothing could be more true. I felt respected, important, and special to God when I was around David, and I believe everyone he encountered did. After I gave a 15 min message once, David told me that I had touched all 5 principles (or something like that) of writing a sermon. I did? He said, yep I learned that in Bible college... We laughed because I had no idea, I just followed the guidance of Holy Spirit. He laughed and said, yeah God gave you something that I had to go to college to get! Lol.
One night a young lady had no way home because she did not have a car seat for her little baby. She was stranded at the Bible study and could not ride the church van home without one. Some people left and told us good night, but 24-year-old David was not going to leave without helping this lady and her baby. David asked me where he could buy a car seat at that time of night. He never hesitated—he looked it up online on his phone, asked Christian to go with him, and they ran to Walmart at 9:30 at night, and David bought this girl a car seat for her baby with his own money. He never brought it up again, he didn't complain about it, he saw a need and he just filled it cheerfully because that was his heart. He truly had the heart of Jesus like no one I've ever known. By the way, not sure what type of shenanigans occurred on that trip because him and Christian came back cracking up laughing and wouldn't tell me why!
The last time we saw David was at The Hope Center Indy. He and Christian took off and went to his office, talked about tennis shoes and basketball and they made themselves the most giant frappuccino shakes with a ton of whipped cream and they had a ball. I thanked him over and over for all the time he spent with Christian and just for being the amazing person that he was. We will miss him so much, and I pray for the hearts of his family, his Brookville Road and Hope Center family, for the comfort and peace of the Great Comforter to miraculously strengthen and comfort you all. After all, one of David's favorite things to witness was the miracles of God!❤️”
One more story that is special to my nieces: One year, when Raegan was about 3 and Rylee was about 5, David brought them gifts on Valentines Day. He was probably only 18 or 19 at the time, but he wanted to do something sweet for his nieces. He had bought them balloons and flowers and surprised them with a special Valentine’s Day gift from their Uncle Dave. We love the picture of David with Rylee and Raegan because Dave was so happy to give them this gift, and the girls were thrilled to receive it. :)
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.