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Here in Mississippi we are keenly aware of the fact that every year a list of names is released to be the names given to hurricanes born in the Atlantic. They used to be only feminine names but now they include masculine names. While we keep up with all of them, if they come into the Gulf of Mexico, we watch and listen even more carefully. For it is very possible that we will feel the effects and have the opportunity of meeting that storm up close and personal. Thirty-two years ago a storm named Didlake blew into the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and has remained these three decades. He came to serve in Men’s Ministry and help men to understand missions and involvement in the call of Jesus with hands-on opportunities. While his heart was as big as our world, his compassion and care and unique giftedness in making a difference for our Lord was never more clear and concise than in the middle of a disaster. Not only did he help people prepare for disasters, he was time and again front and center and first on the scene to help us maximize our immediate and ongoing response to help people affected by disasters. This storm called Didlake came and stirred up things and without a doubt has left a mark on the land.
Like natural storms, this storm has charted its own path. Whether tornadoes or hurricanes, you probably have noticed that they go where they decide and not where we would prefer they go. In a sense that’s true with Didlake, except he has spent these years seeking a path from God that would help people in need and help men to grow in their walk with God and their service to our Lord. While he is uniquely Mississippi and has been a special treasure to all of us, he has cut a path all across the planet. When disaster strikes, whether natural or manmade, the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board often request that Jim Didlake be a part of the response team put in place with the help that is needed. From floods in Central America to the manmade tragedies of 9-11, Jim Didlake has been on the scene to help. From Russia to the Gaza Strip, Jim has been there to care, to coordinate, to communicate the love of Christ. It has been amazing. From tsunamis in Thailand to hurricanes in Pascagoula, from tornadoes in Missouri to earthquakes in Haiti, to ice storms in Clarksdale and wildfires in Bolivia, he has been a servant of God on the scene.
Like other storms, this storm also left behind a mess. The difference is this storm left a good mess. You see, the problem is as Jim Didlake has moved from church to church and association to association encouraging people to be on mission for Jesus, there were people who then were left with the struggle of their life being rearranged to be where God wanted them to be doing what He wanted them to be doing. A kind and thoughtful communicator, he would gently put you on the spot and encourage you to become the answer for many of life’s problems. The Didlake storm was constantly calling for people to rearrange their time and schedule, their stuff and circumstances, in order to do the Lord’s work. Before I ever met Jim Didlake, I met a man whose life had been affected by Jim. This man who was a dear friend of mine said, “I never met a man who had such an impact on me as he did.” Later, as I met Jim and had the privilege of working with him, I understood what he meant.
This Didlake storm has another interesting feature. Do you remember back in the spring of 2014 when the storms were rolling across the Midwest, there were several days that people shot incredible videos of twin tornadoes? That indeed is what happened with Storm Didlake. One of the storms is named Jim but the other one is named Marlene. For all of his years of service, she has been doing her part. Sometimes it was on the front lines alongside Jim and other times he was away from home and shelter and she was there taking care of the needs that would enable him to take care of the needs of others while all the time serving as a mom, a teacher, a church worker and a friend. She came and blessed folks all across our state and beyond.
Finally, like most storms come to an end, this one will conclude his ministry with the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board at the end of July. A third of a century he has served us and has served with us with grace and love and effectiveness. Those of us who know him have been affected by him and are grateful for him. Truth be known that many more people who do not even know his name or what he has done have been directly and dramatically affected by his ministry. I personally have been so wonderfully blessed by Jim Didlake, the storm and the man. My life has been enriched; my spirit has been lifted; and my walk with Jesus made closer because a storm named Didlake blew through Mississippi.