Bob and Jerri Saunders Receive T.W. Anderson Award

Post a Comment » Written on June 23rd, 2007     
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PORTLAND, OR (June 23, 2007) – Bob and Jerri Saunders were named the recipients of the T.W. Anderson Award today during the 122nd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

The award is named in honor of the only lay president of the Covenant. It is presented during each year’s Annual Meeting and honors laypersons who evidence lives of commitment and dedication to Christ and the church, who have been members of the denomination for at least 25 years, have not served on a conference or national board, have provided outstanding service to the local church and community, and have been recognized vocationally.

Anderson AwardThe Saunders have served 31 years at Trinity Covenant Church in Salem, Oregon. Throughout that time, they have shepherded the congregation’s youth, walked alongside the broken-hearted, and inspired the church’s mission in the community, say those who have benefited from their ministry.

“For Bob and Jerri, living has always been about giving – giving to God, giving to the church, giving to the community, and giving to friends and strangers alike,” says Dick Lucco, superintendent of the Great Lakes Conference and their former pastor.

According to their current pastor Chris Haydon, “Their passion for the poor, the newcomer, (and) the new Christian is a reflection of their deep gift of hospitality.”

That gift also has been extended to young people. They have taught Sunday school classes, worked as counselors, assisted with confirmation, participated in youth retreats, ministered one-on-one, and continually encouraged the church to support the youth in the congregation and community.

One confirmand wrote of the couple, “The love shown me I don’t think can be put into words, whether taking me to basketball games, being my confirmation friend, or even taking me out to Burger King after my first accident. He has been a true example of what it looks like to follow Christ whole heartedly. The marvelous thing is in the midst of all that, Bob and Jerri have been willing to take the time to shepherd a lost kid into a faith-filled young adult.”

AwardThat ministry has reached others as well. “Bob and Jerri have walked alongside many in our congregation as they have gone through the enormous experiences of grief and loss,” says Dan Johnson, a longtime church member. “They are true companions for many people whose lives have been broken by sin and disease. They have spent countless hours in homes or at the hospital, sitting at the bedsides of those in their last days as well as standing beside surviving family members and friends.”

Even as they ministered to the church members they had known for years, the Saunders were eager to welcome newcomers, including Jim Bilderbeck, a former career military officer, and his family.

“When a military family, on assignment comes to a new and strange place, there is feeling of dislocation, vulnerability and loneliness,” Bilderbeck says. The Saunders reached out to the family “without hesitation or equivocation” and were “continually going beyond loving their neighbors as themselves,” he adds.

The couple also was instrumental in helping the congregation discern how it can serve the community, Johnson says. “Bob and Jerri have encouraged, nudged, urged, and modeled how we might be the hands and feet, eyes and voice of Christ. Through their dedicated commitment, Trinity is now involved in numerous ministries in the community.”

That work has ministered to the most vulnerable, including the homeless and hungry. The couple led the church to become the first evangelical congregation in the community to participate in the Interfaith Hospitality Network. “Their vision for the IHN program was that for one week – four times a year – the church would become a home for these guests, and the church community would become their extended family,” Johnson says.

The Saunders also encouraged the church to work with the Salem Leadership Foundation, which brings together churches, schools, businesses, and government agencies to connect the needy with resources.

“Bob and Jerri are always optimistic, never condescending, and ever preaching the Gospel both with their lips – and more potently – with their lives,” wrote Sam Skillern, the foundation’s executive director in a letter supporting their award nomination.

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