T.W. Anderson Award to Robert and Oreta Bentz

Post a Comment » Written on June 27th, 2009     
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PORTLAND, OR (June 27, 2009) – A Minnesota couple who have ministered to grade school students and senior adults, who have hosted ex-offenders and missionaries, and who have served in multiple community groups as well as church boards, were honored with the T.W. Anderson Award today during the 124th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

President Gary Walter presented the award to Robert (Bob) and Oreta (Reta) Bentz, who are members of Alexandria Covenant Church. Click here to read the text of the award message.

Anderson Award coupleThe couple, who have been married 53 years, also were charter members of Redeemer Covenant Church in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, and later members at Kensington Covenant Church in Kensington, Minnesota.

The T.W. Anderson 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.

Bob says he was “overwhelmed” to learn the couple had been chose for the award. “I felt that we don’t deserve it, but we are grateful.”

Today’s award comes 50 years after the couple started attending a Covenant church in 1959. “We had never even heard of the denomination before that,” Bob said.

“This is such an awesome time for us,” Reta said, in accepting the award.

The couple encouraged others to serve others as God provides opportunity. “We are just ordinary people who saw a need. And when we could fill it, we filled it.” Reta said.

“Wherever the Lord finds you, whatever age bracket you are in, there is a place for you to serve,” said Bob, who turns 80 this year.

The couple’s lives have been ones of compassion and service to all ages and walks of life, willing to serve behind the scenes as well as lead ministries. “We like to say yes,” Reta says. “Though sometimes we say no,” she quickly adds.

They don’t say no very often.

One or the other has served students as lunch buddies and mentors, volunteered at the local spelling bee, served as scoutmaster of the local Boy Scout troop, senior high league, and took part in a cribbage tournament used as a way to teach children how to do math in their heads.

Reta has mentored a sixth-grade girl since the time the student was in first grade because the student’s mother lives in another state and is addicted to drugs. The two have formed a close relationship—playing games, cooking, sewing, or just hanging out together.

The Bentzes have volunteered in the local nursing home, instructed the 55 Alive group, and driven people to doctors’ appointments.

The couple also has been willing to move well beyond their comfort zones in order to minister to others. For example, in his letter to the nominating committee, David Schonberg wrote Reta was uneasy as she started ministering in the local Douglas County Jail.

Anderson Award presentation“Being locked behind four heavy steel doors, interacting with men and women who are grateful, but sometimes very profane, did not come naturally to her at first, but she did it for the Lord’s sake and quickly toughened up like a sailor,” Schonberg wrote. “She became comfortable and very effective.”

She wound up serving nine and a half years.

“That came out of Matthew where it says, as much as you’ve done it to the least of these,” Reta says. “I thought, ‘I’ve fed people and I’ve clothed people, but I had never visited anyone in prison.’ ”

For the last two and a half years, the Bentzes have invited ex-offenders into their home for a monthly dinner. Thirteen men —most of them regulars—showed up last month.

“We don’t take everybody,” Reta says. “We take ones that are willing to change.” She adds it is important for the men to have some place to laugh and have conversation across the table.

The couple’s home has been a place of hospitality for all, whether it was ex-offenders, foster grandchildren, visiting missionaries, church members, or other community residents.

Other activities include serving and leading numerous boards and committees, assisting Celebrate Recovery, and organizing a church health fair.

There is no great mystery as to why. Bob says simply, “We love people.”

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