PORTLAND, OR (June 27, 2009) – Jim Sundholm responded with characteristic humor and pathos to the recognition given him today honoring his leadership of Covenant World Relief and the Paul Carlson Partnership.
The recognition came in a special ceremony during the afternoon session of 124th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Health issues had forced Sundholm to leave both positions in the past year.
In her opening remarks, Debbie Blue, acknowledged his life and work by saying, “What do you say about someone whose life says it all?”
President Gary Walter described Sundholm as a prophet to the Covenant in the same fashion as the biblical prophet Nathan had been to David, telling stories to his friend and king to help him see where he had fallen short.
Long known as one of the Covenant’s larger-than-life characters given to passionate concern for the poorest of the poor, Sundholm continued to call people to compassion amid a world with misplaced priorities.
In his acknowledgment remarks and beginning to choke up emotionally, Sundholm observed, “In the last few days our nation has been thinking about Ed McMahan, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson—three who died—but what was invisible was that every three seconds, four children under the age of five died in this world, and they won’t get five damn seconds – sorry, I shouldn’t say that—they won’t get five seconds.
“Glenn Palmberg (former president) was always worried I might slip,” he quickly said. “But what are they going to do? Fire me? It’s a little late,” he added to broad laughter from the audience.
“You know we’re going to hear about Michael Jackson for weeks, but how many seconds have I been up here, and you know how many children have died from hunger-related illnesses (during that time)?” Sundholm asked.
He spoke, not as a prophet calling people to repentance this time, however, but as one expressing gratitude for compassion shown by the Covenant. “It’s been a real honor to be the steward of your generosity in Christ’s name around the world and to work with wonderful people,” Sundholm said.
He recalled that as he was growing up, the song “Have Thine Own Way” inspired him, but he wondered just how God, the potter, would form him. Sundholm said he came to learn it was through the people God has brought into his life.
“I am so grateful for all of you who have formed my life,” Sundholm said. “It might have been for a season, it might have been for longer. And I realized this is how God works. Not only does God have us stand on the shoulders of somebody else be it (former Covenant World Relief directors) Tim Ek or Cliff Bjorklund, but then God also sends along persons who form this body of clay.”
“CWR is really your ministry, you are the face of it.”
Following is the text of the citation given Sundholm:
For ten years of dedicated and faithful leadership as Director of Covenant World Relief and Executive Director of the Paul Carlson Partnership, from 1999 to 2009.
The Evangelical Covenant Church joyfully celebrates you, Jim, for your outstanding leadership in mobilizing the church to offer humanitarian assistance, relief, rehabilitation and transformational development for the poorest of the poor on behalf of the church.
Extending your deep and passionate love for Jesus, you have attentively represented Christ and the Evangelical Covenant Church in caring for those traumatized by natural disasters, making a place at the table for the marginalized and the disenfranchised, empowering those rendered powerless by unjust systems, giving visibility to the invisible and voice to the voiceless. From the untouchables of India to the homeless of New Orleans; from the refugees of Sudan to the thirsty of Ethiopia; from the war-ravaged people of the Congo to the social outcasts and physically disfigured of Sierra Leone, with overwhelming compassion and wisdom you have been the hands, feet and heart of Jesus to a broken and hurting world.
Echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah, as a servant leader you have been a “repairer of broken walls and a restorer of streets with dwellings.” The most vulnerable places and people of the world — the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned — are better because of your faithful ministry.
For your dedicated service to Christ and His church, all of the glory to God, we the people of the Evangelical Covenant Church thank you and present to you this citation in the City of Portland, the State of Oregon, this twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord, two thousand nine.
Editor’s note: The lower photo shows Jim and his wife, Carol, after the citation was presented.