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Dereham thanksgiving service held for Dan Lawrence

A service of thanksgiving for the life of Christian youthworker Daniel Lawrence, who died in November, took place yesterday (Sunday) in Dereham with tributes given by his wife Kim, his dad Paul, Youth for Christ colleagues and some of the many people impacted by his life and work. Jenny Seal reports.

Family, friends and colleagues of Dan Lawrence gathered at Trinity Methodist Church on Sunday, January 22, 3pm for a service of thanksgiving in celebration of his life.  Dan, who lived in Dereham, where he worked for North Breckland Youth for Christ (YFC) died, aged 25, on November 21, from an aggressive brain tumour.  

The gathering heard glowing tributes for the Mid Norfolk youthworker who touched the lives of many people with his servant heartedness, humility, humour, listening skills and the creative media projects he led.

Ang Fox, the Director of North Breckland YFC, led the service and opened by reading Isaiah 61:1-3, the verses that she and Dan had received when they were commissioned for North Breckland YFC. She said: “I thought it was appropriate that just before we start I read them, because Dan lived this out.”

Kim Lawrence, Dan’s wife and a youthworker for Norfolk Christian charity ENYP spoke movingly about the things she loved about Dan.  She said: “One of the things that I really loved about Dan was that he inspired me to be a better person.”

She said: “Dan was incredibly humble. I don’t think I’ve ever met a person more humble that Dan.  Because he never felt that he needed to take the praise, it went to God or it went to someone else he was working with or, at best, he shared it with someone, but he never wanted it for himself.”

She said: “He never complained even through the chemo, and seizures, and losing his hair he never said ‘why is this happening to me?’.  And he was incredibly servant hearted.  He was a giver, whether it was his time or his energy or his money he was always giving.”  

Holding back tears Kim said: “And the other thing was that he was always silly.  He was not afraid to be silly ever.  It was one of the favourite things about our marriage – we were always laughing.”  

Rev Tim Weatherstone, a trustee of North Breckland YFC and the Rector of Barnham Broom and Upper Yare spoke of Dan’s gifts, skills, motivation and character.  He said: “Yes he could communicate Christ to people but he also had something of real value to offer.  He was an expert in so much of modern social media and communication – something many wanted to learn proficiency in.  And this he offered to teach.

“Dan really did want people to do well.  He really did want young people to know how valued they were. “

Rev Weatherstone continued: “And so I suppose we should rightly ask: ‘did all this virtue come tumbling down once he knew he was ill?’  Once Kim and Dan heard the terrible diagnosis, did all this motivation, this knowing he was valued and loved by Jesus, did it all suddenly evaporate?  Of course, we know the answer – certainly not. There was a continued emphasis that God was not only good but also that Jesus’s story was the objective of his life.”  

Nigel Green, a volunteer for North Breckland YFC described Dan as ‘God’s silent ninja’.  He said: “He had a way of building a relationship with people without fuss or effort or without you realising it. You didn’t necessarily know the relationship had been built until you needed a friend or someone to talk to, and then he was just there, on your level, whether you were young or old, ready to listen, empathise and pray.”

Nigel challenged those gathered to carry on Dan’s legacy.  He said: “If we all here, every single one of us, take up that baton that Dan has personally handed to us and carry on spreading God’s word and love, what better tribute could we give to him? And that really would be a miracle – the miracle that we all prayed for that Dan would have.” 

Joshua Whitnall spoke about being mentored by Dan and all that he learned through being involved in the creative media projects that Dan devised and led at North Breckland YFC, such as BreckFest Radio, the Passion video, and the feature film Looking to Eternity that Dan wrote and directed after his diagnosis.

The congregation were invited to share written memories of Dan as well as writing prayers of hope alongside seeds asking God to multiply all that Dan had planted through his ministry and through his life. 

Nick Blanch, Director of Norwich YFC prayed for Dan’s family, his parents Jackie and Paul Lawrence, his brother Ben and wife Mel and Dan’s wife Kim.

Paul Lawrence, Dan’s father, then spoke on 2 Corinthians 4 giving a Gospel message of the hope we have through Jesus.  Talking about Dan, Paul said: “He was not religious in any way.  But he knew Jesus and that was point.  He knew Jesus as his friend and Saviour.  And so it was about relationship.  That was the thing that was most important.  And in his own quirky way Dan was able to share this with all kinds of people – young people, old people, any people – he would do it.”

To finish the service, Ang prayed a blessing over those gathered saying “we are thankful that you have touched our lives through Dan, making us smile and laugh.”   

You can order a copy of Looking to Eternity, the 80 minute feature film written and directed by Dan Lawrence on DVD for £10 hereHalf of the proceeds from sales of the DVD will go to The Brain Tumour Charity at Dan’s request. 

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