I met Pastor Steve Constance in 1999. Having been introduced through my long term friend Carl Hendricks, who I met as we both spoke at a conference in Nairobi in 1998.
My first recollection of Steve was him walking into Rev's office unannounced, taking the phone out of Rev's hand, and after he told the caller 'he'll call you back' he proclaimed to us both - Let's pray.
His early years in the apartheid of South Africa was a shoe salesman and more importantly a confidant and encourager of Pastors in his region. He told me many stories of how he travelled to sell shoes from his home in Eldorado Park and sometimes would be delayed getting back and then stopped from moving into his quarantined zone. The enforces of apartheid would lock him in the no mans land between his customers and his home. He had no means of letting his family know, why he was late, why he couldn't see his kids or his wife, why he would have to sleep on the floor between two fenced areas.
Yes His passion for life and God was irrepressible. My memory can hear the prayer times we had together like a siren against the situations we go through today.
Over the years I discovered that Steve's unpaid work was to literally show up, one by one on the door or church step of hundreds of Pastors in his community. He never had bias, he never judged, he simply wanted to encourage, help them keep a focus on prayer and be an anchor point to scripture. This didn't happen over night, it took him decades of non-paid effort to be the 'Father' of those leaders, a reference point and a friend.
There was of course funny experiences. As his eyes were failing, he drove us up the down ramp of the motorway once. Cars hurtling toward us, he realised what he had done, told me sharply - 'get out and stop the cars - I'll turn around'. I wasn't sure who my life belonged to at that point as a black BMW nearly ran me over as I tried to make space for a U-Turn of a beloved friend. The police came as Steve's U-Turn skills matched his eye sight - (not very good). The officer said to him, can I see your license. I then found out he didn't even have one and with a quick rebuke, said to the officer - I've been driving longer than you have been living. The young guy, quickly recommended that Steve get a drivers license left and we were on our way again, such was the life of so many people at that point in time in South Africa.
Thinking about life changing encounters, I was drawn to the prayer times. When he came to the church office, everything stopped, everyone was less busy, and so many times we all got on our knees and he prayed. He prayed for families, for integrity, for compassion for mercy, for finances - what ever the need was He just prayed.
On one Sunday, after preaching in another Church, he showed up in the Church I was speaking at. He walked in from the side, walked straight up to the platform, gently took the mic and told the congregation we need to pray for the Rand. The currency was falling, and all 1,800 of us stood up and prayed. Within a week the Rand had improved from 25 to 18 to the pound.
Of course these are memories and stories, there is so much more I could tell.
What I know is, this man, taught me to pray through the storm, to not give up and always find a way to build hope in your heart for a brighter future than you might have today.
Steve passed away a few years back, and I'm sure is rallying the great cloud of witnesses right now, but I salute you my friend and can't wait to meet up again.