Pastor's Blog

Ready to Die Posted 6.14.2013

The email hit my inbox and changed my day.  Maybe even my week.  Dr. Steve Strauss passed away early Tuesday morning.  The name probably means nothing to you, although death is something we can all understand as painful.  Steve was currently teaching at Dallas Seminary, but I knew him from our days there as students over thirty years ago.  He was the nicest and smartest guy I knew at seminary – and he wasn’t even in my same class.  To know someone a year of you at Dallas says so much about his gregarious demeanor.  He was humble, kind, and friendly to everyone.


Steve’s father was Richard Strauss (long-time pastor down at Emmanuel Faith in Escondido) and his grandfather was Lehman Strauss (a nationally known Bible teacher, pastor and itinerant speaker).  But Steve came to Dallas as just a normal seminary student. 


While Steve was still at seminary, it was the late Howard Hendricks who influenced him toward missions. “Gentlemen,” Steve recalled Hendricks rasping, “if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't stay here in the States where there's a church on every block. I'd go overseas to some country where there was no school like Dallas Seminary, and I'd start something like it.” The challenge sent chills up Steve’s spine. He and his wife, Marcia, joined SIM (Serving in Mission) in 1980 and went to Ethiopia in 1982.  His mantra?  "Be prepared to pray any time, preach any time, and die any time.”


In January 1991, bullets whizzed through the streets of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. Rebel elements of the EPRDF patrolled concrete roads littered with shell casings and destroyed vehicles. Near Steve and Marcia’s house, a government Dergue tank burned. It sent oily black smoke into the night. The Strausses could smell creosote and gunpowder. Ethiopia’s genocidal government was about to fall, but who knew whether the rebels would bring peace or a sword?


Recalling the incident years later, Steve said, “Our kids didn’t really know how dangerous the coup was. The boys thought the tanks were cool. We kept a straight face and played along, but then Marcia packed the kids off to safety while I stayed behind.” As principal and lecturer at the Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa and assistant pastor at the International Evangelical Church, Steve felt bound to stay and share the fate of his Ethiopian colleagues and students.


Twenty years later, a former Ethiopian student wrote to Steve and Marcia about those unstable days. “I have seen you praying and preaching any time, but twenty years ago I saw your readiness to die any time when Steve stayed behind in Addis Ababa as Marcia took the young children to safety.”

Both as a missionary in Ethiopia and as department chairman and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, Steve Strauss inspired students to model his lifestyle of humble faith.  Such is the legacy of a man prepared to pray anytime, preach anytime, and die anytime. 


And do you know what?  In reading about his life, I discovered we were the same age.  The life I have I had better use for the Kingdom.  It is a precious gift.

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