Starbucks. 9:30 AM. Tuesday. July 2, 2013.
That's where and when I first met David Nolen. And I am forever grateful I did.
Our mutual friend, David Jackson, introduced us at Starbucks that day. (Yes, the "three Dave's"---we later would jokingly say it was almost too much awesomeness in one place.)
Our meeting came about because Dave Nolen, having recently recommitted his life to the Lord, wanted to gain a greater understanding of some dreams and other God-encounters he'd been experiencing.
Several things impressed me about Dave from the jump---in no particular order: His utter sincerity. His sense of humor. His passion for Jesus. His deep love and devotion for his family. Dave’s childlike innocence and wide-eyed wonder. The list would grow much longer as I would become a mentor to Dave and we would soon become dear friends.
It was our great honor to know Dave first as a student at REVIVE for three years, and subsequently as a Teacher Assistant for three more years.
As a student, Dave exhibited an insatiable hunger to go deeper in his relationship with God. Between classes I received many phone calls and texts from Dave asking questions, sharing insights, or with Dave simply saying, “Lemme run somethin’ by ya.”
Through his years as a student, Dave was in the minority as females in his classes outnumbered the men. Because he grew up around four older sisters whom he adored, Dave was a natural at showing respect and godly affection for his female classmates---and they loved him dearly! As did we all.
Dave made everybody laugh with his perfectly timed quips, impressions, and ironic observations. Dave’s ability to see and point out the humor in almost any situation was one of his most endearing qualities. The joy of the Lord was truly his strength.
As the saying goes, “faith” is spelled R-I-S-K. Dave embodied the faith life beautifully, as he was a willing and enthusiastic risk taker. He loved to share God’s heart with people through prophetic encouragement, and he would eagerly put himself at risk for the benefit of another. As a result, Dave encouraged countless numbers of people along his way.
There are many examples of Dave taking risks. One that stands out is a classroom exercise when, in order to select the next recipient of an encouraging word, I announced: “I’m thinking of a number between one and 100. The closest guesser is the winner.”
Several people guessed and then Dave, thrusting his arm in the air with characteristic gusto yelled out, “47!”
That was the exact number!
I did a double take and the look on Dave’s face told me what I needed to know---Dave had asked God for the correct number---and he got it!
I jokingly said, “You cheated!”
Dave’s shrugged his shoulders and sheepishly said: “I know. I’m sorry. I asked God and 47 just popped right into my head.”
We all laughed uproariously. Of course Dave asked God! And of course God told him!
Dave was willing to get it wrong in order to get it right.
During his years with REVIVE as a Teacher Assistant, Dave’s presence was always an invaluable asset as he poured into our students, encouraging them on their quest to become greater servants of God and agents of change.
Coinciding with that period of time, Hope Center Indy became a reality and Dave began fulfilling his calling to help his Dad, Hubert, with its birth and development.
Every time we saw Dave it seemed he had a new God story to share about Hope Center. Something amazing was obviously taking place, and though Dave’s time at REVIVE classes was curtailed, we rejoiced with Dave as his role with Hope Center was growing.
One day during the early stages of Hope Center Dave and I had lunch. It had been a while since we’d connected, so I inquired whether there was a love interest in Dave’s life.
His answer revealed Dave’s heart in two beautiful ways.
“You know Dave, I’m not dating anyone. And honestly with all that’s going on at Hope Center I don’t think I have the time or energy that a young lady would deserve.”
One, his answer showed his wholehearted devotion to what Jesus was doing at Hope Center. Though he desired to be married, he was nonetheless content to give himself completely to God’s work while trusting God' to fulfill Dave’s desire for the woman of his dreams.
Two, his answer reflected an understanding of what marriage is meant to be: A commitment to be a giver (not a taker); to make one’s spouse feel cherished, as if she is the most important person in the world.
Well, it wouldn’t be long before Dave would meet that very special someone. Stephanie and Dave were not only crazy about each other; they also shared the same passion for healing the brokenhearted through Hope Center.
Sandy and I were privileged to do premarital counseling for Dave and Stephanie in our home. Truthfully it was less about counseling per se and more about acknowledging what a great job God had done in bringing Dave and Stephanie together! Spending those hours with Dave and Stephanie was a sheer delight.
The night of their wedding rehearsal Dave and Stephanie took Sandy and me on a tour of Hope Center, sharing the God stories along the way. Our hearts were, as the saying goes, “strangely warmed” as we saw the magnitude of both the ‘space and the grace’---the size of the facilities and God’s obvious presence in every nook and cranny.
Later that night on the way home Sandy and I wondered aloud whether Hope Center might be a place REVIVE school could call home. (We had been nomadic, meeting in various locations during our first nine years.) We decided we’d talk with Dave and Stephanie about it as soon as they returned from their honeymoon.
Stephanie was enrolled in REVIVE school and Dave attended classes with her, again serving a role as a Teacher Assistant. When they returned to class post-honeymoon, we discussed the prospect of making Hope Center our permanent home.
Dave was enthusiastic about the idea and after speaking with his dad, gave us the green light to relocate to Hope Center in January of 2019. We are incredibly honored to be an internal resource for Hope Center residents, while simultaneously being a disciple-making school for the public at large.
It almost goes without saying that the partnership between Hope Center and REVIVE School of Transformation would not have been possible were it not for Dave and Stephanie, not to mention the graciousness of Hubert and Tonia Nolen, their family, and the wonderful Hope Center staff.
Once our classes started meeting at Hope Center, Dave would call and ask if I had some time to drop by his office so he could tell me about some exciting new development at Hope Center. Together we would marvel at the goodness of God demonstrated through His provision and presence.
Looking back, I cherish those moments. And like so many others whose lives Dave touched, I miss him every day.
Still in spite of the pain, it is a joy to see Dave’s life and legacy so fittingly honored through the various ministries on the Hope Center campus. God’s fingerprints are everywhere at Hope Center---and so are David Nolen’s.
So now---every time I walk into our classroom, at some level I feel like I’m high-fiving Dave. I’m convinced the veil between us is thin, so I want Dave and the great cloud of witnesses to be able to see us living out Dave’s legacy---with the same zeal for Jesus Dave exhibited on this side of the curtain. May we dream as Dave dreamed, serve as he served, and love as he loved.
Dave Noel, Director
REVIVE School of Transformation