By Dr. Brenda Coljin
I first met Luke Keefer when I took church history as a student at ATS. Since I was also an adjunct for ATS at the time (long story) I felt a bit awkward about the situation, but Luke made me feel welcome immediately. As time went on, I was glad that I had been able to get to know him from the other side of the podium. Luke loved his subject and loved teaching. He inspired his students with his knowledge, his enthusiasm, and his commitment to them. He loved the Lord and loved life. He had an infectious laugh that could be recognized from some distance away.
When I joined the ATS faculty full-time, Luke was assigned as my faculty mentor. By then he was one of my strong supporters, and I valued both his encouragement and his counsel. He was practical and down-to-earth, a voice of reason in our personal conversations as well as in faculty meetings. We had a shared interest in the area of salvation, which led to the sharing of insights, especially when he was writing a paper for a conference presentation on the subject.
In one conversation, Luke shared with our department a devotional experience he had had when he was anxious about a presentation he was about to give. While in prayer before the presentation, he heard the Lord saying to him, “All I want from you is your loaves and fishes; the feeding is my responsibility.” As a junior faculty member with performance anxieties of my own, I took his lesson to heart. To remind me, I put the saying into a small frame and made one for Luke and one for myself. He was delighted with the gift. I still keep mine on my desk today.
Luke’s commitment to peacemaking is well known. He believed that Christians were called to nonviolence, even at the cost of their lives. While as a Brethren I was already committed to this perspective, Luke’s example challenged me to think more deeply about it. However, as I have shared in other contexts, one of the things that most impressed me about Luke was when I saw him in what I called his “take no prisoners mode”—that is, the times when his blood was up and he argued passionately for a cause. These episodes were never for his own benefit; they were always attempts to advocate for those whom he thought were being treated unfairly and had no voice. People respected his strong sense of justice and listened to his counsel, even if they held differing opinions.
It’s still hard to believe that Luke is gone; I miss his friendship, his level-headedness, his boundless energy, and his sense of humor. I think he would have been pleased but embarrassed at the October 2-3 event being held in his honor, but no one could deserve it more.
Honoring the Life and Legacy of Dr. Luke Keefer, Jr will take place from October 2-3, 2015 at Ashland Theological Seminary.
Brenda B. Colijn, PhD is Professor of Biblical Interpretation and Theology at Ashland Theological Seminary.