Unbeknownst Blessings: Thanks to Don Wilkins

This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE Communications Coordinator.

Dear friends,

As we give our lives over to Jesus Christ, we often find that he directs us to a place and time without our knowing what we will find when we get there, and why he would have us go there in the first place.

There are numerous miraculous missions and Providential encounters throughout both the Old and New Testaments where what is needed for the moment has been provided by God, unbeknownst, in advance. Here are just a few:

– In Acts 8, the Apostle Phillip is sent (by an angel, no less) to the wilderness road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza, where he encounters the Ethiopian eunuch and unfolds the mystery of the Scripture to him.

– God provides Rahab to assist the spies from the people of Israel when they scout out Jericho, and she just happens to have a home which backs up to the very wall they need to escape from (Jonah).

– The banishment of the Jews from Rome leads to Paul’s first encounter with Aquila and Priscilla, who just happen to be engaged in the same trade as Paul (likely tentmakers), and who go on to play a major role in the spread of the Gospel and in supporting Paul’s various missionary journeys (Acts 18-19).

I would humbly suggest that First Pres has experienced a small taste of that kind of unbeknownst blessing over the past 10 months. I’m being a bit cagey here, but indulge me, please, as I map out the work of God as I have seen it.

In September of last year, our facilities manager, Jim Moore, suffered a serious health crisis that eventually led to his retirement. While our building staff did an admirable job of continuing to move forward with their daily responsibilities, and Melody Henrie, our business manager, kept us afloat by interfacing with our vendors and various contractors, we were in desperate need of finding someone to step up and take the reins on an interim basis.

We knew we needed someone who could:

– Talk the talk and walk the walk of daily building operations and maintenance

– Oversee the maintenance staff while communicating effectively with the rest of the FPCE team

– Had general knowledge of a wide variety of infrastructure systems, including plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning, security, multimedia, kitchens and cleaning

– Had the knowledge and background to work with outside vendors and contractors in a way which would move existing projects forward while ensuring FPCE’s financial and practical interests were protected

– Help with a nationwide job search for a new facilities manager

– Value the mission of the church

– Give their time and attention to this from the start

Don Wilkins has been a member of FPCE since March of 1988. He has served the church in ways too numerous to list here, but they include various terms as a Deacon, an Elder, and a member of the Building Committee.

Let’s check the boxes, shall we?

– Don had run his own construction business for most of his adult life.

– He had just recently retired and was enjoying his time with his wife, Susan, while preparing for the arrival of some new grandchildren to the fold.

– With both residential and commercial construction experience, he had familiarity with virtually all of the systems FPCE uses (though he admits to being a little intimidated when seeing the boiler room for the first time).

– Over the years, Don has trained students at Evanston Township High School – and his own employees – in the best practices of being not only skilled workers on job sites, but also good citizens in the community.

– Having done business on the North Shore for over 30 years, Don has plenty of experience in communicating effectively with a wide variety of clients.

– He is well-acquainted with several of the vendors and contractors FPCE works with, in addition to having his own network to rely on.

– He has been involved in a variety of job searches for his business and for the church.

When asked to be the interim facilities manager, Don stepped up immediately and in a big way, using many of the existing practices already in place while tweaking those that didn’t quite fit his own style.

And then COVID-19 hit.

In next to no time, Don was having to get himself and his staff up to speed with not only keeping a large facility clean, but also safe for all those who were using it. From there, he and the Building Committee had to pivot to what it meant to shut down the building and use that time effectively on projects he, his staff, and available vendors could accomplish in the interim.

All of this was occurring just as the search for the new facilities manager was taking place, a search just recently having found a very happy end. On August 17, our new facilities manager, Andy Wallgren, began his work, and tomorrow, Friday, August 28, Don will “clock in” for his final day in his interim role.

He will still serve on FPCE’s Building Committee (he offered before we even had to ask, though I suspect our weeping and gnashing of teeth every time he mentioned not being around any longer may have played a part in that) and will be just a phone call or email away from providing guidance when sought.

Not that we should anticipate many problems in this transition. Those of you who don’t know Andy can be confident that he, too, is the right man for the job. Just another sign that God is looking out for us.

Still, our thanks to Don, as to God, are overflowing.

In polling various members of the FPCE staff for words or phrases they would use to describe Don, the ones that came up time and time again were:

Reliable, knowledgeable, positive, cooperative, a creative problem solver, and kind-hearted.

But the number one attribute was good-humored. Ask folks at FPCE to talk about Don and, without question, they will launch into a story about how, at some point, they both ended telling stories and laughing so hard they cried.

In talking with staff this week, so many of them have said they felt like they just clicked with him from the moment he came on board. And here I thought it was just me who felt that way. Once again, as always, God had (and has) our backs.

We pray for Don and Susan as they begin, again, this new season of life. We are asking God to continue to walk with them (and us) while accomplishing His great purposes.

Looking forward to seeing you at 10 AM on Sunday online at https://live.firstpresevanston.org.


Jim Teague
FPCE Communications Coordinator