Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Norm Katerberg: A light gone out of the world

Norm Katerberg, a friend and colleague in ministry passed away Saturday night. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor while we were in the USA. When the chemotherapy quickly destroyed the cancer, we all rejoiced. And then, just when things looked so good, pneumonia came and took him.

Norm was a partner in ministry with the Reeds for the past ten years, first when we were deacons together at Madison Square Church, then in the work at Restorers and Madison Square Counseling Ministries, and then here in Liberia. Norm was one of the most selfless people I have ever known, one of those pure hearts that are so rare to find; a man who seemed to have no hidden agenda, only to do good and to be good.

He was a fixer, a problem solver. I loved working with Norm –I often told others that I could almost visibly see a light bulb go on over his head as an idea came to mind. Whenever there was a problem, and in ten years of doing ministry with the poor there were plenty of challenges, Norm would scratch his head and say, “You know, I wonder if…”, and often his wondering became the solution.

Norm came to visit us here and stayed in our house. He swam with Noah every day in the ocean, made repairs around the house, and played with all the kids in the area. It was no different than anyplace else with Norm and kids —they loved him, and he loved them back.

And now, suddenly, this good, gentle, generous light is gone from us.

When we heard about his cancer, Bob and I made sure we visited him and Mary. There were some things I wanted to say to him—probably more for me than him. He hated being praised, and avoided even being thanked. But I just wanted to tell him something about what he meant to me. I think he received it.

Goodbye for now, Norm. What are you going to do in a place that doesn’t need fixing? Maybe you’re splashing in some heavenly ocean with kids from Liberia.


Our last picture of Norm-- looking so healthy on the right with Mary as we share with them about the work in Liberia. This during our Grand Rapids in June.


Lorraine Woodward said...

I put the same picture up on my own blog . . . (stolen from your blog, of course)

When I first saw that picture posted last year, I was blown away, because it was Norm being Norm in Liberia the way he always was in Grand Rapids, with kids surrounding him, and gazing at him with admiration.

I don't feel like I really "knew" him very well, and yet on Sunday morning in church, I just couldn't stop crying. God is sovereign, but my human mind protests loudly that it was just way too soon for him to go . . .

(don't get me started on the evils of chemo . . . I lost another friend, at the age of 35, under similar circumstances--as in, the cancer was being beat, but the chemo rendered him susceptible to infection . . .)

I've been thinking of you guys, too, knowing that it must be hard to be so far away right now . . .

praising the God who doesn't always make sense from our perspective,


The Reeds in Liberia said...

Hi Lorriane,

This a very painful time. Norm was so young, so full of life-- and always looking ahead.

Norm knew the risks of chemotherapy. And being the one of the expert problem solvers of all time, I'm sure he believed this was his very best chance. I'd never question that man's hunches.

Right now our thoughts and prayers go out to Mary, the kids and the grandkids who are trying to make sense of this enormous empty space in their lives.

Thanks for your love--