Tribute to Bob Ball
The following was taken from the Eulogy for Bob Ball that was presented by his friend and coworker, Jeff Imbach at Bob's memorial service.
I feel very honored to offer tribute to the ministry of Bob Ball. Each of you could also offer stories and reflections that would help stretch us toward the breadth and depth of Bob’s impact on the world.
One of the most summarizing words that arises for me is that Bob was a spiritual entrepreneur. In another life Bob could have been a wildly successful land developer. He had the uncanny ability to see a lake in any crusty old slough, and the craftiness and determination to slip around or crawl over the endless barriers encountered in putting a project together.
Bob was not just a dreamer. He was a worker. When our family moved to Calgary in the late 1970’s King’s Fold was just getting established and the first major addition was being built. Bob not only carried the vision and generated the donations, he also rounded up and managed the many work crews that painted walls and moved stones and chopped wood. He was an admitted workaholic, and yet within that immense energy and drive, there was always an overflow of celebration, hospitality, and humor. He was able to offer people the opportunity to be at King’s Fold and simply waste time with God.
Bob had the chutzpah and flair to attract people to his vision and make it beautiful. His jaunty leather hat, his bright shirts and his sprightly gait – with head high, bolt upright posture and bouncy step were all translated into a flair for making the work artistic as well. He had the courage to believe that he was God’s child and that God would want things beautiful! The dove stained-glass window in the chapel, created by Bob, is exhibit A.
Always a teachable learner, Bob was willing to hold things deeply but not stubbornly. His life and ministry stand as a great testament to the leading of the Spirit in his life. Bob allowed his theology to be shaped over the years by his prayer. His devotion to Jesus was transparent, and he was willing to risk leaving the security of a safe theology with all the answers in order to discover the power of following Jesus into the unknown. Bob was one of the people who became a model, a path forger and an encourager in my own longing for an authentic spiritual life based on God’s free gift rather than my fierce achievement.
One of my greatest memories of Bob’s capacity to hold a vision and yet be open-handed was in the transition of leadership as he and Janet retired as directors of King’s Fold. I was on the board at the time, and it was a very tenuous and scary time for us all. Through the bumpy ride that ensued, Bob was able to let go of control and yet continue to trust and come alongside in important ways. I have seldom, if ever, witnessed such generosity of spirit in the founder of something so significant as King’s Fold.
Hospitality has always been at the very core of Bob and Janet’s ministry and gift to the world. It has been a mind-boggling generosity that extended a huge and celebratory welcome to numerous large groups. Still today, King’s Fold is the most wonderfully hospitable retreat centre I have ever been in.
Yet, in the midst of their wide open welcome to many, Bob and Janet were able to offer a warm and caring welcome to any individual. In the splendor of Bob’s rich life and ministry, it is without doubt, the best thing he ever did vocationally was marry Janet. Who else could have lived through the maelstrom of Bob’s energy, decision making, welcome, pageantry, and even anger and discouragement? Janet, you are a wonderful force to be reckoned with in your own right – a beautiful and gifted minister, a transformative influence in the lives of so many. You gave away a great deal of your own life to pull together the pieces that made Bob’s dreams come true so fully. The world thanks you!
We give great thanks to God for the rich and varied legacy that has grown among us in the life and work of our friend Bob Ball, and Janet, his dear wife.