This guest blog is written by Charlie Kuperus, who has served as on the CSI board of trustees since 2011. In November 2015 he resigned from the CSI board due to the limitations caused by a rare form of cancer. Charlie is owner of Kuperus Farmside Gardens and Floral in Sussex, New Jersey. He served as the secretary of agriculture for the state of New Jersey from 2002-2008. He is also a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and a man of deep faith with a lifelong passion for Christian education.
On December 30, 2015 Charlie passed away after his courageous battle with cancer. We received the news along with these words: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
I began this journey of cancer at the end of March. My first treatment session began on Good Friday and ended on Easter morning. When I looked out the hospital window in Hackensack, New Jersey, I saw the Easter morning sun reflecting off the buildings of the Manhattan skyline. This image inspired me to write to Marge and my children, “This picture reminds me of how our Christ-lights should reflect our Savior’s light every day. Especially this Easter morning.” I prayed, “Today Christ has risen and given us the gift of life and eternity with him. Hallelujah! What amazing grace.” This testimonial was just the start of many Sunday morning testimonials. I began writing these with my children in mind but, by God’s hands, these writings have developed into something more. They have gone beyond the scope of my children and have been embraced by a broader audience, for which I am very humbled. We are all children of our heavenly Father.
Over this time, we have been able to explore much about our faith and our unworthiness of God’s grace. Despite our unworthiness, God’s grace has been abundant for us, both individually and collectively as God’s family.
Each moment is a gift of God’s grace. By grace, I grew up in a Christian home and I was able to go to Sussex Christian School, and by grace that Christian school still lives on. By grace, my parents enrolled me in Eastern Christian High School the day before school started, a school where I met my future wife. By grace, I was able to learn a trade from my grandfather and his “old school” gardening techniques (even though, deep down, I thought I knew better… I read organic gardening, after all).
By grace, we have received a foundation of faith that our family has passed on through generations. It is the faith of our mothers and fathers, who have set up churches and schools where we and our children can be taught the world through a Christ-centered lens. My previous generation had prioritized Christian values. Those values, as well as the experiences I have gained from witnessing their work, have made me who I am today.
This foundation set me up with a clear set of moral principles, which allowed me to confront different ethical issues at different places and stages in my life; for example, my roles in the church, school, community, and state. It’s my wish that people do not forget how important the church, school, and home connection is. It’s also my prayer that those who haven’t will take that leap of faith and put Christ in the center of all parts of their lives.
Building Christian communities creates a faith that’s solid. Without these character-building foundations, it’s easy for our continually tested faith to become wobbly and mold into social norms. With these Christian communities, we are attempting to plow a counter-cultural movement here in New Jersey and throughout the world. God’s grace surrounds and embeds itself in our families and communities every single day, for which I am continually thankful. Whether we realize it or not, God’s grace is always present.
As I start looking how faith grew in my own life, I can see how God has used me as a vessel in spite of my faults. At times, he used me to support these institutions that created the foundation in my life. Locally, I assisted in setting up a program at church for Christian school tuition assistance, helping those who may have not otherwise been able to afford the Christ-centered education. Globally, I was able to serve on the board of Christian Schools International, guiding the overall direction of Christian schools around the world.
With that foundation, God used my life to make a difference for others. Even though our business is just a small one, it has given me opportunity to touch so many lives. In the public sphere, God afforded me a way to showcase integrity and honesty in a world that doesn’t always value those characteristics. By worldly standards, I was considered ill-equipped to do what I was called to do. However, God provided the skills to do what he called me to do. He calls common fisherman to be his closest allies; he calls hated tax collectors to be his vessels of hope; and he calls people without a college education to be his voice in church, school, and government institutions.
I have been given the gift of faith and I have made it my goal to foster a similar faith in my family. There is only one thing I know I can do, pray and hope. I pray that investing in our children’s education will lead to men and women strong in the faith, strong young leaders, and difference makers. I hope their engagement in their faith institutions is a sign they will pass the same faith on to their children and be beacons for Christ in the communities in which they reside and work. God has granted me with new generations to pray with and hope for, and also love.
Marge and I began a relationship fostered by our shared background and shared commitment to faith. It is a true love, one we knew would grow, evolve, and change over time. A love inspired by Christ’s unconditional love for the church, the love we aspire to match. This aspiration helps us further understand the depths of Christ’s love for us. Marge stood beside me as I took on new roles other than husband, including deacon, school board member, councilman, elder, freeholder, and secretary of agriculture. At times, it was hard for her to take the negative campaigning, but our love bonded us together. Throughout my life, particularly during challenging times and none more so than this disease, we grew together.
In our marriage we have been blessed with six children and a growing number of grandchildren. As a husband, and as a father, I have not always been perfect. But through my imperfections, the Lord was able to speak to my children. They learned patience when I was quick to anger; they learned to be flexible when I was stubborn. But, as steel sharpens steel, they made me into a better father, husband, son, and child of God.
We didn’t always say “I love you,” but our actions were reflective of our heart. When I stepped into our home, the adjectives I would use are warmth and comfort, a reflection of the love that was shared there.
Through this abundance of grace, faith, hope, and love, I feel great joy and peace in these final days. I pray for everyone to put aside the differences that divide us. I wish that we would all be in relationship with one another and develop personal connections as we were called to do in the Scriptures. I wish we could all share God’s kingdom with each other, albeit imperfectly. I pray we could all feel in communion with God as we remember this Christmas that he came down to earth to commune with us.
This will be my last written message. I look to the future generations, also trusting in the saving grace of Jesus Christ and knowing that we are in God’s hands. I wish everyone a blessed Christmas season and thank you for sharing in this journey with me. As with that Easter morning, the message remains the same. I will close with this prayer: Today Christ our Savior has been born, giving us the gift of life and eternity with him. Hallelujah! What amazing grace!
Blessed Christmas, everyone.
In His Grip,
Charles M. Kuperus