FRESNO, Calif. (Christian Examiner) – Holding aloft the shoes children's pastor Eddie Crain was wearing as he passionately preached about the importance of children's ministry — shortly before he collapsed and died of a cardiac incident — the church's senior pastor said he was struck at how impossible it would be to fill Pastor Eddie's shoes.
Crain, husband and father of five sons from college age to seven, was memorialized Sunday in his church.
Crain, 39, collapsed backstage after the 8 a.m. service on Nov. 22. He was rushed to the hospital where he died of what NorthPointe Community Church senior pastor Steve Williams described as a "cardiac event."
"He literally had just poured his heart out in his passion to make a difference for kids," Williams wrote on the church's Facebook page. "Please pray for his family and for all who will be so deeply impacted by this loss to us all."
The 9:30 a.m. service was canceled and over 1,000 people returned to NorthPointe for an evening service where they remembered Crain. The church held three three "Celebration of Life" services Nov. 29 where friends and family shared remembrances and a slide show was shown.
Williams spoke of Crain's dedicated years of service to the church and the two men's friendship in a sermon entitled "Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Pastor Eddie Crain."
During his sermon, Williams held a pair of Crain's shoes, which the children's pastor wore on the day of his passing.
Williams described waiting backstage with Crain for the ambulance to arrive and noticing one of the shoes had come off of Crain's foot. Fearing the other would be lost, Williams took it off and kept it.
When he learned of Crain's death, the reality of the loss struck him as he looked at the shoes, impossible to fill.
"He was an impact player for God in every area of his life," said the senior pastor. In the background of the message, musicians on stage could be seen wiping their eyes.
In an obituary at Dignity Memorial Crain is said to be a native of San Pablo, California, and the son of Pastor Eddie Crain, Sr., and Vonnie Crain. He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Kari, and his five sons, Collin (19), Cyle (16), Camden (15), Clayton (13), and Colton (7).
Hundreds have expressed their love for Eddie Crain on Facebook and credited his ministry with the reason they attended church.
"Eddie spent 11 years on staff caring for people and sharing Jesus with them, no matter how young or old," Williams wrote on Facebook on Nov. 23. "He modeled Jesus for us in his kind words, his heartfelt prayers, his gentle way of truth-telling. His life showed the love of Christ as he loved and cared for thousands of children at NorthPointe."
On Feb. 27, Sylvia Hernandez said Pastor Eddie and one of his sons had assisted her some years ago on a cold night by bringing her a couch they were no longer using and his wife helped in the birth of her premature baby.
"I would always see him at church and he always just had this smile on his face," Hernandez said of Crain. "When I heard this news my heart just felt so broken. ... I'm not as close to God as I should be and now I just feel like I want to go to church again and have a relationship with God again. I've been thru so much in my life and my faith is not as strong as it should be!! Pastor Eddie was such a wonderful person and so close to God! I know he would be happy to know that I want to come back to church and build what I have lost with the Lord!"
The church's website offers a link to contribute to the Living Legacy Support Fund for the Crains, as well as resources to equip parents to help their grieving children, including grief counseling.
"Please continue to pray for the Crain family during this very difficult time," says the website. "It's been so encouraging to see how well our church is loving and caring for one another, and our staff couldn't be prouder of how you as a church family are doing just that."