“How many churches are there in Salem now?” he asked. It was 2001. We were sitting in my car after taking a ‘fancy field trip’ around the north-Salem neighborhoods where he grew up. “Well,” I responded with some pride, “we just did a survey and there are nearly 200 churches in Salem-Keizer.”
“My, things have certainly changed since I moved away,” he exclaimed with a puzzled look on his face. “When I lived in Salem,” he deadpanned, “there was only one church.”
So went my first meeting with Douglas Evans Coe, who grew up in Salem and attended Willamette University under Dean Mark Hatfield before heading to Washington D.C., with Rev. Abraham Vereide to start the National Prayer Breakfast, among other ministries. I first learned about Mr. Coe when reading Chuck Colson’s book, Born Again, which described how Doug had lovingly ministered to Colson during his dark and incarcerated days after Watergate. Doug’s sister and nephew were dear friends of mine, and they had arranged for me to meet with Doug, which started a rich friendship.
In 2005 I travelled with John Lottis, Rex Robertson, Jeramy and Araya Williams to visit Doug and his team in ‘The Cedars,’ a Civil-War-era mansion in Virginia that served as one of Doug’s ministry houses in and around the nation’s capital. One afternoon, a staff member asked us to please steer clear of the dining room until after 10 that night—a very important meeting was to be held. Imagine our dropped-jaw awe when we learned the cloaked attendees were the sons of Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine’s Yasser Arafat! Just a typical day at The Cedars, we learned, as Doug often brought together world leaders to talk about Jesus and seek relational resolution to conflict. It should be noted that this trip inspired, among many ideas and initiatives, the ‘IKE Box’ coffee shop (great story).
Doug made his last visit to Salem in the summer of 2015. He asked a team of us to set up three meetings: 1) at the Oregon Capitol with Gerry Frank and Sen. Jackie Winters; 2) at Salem Golf Club with Tom Kay and his band of Bible-study brothers; and 3) at the IKE House on 14th and Center, which is where Doug and Jan raised their family while running Young Life and Navigators. (It was in the dining room of this house in 1957 that Mark Hatfield proposed to Antoinette Kuzmanich amidst Doug and Jan’s loving hospitality!) Over and over again during his visit, Doug urged us to remember that “Unity is a person, Love is a person, the Gospel is a person.” Doug loved to talk about Jesus. Not religion, politics, or economics. Just Jesus. No world leader ever turned him down.
Jesus called Doug home on February 21. His memorial service was live-streamed a week later from Maryland, and I felt led to watch it while walking around the inside of the Oregon Capitol Building. The Legislature was in full, vigorous session and I could tell the walls of the old hall were happy to have Doug’s memory and legacy in the midst of it all. Now it’s up to us. Thanks Doug! Luke 10:2