Monday, February 8, 2016

Eulogy for Richard Da Costa


Oct. 14, 1953 - Dec. 18, 2015
Elder of Kehillat Eytz Chaim/ Tree of Life Congregation, Toronto
Former President, Messianic Jewish Alliance of Canada

Given by Ben Volman, December 23, 2015


In the many years that Richard and I worked on the High Holy Day services, we never found the right time or moment to include a beautiful little prayer called Ahavat Olam, but I’m going to say a bit of it now, because it says in ancient words the way that Richard often made me feel about the faith we shared: 

You have loved Israel, your people, with everlasting love. You have taught us Torah and precepts….  Therefore, Lord our God, when we lie down and when we rise up, we will meditate on Your truth for all time and take joy in the Scriptures because they are our life and the length of our days. …Baruch ata Adonai oh-hehv ah-moh Yisrael.  Blessed are you, O Lord, who loves Israel your people.

With all his heart and all his passion for God, Richard loved Israel and the God of Israel who sent the Messiah who changed his life.  No words could more powerfully sum up this faith at the core of his being.  It motivated him to move from humble beginnings and live with a life of determined action. It transformed an honest, unpretentious hard-working young man into a community and national leader, a spiritual elder and a person of conviction. Richard had the strength of will to do what few can say they’ve done: he lived what he believed.

The young man I met over 35 years ago was an immigrant from Trinidad, raised in Port of Spain and in the same trade as my father—a metal worker.  He’d come to faith not that long before when we stood in the centre aisle of the hotel room where Cong’n Melech Yisrael was meeting—maybe 50 or 60 people on an Erev Shabbat evening—and I could see his eyes were shining.  He loved being in this setting where Jewish people were finding the authentic identity of Yeshua. 

You didn’t have to look too hard to sense this man’s qualities of kindness, compassion, empathy and openness.  And as the years went by, no matter what challenges, tsuris, struggles or burdens came along, he never lost his grip on the values that shaped his life.  Leadership is a lot of long nights working alone; a lot of complaints, irritations, and frustrating phone calls—and then just pressing on with a smile.

Over the years, I watched Richard pull himself up by the bootstraps as he pushed himself to acquire more sophistication, new skills, and eventually to run his own businesses.

As he grew in his commitment, he found in his wife, Janice, a life partner to share the vision of making the Messiah fully accessible to Jewish people in authentically Jewish ways. He grew in his love and respect for Israel, becoming accomplished in his knowledge of liturgy and admirably familiar with all aspects and even the nuances of the synagogue service.

He grew as a leader for the local and national Canadian Messianic community—and I have received tributes from across North America including the former and current national directors of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Canada, the Executive Director the UMJC and the head of the Union of Messianic Believers.

But nothing mattered to him more than family—the importance of providing for them and being there for his sons Zachary and Ari.  And when his large, extended family gathered, I’ve been told that it was Richard who spoke up and took the lead when they shared celebrations together. We saw the same spirit in our own congregation when he brought leaders together, blessing us with the gift of hospitality and a heart for unity.

His life, his ministry, and his character honoured his mother Ina, and father, Conrad. He had eleven brothers and sisters:  Gordon (now in Calgary), Patricia, Trevor (who passed away in 1998), Jennifer, Barbara (now in Montreal), Anthony (in Australia), Brian, Maria, Rosanne, Catherine, and Suzanne.  A number of them followed him into the Messianic movement and they too became a heartfelt blessing to Israel and Jewish people. Richard was, as he would say, pointing to others, “a person worthy of honour.”

This man had been a leader for many years when we approached him to take up a new role with us at Kehillat Eytz Chaim/Tree of Life.  He didn’t hide his places of brokenness. He didn’t mince words when he shared past hurts and disappointments. But he laid all these aside to build a community that reflected his values, the qualities that made him trustworthy, faithful, committed to the Scriptures and drew others to a love for Israel that was rooted in what Yeshua is doing in our lives.  He didn’t just believe in heaven, he knew where he was going and wanted that reality to permeate his life.

He rejoiced when he saw people live out their calling. Richard took joy in praying with those in need, standing with those who were hurting, encouraging those who felt alone, and growing in grace with brothers and sisters who loved him and valued his friendship.  He knew that if we stand, it’s only because we have followed in the footsteps of believers who embodied integrity and selflessly carried the weight of their calling before us.

I’m going to miss you, Richard, my friend, but I’m not going to lose sight of that determined, irrepressible, indomitable spirit that empowered you to live as Yeshua led you and us together.  You’ve gone ahead to join the great chorus of witnesses, those who know the reality we see only as through a clouded glass dimly.  But we know that you have already met the Master face to face and heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The family has requested that financial gifts be directed to "The To Help Ari Fund." For more details contact the blogger.

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