The sound of a wooden bell

A tribute to our friend Jim Sundholm

by Dick Nystrom

One Saturday morning many years ago, I was having breakfast with Jim and another friend in a Chicago neighborhood restaurant, when suddenly a loud and alarming sound came from the kitchen. We looked at each other as if to say, ‘what should we do?’ when one of our number jumped up and dashed out the front door. Another of us simply remained seated. Jim however, leapt to his feet and headed for the kitchen. In the years to follow I would come to realize that this little incident was indicative of how Jim chose to live his life.

I met Jim when I attended a high school retreat and he was part of a gospel Team from North Park College. A few months later I encountered him again when I visited the school and observed him driving the school’s garbage truck across the campus while proudly wearing his letterman jacket. I found myself impressed by the many talents of this guy who I knew had been willing to take the time to travel a considerable distance to share his music and testimony with a bunch of high school kids at a retreat in northern Michigan.

Over the years of our long friendship I came to increasingly appreciate the extent to which Jim’s life was a good example of what Prof. John Weborg would call “Alive in Christ and Alert to Life.” Jim was just such a person, passionate about his faith as he forever wrestled with what it means to remain faithful to Jesus in the midst of the nitty gritty of everyday life. For Jim that would come to mean that he would seek to be a ‘voice for the voiceless’ as he tried in every which way to speak truth to power and went about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable with words of encouragement and grace.

Jim leaves behind a legacy of a life rooted in faith and firmly grounded in deep and loving relationships with colleagues and friends. And so it was that he seemed to live each day with a heart full to overflowing with gratitude: gratitude for the blessing of a wonderful family, gratitude for the support and encouragement of a wide circle of trusted friends, and gratitude for the countless opportunities over all the years to joyfully share the good news of the Gospel, in word and deed at home and around the world.

picture of a wooden bell

There are of course so many stories that could be told about our friend Jim, but I have one particular little item on my shelf that will always bring him to mind. It is a wooden bell, hand carved in Haiti and roughly inscribed with the phrase, “No One Listens To The Voice Of the Poor or The Sound Of A Wooden Bell.” In fact, Jim did listen to those voices and then made it his calling to make his own voice heard on their behalf.

The world is a better place today because of Jim and his lovely wife Carol, and for that we can say thanks be to God.