Reverend Lonnie Eakle Sees Everyone as a Child of God

Lonnie & Terry Eakle

(DENVER) – Reverend Lonnie Eakle is a “preacher’s preacher.” A man who has ministered to the faithful, poor, old, young and even the infamous. For more than 40-years, he also has been called a friend, mentor, and proud alumni of The Iliff School of Theology (Iliff) (MDIV ‘67).

“I often say this jokingly, but it’s all true,” Eakle said. “I got my first appointment when I was 18-years-old; I had a three-point charge and on the first Sunday I preached I was 18; it was such an experience that by the second Sunday I preached I had aged a year and was 19.”

A native of Texas, Eakle knew from the age of 16 that he was called to service through ministry. “I grew up in the Methodist Church and my call was clear. It came shortly after a talk with my small group counselor at Youth Assembly, McMurry College, Abilene, Tex.; I’ll never forget it. He counseled me to pray for a sign that might instruct direction for my life. One night while I was kneeling in prayer, I laid my hand on my bed and during that time felt a touch on my hand so strong that I believed someone had entered my room. When I opened my eyes, I was alone and completely sure that I had been called to the ministry. Shortly thereafter, I began receiving reassurances and a variety of blessed affirmations that in fact, I was on the correct journey. Like everyone, I have had my struggles, but I always felt a confidence that my purpose was in ministry.”

Now retired, Eakle’s ministry tested him in unexpected ways. In the summer of 1977, Eakle received a call from a fellow Methodist Reverend from Tacoma, Wash. The Pastor asked him to call on his parishioner, who was jailed on suspicion of murder. “I had accepted a request to minister to then suspected serial killer Theodore (Ted) Bundy. For a period of months, from late summer through December of that year, I met with Ted — offering spiritual counsel, and talking. Ted was quite conversant, and interested in spirituality. I loaned him books, and frequently spoke with him; I served him through ministry. I called on him early on New Year’s Eve that year; that night, he escaped from Colorado’s Garfield County Jail. I am perhaps one of the last people he met with before he opened the ceiling, crawled into a closet, and walked out the front door into infamy.”

While mindful of the crimes with which Bundy was charged, Eakle says, “I approached this man as a child of God. I could not see him as a kind of evil creature. If I was to properly serve him in ministry — which I believe I did — I had to put aside the legal details of which I was aware. To this day, I grieve deeply for the number of people that he in fact killed.”

Eakle credits the theological education he earned at Iliff for opening his mind and teaching him to authentically see and hear people. “During my time at Iliff, my mind and spirit were opened; it helped me grow and to find answers to questions. At Iliff, I learned reflection, discernment, affirmation and bridge-building. My time at Iliff helped me create the framework of my life’s work.”

Today, Eakle serves as a mentor to many. “I try to do what I can to support others. Many people supported me over the years and so it’s important for me to give back, in the ways that I can.”

In his role as mentor, Eakle says he encourages ministers to maintain clear work-life balance, and to approach their ministry with strong trainings in the areas of pastoral counseling and counseling techniques. “Listen actively and listen with your heart. Be mindful that generally, your role is not to become your parishioner’s counselor. To be the pastor of the local church means establishing boundaries for yourself and family that can also be helpful to those to whom you minister.”

Eakle’s view of the Iliff over a period of nearly 40-years has remained steadfast, he added. “I offer my time and skills to Iliff when I can. The School served me and my wife, Terry well and we in turn, want to serve it. When you love something, you take care of it and nurture it. I love Iliff and am committed to it.”