September was a month of powerful and emotional remembrance. On a national level, we honored those who lost their lives in the tragedy of 9/11. In the community of Brentwood, Tennessee, Enable’s home, we also remembered the life and legacy of our friend, Ben Ellis. Ben left us in September 2016 but lives powerfully still in the minds and hearts of all who knew him.
Ben Ellis was a consummate teacher, by profession and by action. His skills and commitment in all that he did were matched only by the utterly unique and powerful way that he loved people. Ben was a husband, a father, a friend, a teacher, a disciple, a believer, a follower, an encourager, a peacemaker, and a warrior. In his battle with esophageal cancer, Ben spent the end of his life encouraging as many people as he could – pouring into the lives of those around him, and using his time to turn others towards Jesus. Ben did not withdraw into his suffering. Instead, he used every last minute he was given on Earth to love as much as he could – his family, his students, his fellow teachers and faculty.
And in the last year of his life, due to an amazing set of God-ordained circumstances and a viral video, Ben’s story was heard and his influence was felt by over 100 million people. It all began with a phone call from the CPA high school principal to the Headmaster. That week, after receiving news that Ben’s further treatment options were very limited, the principal asked to load up all of the high school students into buses and cars to go to Ben’s house to sing worship songs with him. Ben was too sick by that time to attend the weekly chapel service at the school, but loved to sing worship songs with his CPA community. An iPhone video of that experience was passed around and eventually sent to Tim McGraw, the country artist. After Tim posted it to his social media accounts, it was viewed all over the world and became the source for international news stories, including an onsite Good Morning America segment at CPA sent to affiliate stations all over America.
You can read more about this incredible story here, in CPC pastor Russ Ramsey’s heartfelt rendition of “The Story Behind the Viral Video of Ben Ellis.” Trust us, this is worth a read.
Ben Ellis spoke these words to & over the students at his house the day they came to sing: “I love you. I believe now more than ever that God is good, and that he is with us. I am full of hope, peace and joy. I wish all this for you. Look to Jesus to know, to believe, and to be filled.” Ben’s radical and unwavering love of others inspired the community of CPA – a bunch of high schoolers – to drop everything and love him radically in return. “I felt unity, I’m not alone. Joy. Peace. I also felt very loved; I already felt loved by God, but it was extra meaningful that God poured his love out to me through 500 people who loved me so well.” In an attempt to give back to a man who had given so much of himself, the high school students of Christ Presbyterian Academy learned one of the most important lessons they will ever learn.
“I love you. I believe now more than ever that God is good, and that he is with us. I am full of hope, peace and joy. I wish all this for you. Look to Jesus to know, to believe, and to be filled.” – Ben Ellis
On September 16, 2016, Christ Presbyterian Academy Headmaster Nate Morrow wrote to the CPA community: “With deep sadness and a very heavy heart, I write to tell you that our beloved Ben Ellis has passed away. Since last December, millions of people around the world have prayed for Ben to be healed of his cancer. Today, Ben entered Heaven fully healed; he is home.”
At Enable, we had a special connection with Ben on many levels. He was once an intentional high school teacher to a couple of our younger team members. He was a gracious client who always treated our team of IT professionals with the greatest patience and courtesy. He was an encouraging friend and workout buddy of our President, Scott Smith. Ben Ellis was precisely the kind of person that Enable exists to help. Our mission is to Change Lives by Serving Those Who Serve, and serve he did. We met Ben originally through our work with his employer, Christ Presbyterian Academy, and his church, Christ Presbyterian Church. To the extent that we can help people like Ben utilize technology to do their jobs, we have the opportunity to participate, albeit indirectly, in the fruit of the lives changed through their influence. This type of life change and ministry enablement is the very heart of our work. It is why we do what we do. At the end of every technology project or support request are people. People like Ben.
“Ben was a gift to us all in the most unassuming and life-giving way. Even in the process of his death, he selflessly encouraged and empowered individuals to find life in Jesus. Now Ben and his Lord are fully together, yet we remain; his family and his students remain and we grieve deeply. And though it is a time to grieve, we are not without hope. We proclaim a God who sent his own Son to the cross to show us there is no fear in death. We will all be together again; this separation is temporary. One day we will spend our eternity with Jesus, with Ben, and the many saints who have gone before us.” – Nate Morrow, CPA Headmaster