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Yesterday I celebrated my 33rd birthday.  But I wasn’t alone.  Thousands of miles away in Kyotonabe, Japan, someone else was celebrating too.  It was my twin brother.  I’m not sure how many of you are twins, or have twins, but nevertheless, I felt compelled to write a tribute to my twin brother today.

Mark, whenever we see each other, it always seems like we take a trip down memory lane together.  Not many people are like me.  To be blessed with both a twin brother and a best friend as they grew up.   

I thought about all our grueling ping-pong matches, and all the Nerf football games that usually ended with you getting a bloody nose and Gary saying, “Shh.. 

I thought about the many hours we spent playing Atari and Nintendo and even getting Mom to think we were sick one day so we could stay home from school and “master” the games.

I thought about the time we decided to buy little inflatable rafts at Kay Bee Toy Store in the mall so we could have our own white water rafting adventure as we floated down Dry Creek after it had flooded. 

I thought about our red, hot-liner banana seat bikes and how we used to bike up to Quick Trip together.  And I thought about how cool we thought we were as we played Double Dragon and drank from our QT quarts and chewed bazooka gum and laffy taffy.

I thought about the many days we spent playing basketball and wiffleball in the driveway with Gary and Frank.  And how they used to get into it more than we did.

I thought about the time when we were racing home on our bikes from the Bowman Woods pool and how you somehow didn’t see the parked van up ahead and crashed into it leaving a big dent in the van.  And I remember how all the kids in the neighborhood ran out to see you… well, they actually ran out to look at all the police cars and ambulance that came to pick you up… but anyway!

I thought about how we grew up so quickly….how our dreams came true in high school as we both started on the Linn-Mar Lion Football Team and finally had our first real girlfriends as seniors.

And of course I thought about all our memories in college as we lived together in a dorm room at UNI and later in the basement of a house on Seerley Blvd. that we called “The Promised Land.”

Mark, all these memories are so vivid in my mind.  They are clearer to me than any picture in a photo album or any video on a screen.  They are lodged deep within my mind and my heart and I’ll never forget them.

Years passed, we graduated from college and went our separate ways.  After spending nearly all our lives together, we were now headed in two very different directions.  I was married and eventually left to Kentucky for seminary, and you were single and on your way to Japan as a missionary.

But it didn’t take long before God gave you a wonderful wife named Maki and we both started having kids and raising our families.

In all this you’d think that our closeness as brothers would have faded away.  But it hasn’t.  And you and I both know why.  It’s because of God’s grace in saving us both from our sins.  He didn’t have to do that, but He did and I’m so thankful.  Because of Jesus we have a bond that will last not only on earth but also in heaven.

Even though it’s hard sometimes, I know God has led you to Japan and me to Kentucky for His purposes.  And it’s amazing to think that we can partner together to spread the good news of Jesus all over the world.

Mark, thanks for being my brother and my best friend through the years.  We’ve had 33 years of “Life Together” and I look forward to the next 33 and the hope of eternity that follows.

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(These words were adapted from a toast I gave at Mark and Maki’s wedding reception)

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