Untold Love and Amazing Grace
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Their paths entwined while visiting their former spouses’ graves at the Pine Plains Cemetery in Clay, New York, on a cold and somber morning in February 2017.
“Eunhee’s husband Tom Hertweck, an AG pastor whom I knew, had just died and was buried next to the grave of my wife Laura, who had died the previous September,” says Bill, 68.
Surprised at first, the couple recognized each other from attending NYMN events. Kirk mentioned that she stood on his future grave plot.
Eunhee had helped her late husband plant Trinity Assembly in Liverpool, New York, in 1986. She eventually served as co-pastor and administrator, receiving her ministerial ordination in 2010.
She immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea in 1972 to live with her sister in Rochester, where she met Tom. The couple married in 1976, had three children (Lisa, David, and Joshua), and moved to Springfield, Missouri. There, Tom graduated from Central Bible College in 1984 and Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 1986.
Bill and Eunhee’s friendship flourished as they continued meeting regularly at the graveyard. “I did not go to the cemetery looking for a new husband,” Eunhee told him.
Mutual respect and affection grew steadily, resulting in their engagement on Sept. 29, 2017. Tragedy struck only eight days later when Eunhee’s 31-year-old son Joshua died unexpectedly from a heart attack.
Still grieving, the couple wed in December. Their marriage quickly matured into a blessed and fruitful match.
In retrospect, Bill Kirk’s past flowed differently. His unchurched parents planted hostile seeds against the gospel.
After catching rheumatic fever at age 9, he moved to his Pentecostal grandmother’s home, remaining bedridden for two years. His parents’ heavy work schedules prevented them from caring for him. He attended his grandmother’s church, but strayed from the faith when he returned to his parents. But his grandmother never stopped praying for him as he grew older.
Visiting an uncle in Florida, Bill refused to read a gospel tract and berated his relative for offering it. Instead of trashing the tract, though, the 19-year-old nephew put it in his carry-on bag for the plane flight home. Boredom prompted him to retrieve the tract and read it. Holy Spirit conviction overwhelmed Bill as he asked Jesus to forgive his sins.
“Leaving the airplane, I knew I was born again by the grace of God,” he recalls. “I also learned never to discount the power of a single tract.”
Afterward, Bill joined the Baltimore police department as a cadet. On a night-shift break in the central records division, he wept uncontrollably reading the New Testament. He pondered Christ’s challenge of denying himself and taking up his cross. Serious soul-searching led him to resign and enroll at the University of Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, where he met Laura. They graduated and married in 1979.
Kirk served as a youth pastor for two years before planting Connect Church in Hartwick, New York, in 1981. He held other senior pastorates at Binghamton City Church and The Bridge in Niagara Falls. He has been New York assistant superintendent since 2005.
The Kirks entered 2018 as newlyweds with great expectations. However, tragedy struck again. Near the end of 2020, Eunhee noticed her speech slurring. As this symptom worsened, she sought medical attention.
After numerous tests, she learned the devastating diagnosis in April 2021: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a rapidly progressing neurological disease that attacks nerve cells that control voluntary muscles. There is no cure.
Upon reviewing the hospital’s final test results sitting around their kitchen table, Eunhee and Bill cried together. “It was our dark night of the soul,” he confesses.
Since that time, the disease has progressed to Eunhee losing her ability to speak, sing, and eat solid food — which can lead to choking. She communicates via her cellphone app and computer. She walks slowly, but still drives wearing a neck brace.
“These last two years have been a blur for us,” Bill says. “Some days we laugh and smile and some days we just cry.”
Until recently, Eunhee traveled with Bill on his preaching assignments. They try to read a Proverb and 5 Psalms in daily devotions together.
“After three losses — my first husband, son, and health — I have no complaints, and have not lost the joy of the Lord,” says Eunhee, 71. She refuses to give up and still prays for God to heal her.
The Kirks attend Trinity AG, now in Clay, New York, where Eunhee is pastor emeritus and her son David Hertweck, is lead pastor, succeeding his father. Eunhee leads a weekly prayer meeting via computer-generated messages.
“People find spiritual strength by my mom’s presence, faith, smiles, and hugs,” says David, 44.
Divine superglue cements the Kirks’ future.
Eunhee recently apologized to Bill for the inconvenience of her ALS. “I thank God for sending Bill into my life,” she says.
“I assured Eunhee, that even if I had known about the ALS before we married, I would have married her 1,000 times out of 1,000,” he says. “In other words, no regrets and no apology ever again. God’s grace is all sufficient. He does all things well and makes no mistakes.”