A Life Well Lived, A Ministry Well Done
"His son told me how his dad had always said that he wanted to die doing what he loved,” says a somber Dan Dangerfield, children’s pastor at Life Church AG in Williston, North Dakota. “And that’s the one thing of comfort right now — he died on his way to church wearing his Royal Rangers uniform.”
David Rockstad, 60, was a general contractor who owned his own business. Although highly skilled, Rockstad didn’t find his value in his job, nor did he make it a top priority. Dangerfield says Rockstad was a living example of a man with the right priorities — God first, then family, followed by service to the church — though often all three priorities were intertwined.
“The family is at church every Sunday, and all five are very skilled musicians,” Dangerfield says of the Rockstads. “They are a part of our worship team. Kristina (23) was a part of the kids church worship team until she went away to college, but the boys (Tim, 21) and (Jonathan, 18) are still on the team — they all even served as the worship team for the North Dakota and South Dakota kids camps.”
Rockstad has been leading Life Church’s Royal Rangers program for decades, with his sons going through the program and now leading it with him. In addition to leading at the local level, Rockstad was an important part of district Royal Rangers events. Over the years, he has impacted thousands of boys’ lives.
“David Rockstad,” observes Karl Fleig, national director of Royal Rangers, “embodied the spirit of Royal Rangers — men who have discovered they were created for a purpose and live out that purpose evangelizing, equipping, and empowering the next generation of Christlike men.”
Chris Walstad, lead pastor at Life Church, has a unique connection with the Rockstad family. He knew David prior to either of them accepting Christ as their Savior. In fact, it was Rockstad’s wife, Jeanene (prior to their marriage), who originally invited Walstad to church and led him to the Lord 30 years ago.
“David was humble and passionate for God,” Walstad says. “When he got connected with Royal Rangers, he was all-in. The love he had for the boys was so obvious. In addition to the Wednesday night program, he also led a Thursday night program, Adventure Rangers and Expedition Rangers, for older boys. Dave loved everybody, everybody loved Dave — he loved to laugh, he loved to joke, and he loved the kids.”
“Every Ranger pledges, ‘With God’s help I will do my best to serve God, my church and my fellow man…,’” Fleig says. “David did just that!”
According to Dangerfield, Rockstad passed away while driving to church on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
“He was late for the start of Royal Rangers, which was totally out of character,” Dangerfield recalls. “Tim stopped me and said his dad wasn’t answering his phone or responding to texts, so he was going to go look for him.” Tim would find his dad, in a ditch, slumped over the wheel of his car, unresponsive.
Rockstad’s funeral was held on Monday, Dec. 12, with hundreds in attendance, including several of his Frontiersman Camping Fellowship (FCF) Rangers who stood and wept openly beside his casket. But perhaps nothing was more telling of a “life well lived and a ministry well done” than when after the funeral service, Walstad happened upon a young elementary-age Royal Ranger standing in front of Rockstad’s closed casket that was draped with a Royal Rangers flag. The boy was crying.
“He had written a letter to God,” Walstad says, “and through his tears, he was reading it out loud in the otherwise empty auditorium. He read, ‘Dear God, I love you and I hope you tell David to read this and send a sign to your children.’ Then he paused and began again: ‘Dear David. I wish you were still here because you were awesome. You were awesome, your son says you have a big heart and love and you have a great soul and I hope you could be down here giving your children a great big hug.’
“Dave gave kids a reason to connect with the Royal Rangers program here,” Walstad says with emotion. “For so many of them, they wanted to be here because of Dave . . . we’re all going to miss him greatly.”