The urgent prayer request by Venture Christian Church was unexpected. The tragic news that followed not long after left all of us in shock and disbelief.
Craig Jutila met Jesus and their son, Blake, in heaven on December 26th. Initial reports suggested it was a snowboarding accident, but later Mary shared that the autopsy report found a sudden heart attack was the cause of his passing.
My wife, Cailey, and I share a special friendship with Craig and Mary. It all started when Mary agreed to have coffee with Cailey while Craig was speaking at a CPC event in Orlando about 8 years ago. It was almost an instant friendship. Their relationship led to Cailey and I volunteering to support Craig’s speaking and EmpoweredLiving for the next 5 Orange Conferences in Atlanta.
Craig initially coached and mentored us in our KidMin and FamMin roles. Both of them poured into us, professionally and relationally. Craig took extra time out of his schedule to guide me in preparing my notes for 3 sessions at a conference in Kentucky 3 years ago.
Craig was the life of the party. And if there wasn’t a party, that changed when he arrived. His personality…MAGNETIC! And as a couple, Craig and Mary are the most humble, generous, trusting people you could ever meet.
And I mean ‘trusting!’
I helped Craig with broadening his Twitter and blog platform for a couple of years. My involvement required me having access to his Twitter account. I remember vividly our phone call when I was just starting this partnership. Craig very nervously said, “You know, I’m trusting you with my career right now. You literally have the power to destroy me with one wrong post!” Then we laughed.
Did I mention generous? They had us stay with them back in August after illness prevented us from flying back to WA from a leadership training we were in town for in Compton. And yes, we always volunteered to support them at Orange Conferences. But they would manage to take us out to eat, buy coffee, and give us warm ‘Thank You’ cards with various gift cards enclosed. They really just loved blessing others.
And while I’m on the topic of the Jutilas blessing others, they wrote a book together. It’s titled, ‘From Hectic To Healthy: The Journey To A Balanced Life.’
This is one of the most authentic, open, and painful books on marriage and ministry you will ever read. For that reason I encourage you to do just that. Please read it! Carey Nieuwhof also recorded a powerful interview with Craig on the topic of ‘When leadership ruins your family: How to live and lead differently.’ If you’ve never had the privilege to hear Craig speak, this would be a wonderful way to experience his heart.
Craig’s passing has caused me to reflect on my own life. He was an incredible, loving husband and father. He was a faith-filled, obedient child of God. He took what the Lord gave him and ran with it. And if you knew Craig, he probably ran with a lot of ideas/callings before God actually released him to (alluding to Craig’s self-disclosed ADHD behavior). His energy and creativity were contagious.
Craig was at the height of his personal life and ministry calling (in my opinion). Why? Because the platform and range of influence God had given him was constantly growing and changing. I have tried to model my public speaking style more after his creative energy than anyone else over the years. Now he’s telling stories and entertaining all of heaven. What a sight this must be!
Lastly, to Mary, Cameron, Alec, and Karimy I offer this prayer.
May you be blessed by the tangible feeling of Jesus’ loving arms wrapped tightly around you in this time of heartache. Lord, bless this beautiful family’s season of mourning with support, quiet time, joyful memories, laughter, comfort and strength. Amen!