David N. Gehrls
July 29, 1947 – March 25, 2019
David N. Gehrls, 71, of Omaha, NE, was peacefully welcomed into the arms of Jesus on March 25, 2019, at home and surrounded by his family. He was born on July 29, 1947, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Wilma (Holter) Gehrls and Marvin A. Gehrls, and was the eldest of five siblings.
Dave came from a strong German/Norwegian heritage, determined people who helped settle the Dakota Territory. As a child he spent much time both in the German community of Okabena, MN, and on the family farms in South Dakota. A heritage of strong personal values, religious conviction and work ethic shaped much of who Dave would become. During his early childhood, his parents were missionaries to Mexico, living just across the border town of McAllen, TX, giving Dave his early taste of ministry. In his later years, he often wished he had learned to speak Spanish!
Dave attended Wessington Springs Academy in South Dakota, graduating in 1965. He immediately moved to Michigan to attend Spring Arbor University, where he graduated in 1969 with a degree in Sociology. It was during those years that he met Sheryl (Howison) Gehrls, and they were subsequently married on June 28, 1969 in Midland, MI. They had four children, and a life full of rewarding “adventures.” One of Dave’s favorite lines was, “Trust me!”
After graduation, Dave took a career turn, entering the ministry and becoming a Youth Pastor at a small Nazarene Church in Lansing, MI. That was the beginning of 50 years of full-time ministry, serving the body of Christ by pastoring several churches in both the Nazarene and Free Methodist denominations, in Michigan, South Dakota, and Iowa. He first moved his family to Nebraska in 1975 to assist Pastor Elmer Murdoch in founding Trinity Church in Omaha.
Dave was known for many things, from tech-whiz to counselor, but among them was his love of wilderness camping. Over the course of 42 years, he took hundreds of kids to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on extended canoe trips. The stories from those trips are legendary and anyone who knew him still speaks of them today. At one time he owned eight canoes, 30 backpacks, multiple tents, and a wild assortment of paddles, life jackets, and cooking gear! Because he had to provide wilderness medical care, he certified as an EMT-D, and was among the first group of EMT responders in Iowa to be trained in cardiac defibrillation, working 18 years on the local ambulance service while he planted a church.
Dave was all about bringing together the body of Christ in any way that he could. He believed that we could find common ground and core beliefs from which we could work together to extend the Kingdom of God on Earth. He worked tirelessly to accomplish that goal at home and abroad. Part of that ministry involved working with the Omaha 360 network to address violence prevention and intervention in the city. To accomplish that, he started a ministry called First Responders Prayerwalking that has been active in the city for nearly 12 years. Since 2007, his team of prayer responders has met at over 500 sites where violent homicides have occurred, creating opportunities to minister to neighborhoods and hurting families within hours of a violent tragedy. The fruit of this sacrifice, prayer and investment – along with the efforts of law enforcement and other groups – is now being seen in prayerwalking areas that have been at peace for over 200 days with no violent homicides.
Dave’s heart was passionate for the Gospel. He was obedient to the Lord no matter what it cost him. He was a man of integrity who was willing to take a stand on hard issues, but always speaking the truth in love. Dave loved his family, especially bragging about his children and grandchildren. His legacy will remain for many generations, and they will be proud to name him among their heritage. He was a gentle giant of a man who loved everyone he met. His laugh, his energy, and his presence filled a room with life and security. He was a leader among leaders, and will be greatly missed.
Dave was preceded in death by his parents, and his first daughter, Renee. He is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Sheryl Gehrls, and three children: Matthew (Lisa) Gehrls, Omaha, NE; Amy (John) Lynch, Cedar Falls, IA; and Sandra (Wade) Anderson, Mason City, IA. He is also survived by nine grandchildren: Caleb Gehrls, Peter Gehrls, Taylor Lynch, Jacob Gehrls, Jack Lynch, William Lynch, Brock Anderson, Reid Anderson, and Rachel Gehrls. His surviving siblings include Tim Gehrls (Brainerd, MN), Jon Gehrls (Brainerd, MN), Dan Gehrls (St. Cloud, MN), and Lily Bates (Lansing, MI).
The Celebration of Life service for Dave will be held on Monday, April 1, 11:00 a.m., at Good News Church in Omaha, followed by a luncheon for family and friends in the fellowship hall. Public visitation will be 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. Monday prior to the service. Memorials will be directed by the family to ministry projects close to Dave’s heart. Alternatively, contributions can be made to Christ For the City International, P.O. Box #390395, Omaha, NE 68139.