Celebrating Pastor Craig 2.6.2020

Pastor Craig:
 
My Pastor, brother, father-like-figure and friend:
When we first met, I could hardly speak English. He interviewed me for a job of organist/pianist/accompanist at Long Grove church. Yes!!! The senior pastor. Ha-ha! I told him I couldn’t really play the organ, but I told him: “I promise, I will make your church sound great!” He said: “really?” I had no job, and anything would be great at that point. He proposed a modest salary per year for the position. I said I will think about it. And of course, I agreed! From the start, they paid me over and above what had been proposed. I thought “that’s odd! It must be God!” It was my first job in USA, and I stuck with it for more than 20 years. He became my boss at that time.
 
5 years later, I was going through a very difficult time, questioning some of my choices. Pastor Craig was the first person I came to tell of my troubles. He spoke and said: “I am so proud of you.” He saw my heart. He knew it wasn’t his place to judge, just to love and support, and let God change me. He loved me thru all of it. That was the beginning of a great deep friendship and mentor-ship. Craig’s wife Marsha became my best friend and super important person in my life.
 
Later, God called me to a Bible School. Pastor Craig was extremely encouraging and believed in me. I was called! I knew it. But he knew it as well. He trusted God in good and bad, thru it all he has been a huge example how to trust in God and Jesus.
 
I became a worship director and served the Lord alongside with Pastor Craig. He became my mentor and much bigger boss. But what a servant leader he was!!! Sometimes he was tough and even mean… he asked me lots of questions, sometimes challenging me, and sometimes just willing to learn. Boy! Was that powerful! When your leader is humble enough to say “I don’t know it all. And I hope you can teach me something too.”
 
Pastor Craig, it’s because of you and Marsha in my life, I’ve learned to trust the Lord in ways you can’t imagine! It’s because of you I have grown and continue to grow. It’s because of you, I have the desire to follow Jesus and challenge myself to live by His standards.
 
Very fondly,
your friend Mila


Celebrating Pastor Craig 1.16.20

How does one reflect upon a friendship that spans over 40 years, especially when I don’t see him as a friend but a true brother in Christ. One of my first recollections of him was while he was involved in the youth ministry at the church I attended, he was the bar tender at a local family style restaurant. I remember seeing him at a glance which took me by surprise because he was wearing an Afro hair style. I commented to my wife was that not the youth guy at our church?
 
He eventually was ordained, received his doctorate, and was the associate pastor at the Long Grove Church. It was later that we discovered common interests in golf, hunting, sport shooting and fishing. When Craig was starting his ministry he was a pretty driven guy whose primary focus was the church. When he was chosen to be the senior pastor he proclaimed one Sunday that from henceforth all preaching would be from scripture and from no other sources. It was a huge turning point for me and the church body. He has never wavered from that commitment. He saw something in me that I personally had not seen. He began to mentor me in understanding God’s calling for my life. He guided the church to have an elder board and sought me to be the elder chairman and I remained there for nine years. It was through his guiding that I reached a deeper relationship with the Lord. Craig will tell you that if he had those early years over he would have spent more time with his family. He is now very family oriented and would do anything for them. As I served with Pastor Craig I had never seen a more graceful man. He was patient, kind, forgiving, exuding a true love of Christ. Having known him for so many years I can attest to Craig’s encouragement to those who had made mistakes, always reminding them of Christ’s love for them.
 
I left the Chicago area in 2014 but we talk at least twice a week about life in general. We are always planning our yearly fishing trip to Canada. Our group of guys that go can be anywhere from 2 to 12. We’ve been doing this for over 15 years. It is a special time that we gather from all over the country to commune in God’s creation. Craig for years would write devotions for us to study in the boat while we’re fishing. There are usually two guys in a boat and all during the day we personally go over the subject and then after dinner we all gather and discuss the devotion. One day it was really uncomfortable with rain, 45 degrees and windy – Craig was my boat partner. About noon I was so wet, cold and generally cranky I said lets go in and have lunch in the cabin. Craig was driving the boat that day and he said “no way because if we went in we would not come out again.” I couldn’t believe he was being such a jerk – I was shaking with hypothermia and practically begging for him to have mercy. No, he would have nothing to do with it – he was not about to give in. Finally, after threatening him with death he recanted. He later told me he was dying but he wanted to see me fume. (He lost his boat driving privileges when we are boat partners for the rest of his life – maybe not when in heaven but just maybe). To say the least he messes with people’s brains when he thinks there’s a laugh to be had.
 
Another time at the shooting club we frequented we would look forward to smoking a cigar after we shot. A man who worked for me gave me a box of cigars for Christmas and I offered Craig one. We smoked for about ten minutes and I commented how bad these cigars were – I was turning a bit green. He said “these are great don’t be such a wimp”. I excused myself and went home so sick I almost couldn’t get in the house – my wife said how terrible I looked and what was my problem. After explaining to her why she just said “serves you right for smoking!” I called Craig to see if he was OK and he again told me I was a wimp. Later he told me that he was so sick from that cigar but just wanted to mess with me.
 
I will never forget his compassion for me when my son died – no greater gift did I receive from my Heavenly Father than to have Pastor Craig there as I held the boy in my arms. No greater honor than to have him marry my son Andrew and daughter Evelyn. No greater memory to have him Baptize me. If a man’s life is a line Craig and I have gone to the mountain top and into the valley but we’ve done it together as brothers in Christ – can anyone ask more?


Celebrating Pastor Craig 12.12.19

It is my honor to be asked to write a little about Pastor Craig. I first met Craig in 1966 on the freshman practice football fields at Morton West high school in Berwyn, Illinois. Of course, as teammates back then we didn’t realize we would be good friends, more like brothers, even today. Many of the high school coaches were “looking” for Craig that first practice, I think to check him out as a player. I know this because during the first day of practice while doing exercises the head freshman coach came up to me and said, “Are you Baldacci?” Not sure what he meant I just responded, “What’s a Baldacci?” That’s when the friendship, or better yet brotherhood, with Craig began.
 
I’m not sure how many of you know that Craig was a top athlete in the Chicago area in the late 60’s. He was not only a star linebacker and fullback on three straight championship teams, but his senior year he was selected to the All Chicago Area team. He was also a high school champion wrestler. His junior year he made the state quarterfinals in the 165lb class and his senior year he took second in the State in the 175 lb. class. He also received the best athlete award at senior graduation. He doesn’t talk about it much but if you ask him, he would probably modestly say he played with some greater athletes than himself. He also played football in college and was a teammate and fraternity brother of Mike Shanahan (49ers Offensive coordinator, Broncos and Redskins head coach of the NFL).
 
But let’s get back to the high school days. We, as a group, didn’t get into much trouble when we were in high school. I guess it was because we were too busy playing sports all the time. But never in a million years would we have thought Craig would be a pastor in the future. Heck, I ended up being a fighter pilot and airline pilot and back then I had only been on an airplane once in my life! But looking back, Craig always had that nature about him that was comforting to others. He was always willing to help others. So now, looking back, I can see him becoming an awesome pastor.
 
Fast forward to today, some 54 years later. Craig is still my friend, my brother, my mentor and definitely my pastor. As most people, I have had some rough times in my life and Craig has ALWAYS been there for me. He still calls me two or three times a month to “checkup” on me. His words are soothing and his prayers for me are what keeps me going. Whenever I see Craig or hear from him, I feel the presence of God. Our high school football team still has reunions today and Craig commands the respect of each and every player. When one of our teammates passed away (way too young) Craig gave the message and there wasn’t a dry eye in the funeral home. When my father passed away Craig was unable to make the funeral, but he helped me write a message to give in honor of my father. He’s just that kind of leader, pastor and friend.
 
Craig is retiring now. Unfortunately, we can’t all work forever and he knows it’s time for others to step forward. I know that Craig will miss of all of you and you will miss him. But luckily for me, he will always be my pastor until the day I die.
 
Kenny Klimes
USAF, Lt Col Retired
Capt., Southwest Airlines Retired
Craig’s brother, teammate – forever


Celebrating Pastor Craig 11.14.19

Craig Baldacci is a man after God’s own heart, he is a dangerous man for the Lord and the Gospel, and he is passionate about people, life, the church and the next generation. I first met Craig some years ago when he had first arrived at North Sub, on a Friday afternoon with my grandson. I wanted to show Jadon North Sub Church that I had been the youth pastor at in the late 70s and early 1980s. As we walked in, we were warmly greeted by Craig who not only engaged me but had a great conversation with Jadon and then Jadon and I prayed over Craig and for his new ministry there. It was a wonderful start to our friendship and partnership. Craig was a part of the disciple making cohort at the national office of the EFCA. He was such a good thinker and practitioner of helping people follow hard after Jesus and making disciples who make disciples.
 
Craig, I look forward to some fishing and golf games in the future and I thank you so much for the signature of Jesus that you have given to North Sub over these recent years. I celebrate the fact that you are a man full of Jesus and full of life and I count it a privilege to be your friend and co-laborer in the gospel.
 
Love In His Love, Rev. Fritz Dale, former youth pastor at North Sub., 1977 to 1983 and retired director of Leadership Formation and Prayer Mobilization for the Evangelical Free Church of America.


Celebrating Pastor Craig 10.10.19

You want me to do what? Write something about my relationship with Pastor Craig; my appreciation of him? Really?
 
That was my first reaction upon being asked to put into writing a few words about this man. Not the thought of “what in the world can I say about him that is positive“, but rather, “how in the world can I capture in words my love and appreciation for this man?
To express my heart toward him would be impossible in this brief article. I love him, appreciate him and consider him the dearest of friends.
 
I met Pastor Craig through my daughter, who at the time was his Children’s Ministry Director at Long Grove Community Church (LGCC). It was 2008. I had been out of ministry for 4 plus years. I had left under a dark cloud.
 
We were invited by my daughter to attend her church as we were searching for our own “home” church. What began as a “let’s visit a couple of times and then move on” purpose, became a movement of God that led to a friendship and ultimately a partnership in ministry.
 
Craig opened his heart to me and my wife and then welcomed me into partnering with him in ministry at Long Grove Community Church (LGCC). God used Pastor Craig to remind me that He is a God of second chances and redeemer of purpose. Through this man, this pastor, this servant of God, there was opened up for me a new window on life and purpose. A new path of ministry.
In his invitation to become a part of the staff at LGCC he demonstrated such grace, love and confidence that God was working in my life, that in a sense, he was the instrument through which God renewed purpose in my life. Pastor Craig saw the bigger picture of what God had in mind not just for me but for the church, for LGCC.
 
My experience in being the recipient of Pastor Craig’s grace and love was not unique. He often was the first on the scene when someone was in need of seeing Jesus with skin on. Of having someone demonstrate that they were loved and not alone. He touched so many lives in his decades of serving LGCC that I cannot count how many times someone has said it was Pastor Craig who helped them find Jesus as savior, Jesus as friend, Jesus as Lord in their life.
 
I had the privilege of working alongside this man for 2 plus years. I saw in him a pastor who loved people and was willing to sacrifice all that he was to serve their spiritual and emotional needs. I saw what it was to be a leader of people yet to lead with a servant’s heart.
 
When he left LGCC, he left a firm foundation of teaching the Gospel and the life transforming power of God’s truth. He taught me lessons on loyalty, passion for people, disciple making, developing others and their strengths, loving Jesus, and so many, many other lessons of faith and life.
 
His friendship is one of the most prized pieces of my life. We have laughed together, cried together, ministered together, and yes even fished together. He is truly a lover of God, a man among men, a conduit of God’s grace and truth, and he is my friend. And I pray and wish only the best as he and Marsha continue to follow Christ while on this earth.
 
God’s greatest riches to you Craig, my brother and friend;
 
Pastor Bill Moore
Long Grove Community Church


Tribute to Pastor Craig 9.19.19

Craig Baldacci: Pastor, Brother, Friend

 

Pastor Craig and Marsha have been an integral and precious part of my life for almost a decade; it is an honor to reflect on our time together at North Sub.

 

We first met when he was interviewing for the Senior Pastor position at North Sub. I was chairing the search team and my late husband Albert was an Elder. Together, we spent a great deal of time with the Baldacci’s during the interview process. We knew he was special when he survived, thrived, and was willing for more of the grueling schedule we set up for candidates. Then, of course, there was the Italian factor… his special-ness was verified when he was observed after an interview with Albert.  Both were walking fast and talking faster – at the same time – and waving their arms wildly about. I’m not sure either of them heard a word, but they were communicating; that’s Italian!

 

Through the years I have spent wonderful times as well as heart wrenching times with Pastor Craig which has allowed me to see a depth of character and consistency that I deeply admire. He is truly a servant-leader.

 

I will begin with his willingness to lead through difficult times. We witnessed his ability to take a fearless stand on principles and face conflict head on without a personal agenda and while loving those involved. His ability to do so doggedly without giving up, combined with his goofy and endearing sense of humor (sorry Pastor!) has accomplished more than most of us will ever know. None of this would be possible without his strong work ethic, faith, beautiful and strong help-mate Marsha, and solid relationship with Jesus.

 

Even though he will not describe this as one of his strengths, Pastor Craig is a shepherd. I have seen him sacrifice himself in various ways, even to the point of exhaustion, for the betterment and benefit of others. He has a deeply caring heart. Only Jesus was a better shepherd for Albert and I during and after his illness and passing. He counseled us with soberness, love, compassion and much needed humor. Albert loved him, and he loved Al. Pastor Craig continued as a wise counselor after Albert passed, helping me with the navigation of life through grief. And when I met Brian, there was again solid counsel. I will never forget the wonderfully serious-faced, raspy-voiced, tough Sicilian who emerged when first meeting Brian to ensure his motives were pure with a good old-fashioned threat… now THAT is a good story!

 

I could write pages and pages about our Pastor Craig, and there are so many stories to share but no room in this short tribute. Besides, I could get pelted with a potato gun if I shared them all. I will close by saying thank you. Thank you for following God’s call even when we (N-Sub) were on your short list of “anywhere-but”, thank you for leading us with strength and humor, thank you for all of the sacrifices you and Marsha have made along the way, and thank you for being my Pastor, brother, and friend.  Pastor, you have truly finished well! However, I know Albert is shaking his head in Heaven saying, “I still don’t know how this guy became a pastor!”

 

You are loved,

Tat (Tatiana Savocchi)