During nearly two decades of friendship, much can change.

The Rev. Charles Lake was pastor at Community Church of Greenwood when he first met Mike Pence and his family. Since that time, he’s watched as Pence has gone from congressman to Indiana governor, now to vice president of the United States.

The meteoric rise has been thrilling for Lake to watch. Particularly because while the situations in Pence’s life have changed, his values and beliefs never have.

“He’s real and genuine, a man who’s true to his convictions and a man who doesn’t compromise with those convictions,” Lake said.

Lake is looking forward to watching Pence fill the role as this country’s vice president. The Greenwood resident said his longtime friend has the qualities needed to lead the U.S. in the right direction: morality, strong principles and unwavering values.

The country’s leadership is in good hands, Lake said.

“It’s been very encouraging in many ways to watch,” he said. “I’ve never been disappointed in any stance that he’s taken.”

Lake founded the Community Church of Greenwood in 1977, and served as its lead pastor until his retirement in 2005.

When Pence and his family became members in the mid-1990s, Lake first got to know him.

“Mike is an easy guy to get along with and to get to know. He’s very open, very warm and a friendly individual,” Lake said. “I developed a relationship with him quite quickly.”

The Lake and Pence families remained very close. Vicki Lake, Charles’ wife, and Karen Pence became good friends. Lake’s daughter babysat for Pence’s children.

Pence and Lake often found themselves on church committees together. That was where the bedrock of Pence’s character revealed itself, the pastor said.

“One word stands out with Mike, more than any others, is the word ‘integrity,’” he said. “Mike is one of the guys that what you see is what you get.”

When Pence was elected to Congress, Lake watched as his friend’s values carried through to politics. They stayed in regular contact, and when Pence won the Indiana governorship in 2013, Lake was asked to give the opening invocation at the inauguration.

In his five-minute speech, Lake prayed for the success and blessing of all Indiana residents, as well as the hope that Pence’s faith would continue to be the centering factor in his decision making while in office.

Those same thoughts have now been expanded to the entire country, Lake said.

Lake will be unable to attend any of the inaugural celebrations for Pence this year, as he’ll be traveling out of the country. But he’s reached out and expressed his congratulations to his friend, and looks forward to the next four years.

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.