I've been in youth ministry now for 10 years and Labor day weekend was actually a culmination of the time that I have spent in my previous two churches. As mentioned before, the main reason we went home Labor Day weekend was to visit the first church I ever pastored in, Main St. Wesleyan church in Elwood, IN. I always tell people it was where I learned how not to do youth ministry...For instance, it was where I took my teens to see a rated R movie when our go kart trip got rained out (come on Robin Williams is always good clean fun right? Did I mention the film was the Birdcage?)-the lesson learned there was always have a backup plan. Of course there were also the times when I took teens home after events one on one without another sponsor and the student was occasionally a girl-lesson learned...DUHHH!!! Thankfully the Lord protected me during my naivete and I am still in ministry today. It was good to see everyone at the church, but after five years of not visiting there, only four people knew who I was at first. I like to think it was because I look considerably different now with the bald head, goatee, and earrings. Once everyone figured out it was me though it was good to share old memories and see some of the teens who are now married with kids...Wow that makes me feel old. I don't know how much of an impact I had there, but there are still a few people around that I ministered to and I have to trust that God planted a few seeds in spite of my many mistakes.
After a large carry in dinner and visiting for a while I headed up to Marion to see a much changed campus and visit my old boss from Good Shepherd Wesleyan, who is now the assistant director for the center for life calling and leadership on campus. I tell people if Main St. Is where I learned how NOT to do ministry, Good Shepherd is where I learned how to do ministry. Here is a picture of Rick and I with his son Andrew in the background...I am beginning to think Andrew will never stop growing since he is almost a foot taller since we left Jackson a year and a half go...
Rick was not only a boss, but a mentor to me, and much of what I have learned about ministry, he has had a hand in. One thing I appreciate most about him is that he ALWAYS pushed me. He would never let me settle. Every time I would think I had reached the top he would follow up with "what can you do to make it better next time." This was frustrating at times, but because he challenged me I grew more in those 4 years than I did in all my previous time as a student and in the ministry. Rick has become more than a boss and mentor, he is my pastor, one of my best friends, and a brother. I think I miss him more than I ever thought I would when we left Jackson.
You have to understand something...For the first year and a half I was there, his family was my family and when Megan and I got married, Cheri (his wife) and the kids adopted us even more to their family. For that matter, we are family...As is illustrated by the picture below with Meg, Cheri, and Julia (who is now a senior-which seems unbelievable to me)...
Megan and I have already made a list of things that we have gleaned from this family that we want to pass on to our own. They are closer than any family we have met. I guess years in ministry will do that to you. Here is one last picture of the kids (sans Ricky who is serving in the US Army and is currently stationed at Ft. Hood. I have had the privilege of watching them grow up and they are like my own brothers and sisters and always will be!
So, we don't make it home very often anymore, but it is great to catch up with family and friends when we do. Thanks guys for being our family and for making this trip awesome.
Well obviously we are back here in Pensacola and last weekend meant Rock the Universe...So I'll have some pics and thoughts on that next time.
Thanks for reading!