Sometimes it takes a room full of youth workers to help you forget about the world and the chaos of life so that you can get alone with God. The theme for the conference this weekend is Surprising Legacy. Last night Duffy kicked things off by asking us to think about how we live, challenging us to think Irrationally, Excessively, and Costly.
This morning, the emphasis shifted to look at those who have been part of our legacy. Who were those men and women, who stood in your life and created that safe wake in which we found security and encouragement. Their have been a number of men, and women, but mostly men, who has helped to shape my theology, my ministry, and me spiritually. We were encouraged to think about the impact they have had on our lives and then challenged to express our gratitude for them. So that is what I am going to do. And while, they might not see it in this blog, I want you to know who it was and is, that pours into me.
First, Rev. Mark Rudolph. Mark was the missions team leader in 1991 that lead a small group of RE’s to Germany for a three week missions trip. I, at the time, was a straggly, long haired, wanna-be skateboarder, head banger, who was too secure in what I thought I knew and too comfortable in what I thought and wanted. Mark, came along side of me and loved me, appreciated me for who I was, and encouraged me to step out of the comfort zone of “church” that I had created. Unknown to him and me, at the time, was that God was using his example of compassionate, Godly, leadership to soften my heart to God’s purpose and call for my life. Mark planted the seeds of ministry, that God later watered and cultivated. If it had not been for Mark’s legacy, I don’t think I would have been so receptive to the call to ministry. Mark Rudolph, thank you for being a legacy in my life.
Bishop Booth. Bish. Booth was my pastor growing up in Philadelphia. He was the first pastor who saw my call to ministry. At the age of 18, he made arrangements for me to receive my first Layman’s License, and with it, he began my training in leading worship and ministry. His example of compassion and love for God’s people, and his consistency in preaching God’s Word, laid the foundation that other would soon build upon. Bishop Robert Booth, thank you for being a legacy in my life.
Rev. Gary Hajek. Gary was my wife’s youth pastor many years before I met her or him. As her youth pastor, he poured into Amy’s life, shaping her to be a Godly woman of grace and life. I met Gary later through church camps and then more intimately as he counseled Amy and I through the months leading up to our wedding. Gary was an example of real, manly, faith. He was cool, approachable, compassionate, crazy-gifted in understanding God’s faithfulness and how that faithfulness is lived out in ones life. And he’s was pretty good on the volleyball court, a place that I loved to be. Gary mentored us as a young couple, walking and praying through some tough life decisions as we watch God move us from camp to church to camp to church to… always encouraging us to be obedient and God will be faithful. Gary Hajek, thank you for being a legacy in my life.
Bryan Wintersteen. Is it possible to mentor someone from great distance? I believe yes. Bryan was my first example of what a youth pastor should be. While he was in Catonsville, and I was in Philly, and with no real contact, I watched how he loved students, care for people, and loved God. During the summers, he directed the RE summer camps, a few I which I had the privilege to serve at as a counselor. I was just a kid, who volunteered to lead a really bad, and cheesy, youth group, but he was who I wanted to be like when I grew up. He was there long before I knew the names and likes of Yaconelli, Fields, Robbins, Campolo, Mueller, and a great list of many others. In 1999, to our great surprise, we met up with Bryan at our first YS NYWC, in Cincinnati, then later the next year in Atlanta. It was around the restaurant tables, on the floor of the convention center, and standing in the halls ways, that Bryan poured into my understanding of what it was to serve and love students and the church. Bryan Wintersteen, thank you for being a legacy in my life.
Rev. Willie Hill. Willie was the first black pastor I knew and loved. Growing up in a white culture, going to a white church, in a denomination that was divided north and south (in a good way) Willie was a doorway to worshipping and loved God in color. It was his uncanny ability to speak to teenagers, capturing their attention with illustrations of McDonald’s and BigMac’s, that birthed in my a desire to speak and teach in the same way. It was his very Godly wisdom, that he and his wife Gale shared with us as Amy and I prayerfully considered moving away from our families and our homes with a 3 month old to take our first full time call in ministry. And it’s still his booming voice and wonderful laugh I remember when I think about those times at camp at denominational meetings that stretched my church family and told me that diversity was good and Godly. Willie Hill, thank you for being a legacy in my life.
Mr. Jim DeWoody. My Volunteer leader who share many late night conversations in the parking lot and front steps of Peters Creek. Jim was the 40 something, “baby-Christian”, who’s new found joy in the Lord compelled him to love student like that day was the last day of their life. I’ll never forget the tears when I was asked, “How can we save them all?” It was that desire to save all of our students that refreshed and renewed my call to minister to students. Today, he is my closest friend and brother. Jim DeWoody, thank you for being a legacy in my life.
Finally, my wife, Amy Higham. Despite my bold proclamation when we first met to never be rich, but to have enough, to follow God obediently, no matter what or where, she has stepped each step of this marriage willingly and faithfully. She has loved me unconditionally. She has challenged me faithfully. And she has fulfilled my greatest desires and wants as a wife, friend, and lover. She continually show me how to love. She holds me accountable. She offers me wonderful counsel and advice. She is there when I am great. And she is there when I am at my worst. Every day is a new adventure, and I am so glad we are on this ride together. I love her with every fiber of my being. Amy Higham, thank you for being a legacy in my life.
7 amazing, Godly, and inspiring people that have contributed to this life I call my own. Without one of them, I know something would be amiss in my life. My gratefully, love, and self is all I can give. Thank you for being you!
(ps. sorry for any typo’s. typing this up the first time was hard enough. i fought tears with each one. and in a public place, that was difficult. so to avoid a hysterical scene, I am not reading this again. so here it is; naked and raw, emotions, typos and all. thanks for reading.)