Just submitted my final article for our church newsletter. I've officially been gone since Oct. 1st, but still there every Sunday till we move after Christmas. So here's my last go at saying farewell...
It seems like it all started just yesterday. Fresh off of a 3-year ministry in Ohio and just starting a family, you invited us to come and ‘grow up’ in your midst. I can honestly say that those first few months of getting settled in Anderson back in 1992 seemed like we were planting roots. So much seemed right about the spot where Vicki and I had landed, even though leaving such good friends in our previous ministry was hard. The heritage of youth ministry that we were inheriting was at times intimidating, but the high bar of expectation was also refreshing. It turned out to be exactly what was needed for us, and those years are full of memories that will never fade. To this day, nothing beats being a small part in the transformation of the life of a kid. Those who linked arms with us throughout those years and did so with such longevity and energy know exactly what I’m talking about. Nothing beats it.
I can’t say enough about the people at Bethany. Such a diverse group that really only God could orchestrate. Some of you have been there your entire lives, while some have just shown up along the way. But so many are attracted to something about this place. It’s no secret that we’re not perfect. In fact, that’s one of the things I appreciate so much about Bethany. Not that we’re flawed, but that we’re willing to admit it! Only when we own up to the fact that we’re not clicking on all cylinders will we ever find solutions. Yet in spite of our imperfection, there’s some sort of cosmic magnetism (I just made that up…not bad…) that pulls us together in a way that’s unique and at times awe-inspiring. I’ve often had a press-box view of how God has worked through so many of you to do tremendous kingdom-building things. I was privileged to sit back, take notes, and learn from you. For that I will be forever grateful.
Personally, the way you took such good care of our family is a reflection of your heart. You’ve fixed our cars, sharpened our mower blades, changed our diapers, baby sat, played with and taught our kids, left anonymous gifts, raked our leaves, and so many other things – both small and large – that have shown us what it means to live as a family of believers who take care of each other. Not to mention that some of you let us dress you up in the most ridiculous outfits and perform in ways that would be humiliating to the average person. Good thing you folks aren’t average!
Bethany will always have a spot in our hearts. Vicki and I have spent 16 of our almost 20 years of marriage with you. Our kids became followers of Jesus in your midst, and I had the thrill of baptizing each of them at Bethany. You gave us a long leash to do, try, experiment, and sometimes pull the plug on some programs or traditions that just weren’t working like they may have at one time. That’s never easy, but often its necessary. And so, so many of you have been such valiant servants through the myriad of changes that have happened in the past 16 years. I’ll never forget your example, and your willingness to do whatever is necessary – even when it’s not exactly your cup of tea – to see the Church move forward and continue to reach people and lift up Jesus.
In 16 years, I’ve submitted something like 194 Bugle articles, give or take. Truth is, not a one of them has been by the deadline. Apparently, that’s not one of my gifts. This one is no exception…it’s one minute past midnight, just after the day it was due. The Bugle folks would expect no less! But this one wasn’t as much about procrastination or forgetfulness. It’s the hardest one to do, because it’s the last one. But please know that this new season of ministry for our family is exciting and unique, and we’re only adequate for the task because of the last 16 years of both you and God molding and shaping us. We commit to staying on the potter’s wheel. And we trust that you will too.