I love how God uses the sum total of the everyday events of our lives to do things like teach, hone, and remind. The last two weeks have been filled with events that keep reminding me of the power of people and the legacy they leave. It’s made me think about my legacy. . . which I know will be filled with things that I don’t like. . . and I hope, by God’s grace, might be smattered with some things positive.
Two weeks ago I was able to spend a weekend in Chicago with some of my best friends in the entire world. Add to that the 2500 youthworkers who had gathered at the same Simply Youth Ministry Conference, and it was an amazing time of challenge and encouragement. The theme of the weekend was. . . you guessed it. . . “Legacy.” Before I had a chance for the theme to sink in, I was approached by numerous people who simply wanted to say “thanks” for the legacy of CPYU. One friend told me that he had been prompted to thank those whose wake he was ministering in. His “thanks” to me meant more than you can imagine. It was humbling, simply because I look inside and see a heart that he can’t. Yes, God can and does use us in spite of ourselves.
With “legacy” fresh on my mind, I traveled last weekend to speak at my buddy Mike Flavin’s church in New Providence, New Jersey. I was almost literally a stone’s throw from the hospital where I was born 53 years ago, and the house my parents carried me home to a few days later. After I was done speaking, we punched the address into the GPS and then drove on over. I talked to the owner, walked around, and stood on the porch. I think I was only 3-years-old when we moved away. Still, I have a few memories of the place that came flooding back.
As we drove away, I thought about the 53 years of my own life and the legacies of others in whose wonderful ministry wake I’ve been living since 1956. First and foremost, my parents, who modeled and talked about a love for Jesus. That’s where I received my foundation. The many teachers, leaders, and missionaries who I was fortunate enough to meet as a result of growing up in a pastor’s home. My high school youth pastors to whom I owe a deep debt of gratitude – Phil, Mike, and Chuck. I graduated from high school wanting to be just like them. My profs, friends, and CCO leaders at Geneva College. Lowell Meek, my RD, stands tall among that crew. The pastors I worked under during my years in youth ministry – Richard Burns and my Dad. Those who trained me and walked alongside me during my years with the CCO. My profs and friends at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. My wife Lisa. She’s amazing. The list goes on and on. Taking stock of these folks makes my head spin.
Now, the weekend has arrived for us to celebrate 20 years of ministry with CPYU. Almost 300 hundred of our friends will share a meal and celebration tommorrow night. Eleven hours after that ends, we get right back to business as 500 youth workers will gather to learn more about how to deal with the brokenness that exists in kids’ lives. As I ponder the legacy that God in His mercy and grace grants to CPYU, it’s into the lives of those youth workers, those kids, and their parents that I hope God uses us to leave a legacy for the Kingdom.
20 years. Hard to believe. Soli Deo Gloria.