Yesterday, several independent threads came together to form a strong cord for me. The last thread, the one that brought them all together in my mind, came from one side of a conversation I overheard. My 13 (very soon to be 14) year old daughter M was on the phone talking to her best friend. Apparently there had been a conversation at school involving another friend and that friend's church youth group. I heard M say (I'm paraphrasing here) that this other church's group must not all get along with each other and that she thought that was odd because everyone in her own youth group was friends with everyone else in the group.
The previous thread that had been dangling, waiting in the background, was a post about Integrity I read on Marshall Ramsey's blog. Marshall wrote about the effect of our lives on others' lives, what kind of "wake" we leave.
The first thread that is part of this cord was put in my head by Bro. Neil Wigley's sermon Sunday morning. It was about stewardship, not of our money, but of all that we are. He talked about the difference in spending and investing. Spending is for immediate gratification, investing is for the long term.
When I heard M's half of the conversation, all these threads came together and one name came to mind: Mark Williams. Five years ago he was called to be the youth pastor at Agricola Baptist Church. I was on that search committee and I remember some of the issues that were at the top of our list. Our kids were very clique-ish. There were certain groups that didn't mingle with other groups. The parents were concerned, with good reason, I think.
Mark came in and began, not just spending time with these kids, but investing in them. I look at the juniors and seniors now, who have been with him the longest, and I see leaders. He invested in the lives of these kids and the dividends are starting to pay off. Mark isn't the youth pastor now. He is filling a new position in our church--Equipping Pastor. But he is continuing to invest in our kids. Many of these same kids are leaders at his summer camps. They lead the worship on Wednesday nights here at church. They are roll models for our younger children through their participation in KidStuf. One is the assistant coach on the soccer team Mark coaches.
Mark is trying to create a smooth wake, and not just for his own family and church family. He has teamed up with our local elementary school principal to form a mentoring program for 6th graders. He and some other parents pair up with students, hopefully to pass on some core essentials for life , but sometimes just to listen and let the kids know that someone out there cares what's going on in their lives. His family appears to be flourishing, too, judging by the videos he posted of Micah and Malaree recently. And not just every guy eats lunch with his wife almost every day. Mark and his wife Melanie are partners in every aspect of their lives, and it shows.
All this adds up to a legacy that is priceless. He is not the youth pastor any longer, but the youth ministry is still reaping the benefits of his investments there. His own children and countless other children whose lives he has touched through camps, KidStuf, and Agricola Essentials will be able to sail life's sea a little more smoothly because of his influence. I am eternally grateful that my Gracious Lord brought this man with such a servant's heart into this place at this time.
Thanks, Mark, for the outstanding work you do.