Sunday, January 19, 2014

Plow the Road

In November of 2000 I attended the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta. This was my first convention as Youth Pastor of the Union Church of Hinsdale, and I accompanied by David Knecht. David, some of you may recall, was the head of the search committee that brought me to UC. He was a man in his forties who had built and sold a computer company, and now had lots of time on his hands. He was giving that time to serve God, and especially the youth of UC. I liked David a lot and was glad he was going to his first NYWC. Funny story- we were to stay at a Marriott in Atlanta for the convention, and when the former CEO of Marriott, who was a member at UC, found out he wanted to upgrade us to a luxury suite. I said no thanks, explaining to him that youth workers staying in a luxury suite would be the targets of many jokes and quite possibly an investigation...

As David and I flew to Atlanta, settled in to our meager accommodations (HA!) and begin to explore the NYWC, a question that had been nagging me through my first 8 months at UC came to the forefront of my mind. Why had David not applied for the job I now had? He knew the people and culture of UC that so frustrated me; he was one of them. He clearly loved Jesus, students and student ministry. At the convention he was like a kid in a toy store; everything amazed him! I recognized it in him because it had been true for me for so many years. He soaked up everything. I introduced him to many of the legends of youth ministry, and he was a little starstruck. He loved the seminars, the speakers, the music- everything! And to complete his experience, I made sure he got his first ever Chick-fil-A sandwich. David. like so many before him, was now addicted to the NYWC.

At some point during that week I had a chat with an old friend, who had knew me well and who had been in ministry a long time. I shared with him some of my frustrations, and specifically my thoughts about David being the right person for the job I currently had. As we talked, Todd reminded me that 15 years earlier I had taken a job with the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends. After a short time at that ministry I had similar feelings about Chris Jorgensen who had volunteered years with the youth there, only to see me get the job she wanted. I realized when I left NEYM that God's purpose for me there had been to prepare things for Chris. I was there 9 months, and then she got the job and served them brilliantly for many years. Like a snow plow on the highway, sometimes our ministry is just to plow the road and clear the path for someone else. John the Baptist did it for Jesus. I had done it for Chris. And now, my wise friend was saying, maybe I was at UC to get everything set up and ready for David to succeed. It was, in many ways, a hard pill to swallow. I had moved my family thousands of miles so I could be a "star." I had gone to UC to be a closer, not a set-up man. But those were my reasons. Perhaps God had a different design in mind. 

And that is exactly the way things turned out. Less that a year later I left Union Church and without even forming a search committee the church gave the position to David. He served there for a number of years, doing wonderful things with the youth and the community. It is so tempting to look back on my days in Hinsdale as a failure. But it is also a wonderful thing when you know you have been used by God for His purpose. And that is my prayer on this Sabbath day- that I be open to whatever God has in mind for me next. Whatever the road that needs to be plowed, I want to be the instrument Jesus can use to get it done. I hope that you will pray along with me.

Because of Jesus,

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