|A Springfield Christmas at our house|
In early February of 1994 I accepted a call to be the new youth pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee, FL. Hard to believe it's been 20 years. Leaving Springfield Friends Meeting was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. On this Throwback Thursday I'm going to tell the story of what happened at Springfield Friends Meeting after Marilyn and I made our decision. We were leaving on April 14th. And there was so much to do!
Once our decision had been made, and the task of telling the people I worked with and for began. It was not an easy task. A few people- Max Rees, Judy Rees, Rick Harward and Neal Thomas- already knew of the possibility because they had written incredible reference letters for me. Telling everyone was difficult; telling the youth seemed impossible. I broke it to them one Sunday afternoon at YFYF, and there was lots of crying and lots of hugging. Once we were past that, I told them how much I loved them and that they needed to know we were going out with a bang, not a whimper. We began to talk about what they wanted to do over our last 8 weeks together, and their answer was simple- EVERYTHING! I explained to them because of finances and school schedules we could not do a major trip during the time, but other than that I would try to do everything they asked of me.
The list of requests was extensive. They wanted one last Rec Around the Clock, one final Quaker Lake Retreat, one more Movie Night, another Kyoto's Night and every other special event we had ever done! They asked for specific things to happen at both YFYF and the newly renamed Monday night program, MARS (formerly TNT), right down to which songs they wanted to sing and which games they wanted to play. They wanted it all- and I gave it to them. We crammed a year's worth of programming into two months, and it was amazing. We even planned an "alumni" trip to Disney for the following December so our college students would have one last event together- and we would have company in Florida. Combined with trying to hit the ground running in Kissimmee and packing after almost eight years in our little house, I have never been more exhausted than I was when April arrived. But it was so worth it...
The relationships I had worked so hard to foster over the years could have easily drifted away once they knew I was leaving. They could have felt deserted and unloved. They could have even felt let down by God. We did pray a lot and cry a lot during that time. But because of the effort and care we gave to those last 8 weeks, everyone felt energized and important. I have always believed that in any ministry position how you leave is just as important as how you start. This experience reinforced that belief- times 10! By the time of our "going away" dinner on March 30, we were closer than ever to the youth. That final night could have been tear filled and joyless. Instead, it was one of the best nights of our lives. We may not have done EVERYTHING in those last 8 weeks...but we came pretty darn close! Have a blessed day!
Because of Jesus,