Thanksgiving is a time to remember and to savor the gifts we have experienced in our lives. When looking closely they are too numerous to count. There are small things like a beautiful sunny day, listening to music that moves us, or taking our dog for a walk. The gifts that mean the most come in the form of the people we cherish, those who have touched us in a deeper way. As I reflected on the litany of people who have enriched and blessed my life, I begin to think about those who have been formational for me, those who have poured into me to nurture my faith and walk with God, and who have helped me to live it out. There are many that come to mind, among them are a couple of pastors about whom I would like to share.
I grew up in an amazing church. It was a church filled with people who genuinely loved each other. They had a special heart for hospitality and welcoming those on the fringes. I, as a neighborhood kid was one of them. They had a special knack for making people feel like they truly belonged, and it seemed to be just a part of who they naturally were. It was really evident in their relationship to the youth. They genuinely welcomed and loved us, nurtured our faith, encouraged our gifts, and included us as part of the church family and their families.. I cannot begin to describe my debt of gratitude when I reflect on that time and those dear people.
One of those people was the Senior Pastor. He was such a godly man. It seemed by looking into his eyes one could genuinely sense the Spirit of God within him. He was compassionate and real. He listened in such a way that made you believe he had all the time in the world and that he really saw you. He impacted me so much through his relationship with God. The closeness he seemed to share with God was palpable. It deepened my desire to experience God like that. His name is Pastor Duane Cross, and I will be forever grateful to him.
Another one of those people was the pastor of Christian Formation, Pastor Paul Barnes. I felt called as a teenager to go into ministry and I spent a year in Ecuador as a short-term missionary where I felt that call confirmed. When I returned home to work for a year before continuing my studies, Pastor Paul took me under his wing, discipled and mentored me. He walked beside me that year, preparing me for ministry, encouraging and affirming my gifts. I am deeply grateful for him because that time really prepared me for my further studies in seminary and in entering the ministry.
I know I am who I am today in part because of these two godly pastors who believed in me, nurtured my faith, and who reflected a God who loved deeply and drew near. So this Thanksgiving as I reflect on all I am thankful for, I will remember these two pastors whom God used in a special way in my life. To express my gratitude, I will be giving a donation to Ministry Mentors as a way to honor them. I encourage you to think about the pastors who have impacted you, who have nurtured your faith and walked beside you. I hope you will consider also giving a donation to Ministry Mentors in honor of them.
God bless you as you reflect on God’s gifts to you this Thanksgiving season.
To donate follow this link: http://donatenow.networkforgood.org/ministrymentors