504 Java Profile

504 Java Profile
Two of my favorite things

Friday, January 8, 2010

On the Blessings of Friendship

I have just wrapped up a week of Youth Ministry Institute in January which is the flagship event of Youth Ministry training here at the seminary. I started it back in 1999 as a way to bring youth ministers together for training and fellowship. I brought this nutty idea to Dr. Kelley and Dr. Lemke and they took a chance on a possibility.

I am reflecting on this past week--an incredible community of youth ministers and youth ministry students from several different states, including 13 incredible students from Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas.

Friendship. Community. Inter-connected networks of people who love each other and love God. My team consists of Kristin and Jeremy Wilkerson, Paige Kirby, and Kyle Kelley. Add Vanee Dauree, Judi Jackson and others who helped to make it happen. But oh, the guests who were here. Chuck Gartman brought wisdom and friendship from 35 years in youth ministry. Walt Mueller brought experience, research and an incredible insight on youth culture. Emory Colvin brought "Grace" to life through drama. Smokey Gibson and David Nalls spoke on what it means to work together in ministry.

Merrie Johnson shared of her incredible journey of prayer and faithfulness.

Paul Turner reminded us of the technological connections kids are making. Pam Gibbs reminded us to look after the young daughters of the King of Kings. Jason Dollar reminded us that students can and do think about their worldview, Scott Drumm helped us to understand postmodernism, and Bob Stewart looked at evangelism through the lens of C.S. Lewis. My pastor, David Crosby reminded us that the church is at least partially defined by our involvement in helping the poor and marginalized in our city and our willingness to share the Gospel as we share our resources.

Jim Graham and Rick Morton, brothers in ministry who helped the YMI dream come to be are never far from my mind. My wonderful assistants through the years--Bobbye, Dana, Melissa, Beth, and of course Stephanie Wright who went to help Jesus organize heaven back in 2005. I am blessed to be in a box seat to see what all of these incredible people have made happen.

So I finally get to my point. I have done ministry in some form since I did a summer beach project with Campus Crusade in 1978. I received a phone call from a man that I shared Christ with that summer who is now on ministry staff at a church in Atlanta. Each stop along the way has given me amazing friends. The YMI guests are all from some phase of my journey. I even ran into a student this week who is from the town where my first (fifth grade) girlfriend now lives. Facebook is an amazing reconnect.

I am counting my blessings. In 2010, I resolve not to take for granted the precious friendships that have been formed over the years. From Pine Lake Baptist Church in Stone Mountain Georgia, I was taught as a teenager how the whole church can love the whole church. Each fellowship of believers,I have been part of--church, Campus Crusade, fraternity Bible study at USM, accountability group, youth ministry, running partners--from each of them I have friends who are the kind where we pick up where we left off no matter how long in between visits.

I understand why Paul got so emotional at the end of his letters. The community of friendship and fellowship is what gives me a tangible reminder of God's design for people. The love, affirmation, dependability, and laughter push away the tiredness and frustration.

I am blessed with friends who have given me their eyes to see a fuller perspective, their ears to listen without judging, their arms to help do the work, their shoulders to cry on, their feet to come alongside, their hearts to love students...I am blessed that my best friend on earth is my bride of 26 years. I am a blessed man.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, the HUGE Starbucks cup in your pic made me laugh. Flashbacks of the top of your fridge in the pre-Katrina house on campus.

    Second...every time I hear"YMI," I think about Steph. She loved working with you to get it up and running and I know you guys poured your hearts into it.

    Great to hear how the Lord continues to bless.
    Much love to you and Judi!