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Two of my favorite things

Monday, August 1, 2011

On a Meaningful Reunion

This weekend, I was privileged to go back to Dunwoody Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia where Judi and I served from 1989-1994. The time there, serving on staff with Dave and Glenda Briley was an amazing time of ministry. The students, workers, and families were so tuned in to what God was doing. 20 years later, we all got together and I pulled a bit of a "legacy list" together of what the students there went on to do.

Please help me make this list more complete. I want to add stories or correct information or remember others...Aslan is truly on the move.

Who would have thought...

The funny odd thing is that none of us had any idea what God was doing. Who knew that Pete would morph into Pierre, a somewhat responsible and always entertaining part of the youth group. Or that Joe Beckler would be the Director of Missions for Denver Colorado? Or that Mark Knight would finish a seminary degree and become a businessman who is mentoring young men? Or that Joel Vestal would start a worldwide missions ministry? Or that Laura Brown would sing with Mandisa and the Women of Faith or that Judi Jackson would finish a PhD and become Associate Dean of Students at the seminary or that Kevin Miller would be on staff at one of the largest churches in Florida? Or that Lydia would go to Africa or that Amy would marry a youth minister or that Matt Ferguson would finish seminary and minister in the former Eastern bloc or that Jennifer Anderson would sing so beautifully in front of so many people? God knew that it was special and the rest of us were along for the ride.

That Brooke Warner would marry a godly man (Sebastian) and move towards missions. That Cheryl would marry Brant and they would be lay-leaders at Johnson Ferry BC. That Mike Peters would lead in ministry. That Elizabeth Atkins would marry Chad and I would get to bring them on as my youth minister in an interim pastorate in Baton Rouge. That Katy Meroney would help me lead her dad to the Lord. I baptized Dennis and he became a mainstay at DBC. That Jay Martin would lead one of the largest camps in north Atlanta. That Emily Kyle and her husband would be an important part of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan (NY). That Adam Jones would become one of the better praise band drummers in the ATL. That Brad Cox would be a broadcaster of high school football and occasionally Christian radio.

That John and Jamey Dickens would be youth ministers for a season. That Tommy Statham would take his place in his family church as an influential layman. That Troy Coons would be on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. That Jon Ballard would become a youth minister and worship leader in Tennessee. That Tom Riley would complete a degree at Duke Divinity school and serve a church in North Carolina. That Mike Thomas would serve on the staff at the First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, OK as well as Burnt Hickory BC in Atlanta as one a youth minister. That Jimmy Carter would punt for four years at the University of Kentucky (still holds several records there) and write a book about his testimony? That Clint Harp would go to Europe as part of the Camp Kannakuk ministry?

That Steven Wareham (who spearheaded a collection drive to replace a melted guitar for his youth minister back in the day) would be leading a medical missions trip to Africa? That Haley Wilkinson would become a leader of a ministry called “Mothers of Preschoolers,” that Blair King and her husband would invest in youth ministry for years to transition to collegiate ministry in Waco, TX.

This past May–two months ago--I was teaching a risk management class at the seminary and one of my guests, a real estate attorney, said, “why don’t you get a bright young associate of mine to speak? He has started several non-profit organizations and would be terrific to speak to a policy class.” On the day of the class, a young man walked in who looked vaguely familiar and he said, “were you the youth minister at Dunwoody Baptist in the ‘90s?” I was floored and he introduced himself as Ben McLeish. Ben and his family live on St. Roch and have a ministry in the St. Roch neighborhood. Turns out he dated Susan Cox in high school.

I have to add to my list the students who have been faithful to keep their “occupation” and their “vocation” in order. Occupation is what we do to pay the rent and vocation is what we do because we love God and are called according to His purpose. Kim McNamara and Stephanie Boler are followers of Jesus who just happen to be attorneys. Clay Skognes is a believer who happens to be a dentist and Russell Bailey is a faithful Christian who just happens to be a doctor (okay a bit of an understatement–he just happens to be a pediatric neurologist who specializes in epilepsy). So many other businessmen and businesswomen who have kept the order in order.

Several of the Dunwoody folks also asked for a link to the article after which my sermon was titled, “Stones in the Jordan” that Amy Keels Howell and I co-authored for Group Magazine a while back. I posted it on my blog back in 2010. Here is the link to it:


Thank you all for a powerful and meaningful weekend. I kept the bulletin by the way. Kind of a “Stone in the Jordan"


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  2. Wow, is all I can say. Thanks, Allen, for posting this wonderful blog. It really means a lot to me since I couldn't make it this past weekend. (Esther $uh.. now C@rl)

  3. Kelly Cushing Clements reminded me of Rachel Berry(now Brubaker) and her mentoring influence on so many in Alpharetta. Kelly described her quiet humble spirit as an incredible influence that radiates Jesus.

    Kelly, by the way is on staff at Buckhead church where she works with small group leaders. One are of focus is (of course) youth ministry.

  4. Heidi Schiller Willis sent me this message, "I"m active here in dark Philly as well. I started a prayer group called CHIPS-CHristians In Public Schools to pray for our children who are often the ONLY Christians in their grade."

    Please keep these coming. I am told that people who didn't get to come this weekend are encouraged by the reports of active ministry among a generation that all the "experts" say has abandoned the church.

  5. Thanks Allen for a tremendous message. It was so good to see you and Judy again and thank you again for the leadership you showed us at DBC. It was truly instrumental in my future life ministry. Our Spring Break mission trips to New Orleans, along with the choir trip ministries we performed, opened my eyes to the impact that missions can have in leading others to a relationship with Christ.
    I have now been employed with the North American Mission Board in Marketing and IT roles for over 10 years. I have been trained and deployed as a cleanup and recovery/chainsaw volunteer for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief to recent disasters. As a lay leader in my church, I was honored to lead a high school and collegiate team to New Jersey for a week to assist a church plant. I have also been privileged to be the drummer at our church for the past 10 years.
    Nothing brings the fact to mind that "God loves the lost just as much as he loves us", like when you are loving others in his name through ministry.

  6. Like sea billows roll, so is my overwhelming sense of gratitude for all God has done and continues to do through your ministry that so many were privileged to be a part of back then. This weekend was such a touchstone moment - and continues to warm and bless my heart -even as I type. I won't shake this soon, and am happy that it will be a tough feeling to rid myself of. Love to you and Judi - blessings on your ministry - and prayers until we get to collide again. Jen

  7. Alicia Cook Valenzano and Katy Meroney Swilley have lead the Night MOPS [Mothers of Preschoolers] ministry at Dunwoody Baptist for the last 2 years.

  8. Just heard from Brian Ling in Vermont. He has just moved from Colchester, VT to help with a church plant in Burlington, VT. Join me in praying for him. He says, "It is very hard, we need some solid real and down to earth people to help. Please be in prayer for Jan and I- our fellowship, teamwork, the Old North End of Burlington, VT, our kids and the blues."

    Brian, I will.

  9. Laura Cooksey reminded me about Aaron Hefty. He was in ATL and would come to Powersource from time-to-time. Aaron went to DTS and is now a--wait for it--youth minister at FBC Granbury, TX!