I’ve had the blessing to return to my hometown of Springfield, Missouri twice in the last two weeks. Once for my high school reunion and now this week I’m here to hang out with one of my nephews and to welcome a good friend’s husband home from Afghanistan. I don’t get down here very often. My parents no longer live here. My brother no longer lives here. There’s usually just not enough time to get away. Especially with trying to get The Sparrow’s Nest off the ground in 12 months. Even when I got the invitation to come down I just couldn’t figure out how I could make it work. But sometimes you just jump in the car and go. And I literally did. I made the hotel reservations on the drive down. I left so quick I forgot almost all of my hair products on the bathroom counter.
Last night I went to Millies to hear Kermit Brown perform as celebration of his son in law, Don McNeil, coming home after three tour of duties in Afghanistan. I call him Papa Kermit. I met him when I was 13. As an ex-hippy, (sorry, no such thing) as a modern day hippy I was completely enamored by him. His rec room was covered in old 35s ranging from The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Kansas, and The Who.
It was so good to see my girlfriend Heather Brown McNeil, see her with her children, and see our church family out to celebrate Don’s return. What I didn’t expect was to spend the evening chatting with MY youth sponsor.
I love being a youth sponsor at my church. I’ve learned in youth ministry there is such a dichotomy in the teen years. I love watching students grow and struggle and fight and giggle. I love to see them attack huge issues and then 20 minutes later break into a paint ball war. I’m amazed at their raw and real prayers and their all out praises but even during those times I can expect to be punched in the ribs or kicked in the shins or girls will roll their eyes at me. I’m so encouraged to see them mess up. And mess up big. But the rest of the group loves them through it and they all move on together.
My youth sponsor Bob was like that. I’ve since realized what a patient blessing his wife Debbie was. Way back in the day, they were a young couple with 3 young boys. I can remember hanging out at Bob’s house with all of us literally sitting and laying on top of each other. Bob loves to sing and he brought so many new songs to our hearts. He now admits we blew him away with our voices. Bob built this crazy plywood camper cover to protect some boys in the back of his truck while they headed out to Colorado for Trek. I don’t remember Bob ever yelling at us or asking us to be something we weren’t ready to be. But he didn’t have to. We loved Bob because we knew he loved us. We would do anything for him. Even settle down for 5 minutes and take off our baseball caps during prayer.
I got to visit with Bob and Debbie last night and even now I’m tearing up with the sweet memories. My high school years were filled with bad decisions. But God surrounded me with people like Bob and Debbie who kept picking me up and sometimes they didn’t even know it. They loved me for who I was in whatever moment I was in. And I survived and even lived long enough to thrive. And the sweet thing is they did it again last night.
I was trying to find out about where they were and about their kids but somehow Bob kept directing the conversation on to me. He hugged on me and loved on me and told me how proud of me he was. He told me of all the people he might see that night I was the one he wanted to see the most. I can almost bet he said that to every youth group kid that night, past or present, and we all believed it because it was absolutely true.
Sometimes you have to get out of your environment to remember where you’ve been, where you are, and then be spurred on to where you want to go. Sometimes you just have to jump in the car, forget your hair products, and go.