In March of 1997 Mary Ann and I went with another couple to Hume Lake Christian Camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. We were taking a couple of cars full of middle schoolers to winter camp . . . and I did not want to go! I wasn't a big fan of kids back then, and if I went in to a restaurant and there were a bunch of kids there I'd asked to be seated away from them. But, we were the logical couple to go with them when one of the couples who were supposed to couldn't. Mary Ann and I were the youngest people in the church, we didn't have kids, and we were self-employed. So, Mary Ann excited and me dragging my feet, we went. In the last chapel session there God overwhelmed my heart with a brief sense of the cumulative pain and tears ahead in the years to come for the 300 or so kids in the chapel. It deeply affected me and when we got home and an excited youth told his dad about his experience with God and his plans to read the Bible and the dad replied, "That will last about a week, get in the car," it broke my last wall and we decided to keep working with these youth. It was the working with youth in the next couple of years that made me the natural one to be asked to pastor the church when the pastor left, and in the years since then (January 2000) I have been both the senior pastor and the youth leader of our fellowship.
This weekend I sat in that same chapel with Mary Ann and with some other counselors and 16 of our high schoolers (among the 600+ people there) and reflected. This was my 25th trip there with youth, and as I looked back to that first trip I thought, "If you had told me, when I set out that first time, that I would be here at least 24 more times with youth (and multiple times as a family), let alone that I would be a pastor, I would have never believed it." In the years since then we have seen youth get married, have children, some walk with God, and some walk from God. As a pastor, youth leader, and volunteer fire fighter I have been there with them when a home of theirs has burned to the ground, when a sibling has committed suicide, when families have fallen apart, and when families have risen from the ashes and grown in to God-loving, strong units. I have done weddings, and funerals. I have confronted demons, seen the sick healed . . . and lost a lot of battles as well. I have felt the Holy Spirit moving strongly . . . and wondered just where He was. It has been an amazing journey, and certainly one I never, ever would have picked or designed or thought of for myself.
It all began when we said "yes" (even though I said it grudgingly). God's plans for us, each of us, are amazing. While they may never make headlines, or get on talk shows, they are miraculous and amazing simply in that the Creator of the universe partners with us and privileges us to walk out His plans and to colabor with Him as He works in and through us. It was truly stunning to sit there in that chapel and reflect back, and to see how different my life was from anything I would have ever planned, and how much more amazing it was than anything I would have ever planned. God is amazing, and God in us is incredible. I truly encourage you, if God is nudging you somewhere or to something, no matter how much it differs from your own plans, to trust Him and say, "yes." His plans for you will be far more fulfilling, meaningful, eternally valuable, and amazing than anything you can do by holding on to control of your life.
God bless you all. Thanks for sharing your life with me. —Erick