Thursday, July 27, 2006

Closing doors, opening windows

Last night at youth church, David started the first worship song. Tears filled my eyes and this movie like sequence rolled past my mind's eye.

Eric Exley, at fifteen, putting his arm around me and panning the room with his arm, said, "You should read Isaiah 54. Look at all your children."

Andrew playing "Green Pastures."

The Poughkeepsie youth rallies where God moved is such an awesome way. Stuart. Reuben and the first real High Calling Youth Band. Stuart. The three Julie's. Student leader meetings at our house. "Don't drop pizza sauce on the carpet!"

Lock-ins. Summer retreats in Georgia. Rachel Heinly's Yo, uth t-shirts. Reuben, again. The years combing youth events with Zion, Freedom, Vineyard and House of Prayer.

Lance, Shannon and Ted. Stuart.

Jim Bartholemew the summer retreat of '93. "I'm baaaack!" The blue school bus. The yellow, bumble bus. The mass break downs on the way home the summer of '93.

Ryan, Misty, all the kids from Palm Bay High. Volleyball. Renee.

The recordings with Andrew and his band. Cassie, best bass player, Eric, Laura, Dave, Carrie.

'93 prayer retreat where God manifested Himself in a dynamic way. And continued to do so for a year.

Thursday night prayer that lead to the '93 experience. Student leaders. Teaching them to teach the Word.

Worship. The kids coming home from college on breaks and wanting to get together for a worship blow-out night.

The Exley boys. All the Giard girls. The Whites. The Badgers. The early days with the "Advance Group." Brett, Sheree, Carrie Good, Marsha, Heidi, Rachel.

Pre service prayer. The summer conferences which lead to In The Fire. Harp & Bowl. Stuart. (He deserves several mentions.) Esther.

So many memories. So many adult and teen faces. Chelle, Denise, John, the Fairbanks, Renee, Jesse, Joan, Helen, my dear brother, Peter-John, Scott, Anthony, and others I can't remember at the moment.

The School of Checkers. Laughing so hard over burgers and fries. Stuart, again!

Last night was our last night. After twenty years of youth ministry, Tony turned the reigns over to Matt Girden, and his wife Jodi.

As he explained to the youth what we were doing, his eyes glistened. We still love the youth, in fact, we are better relating to them than adults. And giving the ministry to Matt is not about us moving on, or losing heart for the youth, it's about obeying God.

Matt is the man for the youth now. He's what they need. Matt and Jodi's heart and vision is very much like ours, so they have an incredible platform to stand on, but they are twenty years younger than we are, and God is moving them into the things He has for them.

As for Tony, he is still a pastor at Church On The Rock and will continue in his duties there, but God hasn't shown us all He has for Tony yet.

I feel really settled in my career as a writer right now, but know there is more for me to do in whatever God calls Tony to do.

Tony is an amazing man. So incredibly faithful and loyal, not out for himself or to build his own ministry. But yet, tenacious about the things God has put on his heart. Some of them are incredible things, impossible things for Tony to do on his own.

But with God, all things are possible. Besides, apart from Jesus, we can do NOthing. I don't think He was kidding or being metaphorical when He said "nothing."

So, as worship went on, Tony, Chelle (our other over 30 adult leader) sat in the back. Our last night.

The end of an era. The beginning of something new, undiscovered, and wonderful.

God, my Father, works all things together for good.


Elizabeth said...

I should NOT have read this at work. I'm trying not to cry, and it's only working halfway.
I really wish I could have been there, but I know God has a purpose and a plan, and perfect timing, for all the transitions that are taking place in our lives right now.
I love you and I miss you.

Patricia W. said...

How beautiful! In ministry, we often get stuck in a rut, keeping ourselves from growing and inhibiting the growth of others. How wonderful to obey God's voice.

Enjoy this time as God unfolds before you and Tony the next stage.

Peace & Blessings,

Sabrina L. Fox said...

How blessed your church is to have a couple like you two who obviously loved your ministry.

Change is always hard. I'm finding it's harder every year. LOL.

I'm sure this is an emotional time for you both. Praying that God reveals His new plan to you soon.

Julie Sumner said...

Wow! Sitting here misty eyed as I remember how God showed His mercy and saving grace to me at High Calling Youth Church...summer of 95. My life is forever changed. I love Jesus. I have hope, peace, and joy. You guys are awesome! Thank you for giving your life for His cause. I love you!
Julie (Roper) Sumner

Heather Diane Tipton said...

twenty years is an awesome, awesome legacy. God has some new and incredible things in line for you and Tony!

Julie said...

I can only imagine your piles of treasure in heaven! Thank you for your faithfulness-Thank you Tony for pursuing me with Jesus' love even when I hid in the women's restroom b/c I didn't want to hear it! I love you both! So glad we're family!

Julie (Peres) Hayes

PS-Julie (Roper) Sumner and I have remained best friends all these years and it all started at High Calling Youth Church. :)

Jacqueline Spinning said...

Thank you, for the years of service to our sons and daughters!
Thank you, for always setting the best example to our kids!
You are a tremendous blessing to this community.

May God BLESS ALL that you put your hands too.
We love and respect you!

Anonymous said...

I was never officially a member of the youth but I did go on a camping trip the year I lived with you. Every time I see whitewater rapids I think of that trip and how much fun it was
God may not have blessed you with your own physical children but He did bless several children with you as spiritual parents

Mom of 5 said...

Rachel and Tony, I'm so proud of you - and your lives before all the youth you have worked with. Couldn't stop the tears especially seeing the comments from Bekah and Julie (Perez)Hayes. The Lord has truly blessed me through you two. Love Mom