Paul writes in Philippians 1:3, I thank my God every time I remember you. How incredibly blessed we are when we pause to reflect and to give thanks for those who have crossed our paths, intercepted our lives at critical crossroads and helped us along the journey--family and friends, neighbors, co-workers, teammates and, brothers and sisters in the Lord and spiritual leaders who have helped us grow up in our faith.
I think of friends like Mark Ottaway, who was God's agent in leading me to Christ and Mike Stevens, both of whom I have know since elementary school, again I realize how blessed I am. (Mark's dad, Lloyd was a godly man whose passion for the Lord, the church and worship has made a lasting impact on my life.) And through the years other close friends have crossed my path, men like Bruce Bacon, who was my mentor and prayer partner as a young pastor in Markham and Glen Amis who was my prayer partner in Hamilton. It's hard to calculate the number of hours spend in conversation and prayer we shared together.
I think too of men like Dr. Brackstone, my first pastor, whose passion for the Lord and powerful messages made a significant impact on my life as a young Christian. Phil Stairs was the pastor who married Janice and me; he had an important role to play in my life as I served at Emmanuel Baptist and then began training for ministry at Central Baptist Bible College. Phil is still 'my pastor' -- we keep in touch, sharing a love for the Lord, His church and the Boston Bruins. Rick Baker followed Pastor Stairs at Emmanuel; Rick is a fellow servant and friend and Bruins fan! his son Graydon is familiar to many of you as one of our mission partners.
I have been blessed by men like Dr. Michael Haykin and Dr. David Barker, professors who gave to me a hunger for God's Word, for church history and inspired my passion to serve the Lord and the local church. It was at Bible College that I met Benjamin Hegeman, a man who's passion to serve our Lord continues to inspire me; I am blessed to call him a fellow servant and friend.
I think also of those who have meant so much to me through a 30 years association with Hockey Ministries International; men like Ray and Mark and Don and Bob and Neil, Don Liesemer, Bruce Smith, Dean Prentice, Laurie Boschman and Mark Osborne -- men I served with for years, some for a 30 year run, at hockey camp. I think of 'my campers', those young entrusted to my care and the many late night conversations about matters of faith -- watching them grow up as young men who became church leaders; several with whom I still have contact today; what a blessing! And through HMI I have come more recently to cross paths with Don Richmond, a friend of Valley and ministry partner.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
I look back on the years and to my mind come the faces of some many that have crossed my paths at various points in the journey. I think of classmates, some who make me wonder, 'whatever happened to...?' I think of those with whom I have served in ministry settings and in the various in the communities in which we have lived. I think of all the people with whom we have worshipped and served together in the churches I have had the joy of pastoring. More recently the men and woman with whom I serve at Desert Valley Hospice are also among those who have blessed my life.
In all of us this, my greatest joy has been to have shared life for the past 35+ years with Janice; to know the love and care and kindness of one who has been my partner in life and ministry is indeed one of the greatest blessings of my life! Having three wonderful kids and being able to watch them grow up and pursue their dreams has also been a source of great pride and joy. And just to fill my heart a little more, I've been blessed over the past 15 years by two four-legged friends -- it's been four years now since we had to say good-bye to Shady -- I still miss her but we're grateful to have Chara in our home!
As I head out on my break, my last thought in writing this posting are words of gratitude to you, are friends at Valley: I share with you these words from the Apostle Paul: We always thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
Thanks for sharing the last ten years of the journey together!