I spent the afternoon reconnecting with my roots. In the same high school gym where I watched my first high school basketball game, I hugged old friends, some of whom played in that same basketball game. By lucky co-incidence, this area's Young Life banquet was held this afternoon. And by God's amazing plan, the emphasis was honoring the husband and wife who first started Young Life here in the Palouse, a pair who helped raise me as much as any adults outside of my own parents. When I heard this event was taking place today, when I was already here in the Palouse, I had to join the throng in honoring them.
I've been in companies that have honored this couple before. Beve and I were invited to a seventieth birthday for Sam years ago, where we stood with those who'd been affected by his ministry. Stood with those who'd been in his Young Life club. Stood with those who'd been married by him. It was quite a standing, I'm telling you. The influence of Sam and his wife on our lives is deep and wide. Sam might be have been the face and voice of Young Life for most of our growing up in Christ years, but his wife, Colleen, was its heart and backbone.
That's what I was reminded of today. A good friend--a long-lasting from then to now friend spoke to the gathered company of Young Life's history in the Palouse, a history that started with Sam and Colleen and wound its way through our high school lives right into the Kingdom of God. He spoke of their relational hearts, their hospitality, their message and their training. I am blessed...no, beyond just blessed, I am transformed by having been the recipient of all that they poured out in every area.
And I'm not alone, of course. A full room this afternoon attested to that. Sure, there were many, many people I didn't know today. There were kids who gave their testimonies in front of a large group of adults. I remember doing that a time or two. The first time I did it, I was about 15 years old, and Sam took me over to Colfax where I stood in the auditorium at their high school and told the small crowd what Young Life had meant to me. I remember how much I loved speaking, how much it energized me to feel that connection between my words and the Holy Spirit. And, oddly, I actually remember one thing I said that night: "The church I went to growing up gave me the forms of a foundation. Young Life has been the concrete in those forms."
This afternoon, among all sorts of strangers I saw several people I've known for almost 40 years. Like the boy I had a crush on for longer than I should actually admit here. As I stood talking to him, with my best old buddy, I was struck with how really old he looks now. Craggy and old. In my head, if I think of him at all, he's still sixteen. I saw other old friends from high school, friends of Beve's, friends of mine. And there were people in the crowd who were my 'kids' when I was a Young Life leader. One of them told me that she will never forget how I bought her the boxed set of the Narnia Chronicles when she was a teenager. She couldn't believe a college girl would do that, would take that much of an interest in her. It's an act I don't even remember. I can imagine it, loving Narnia as I do, but I can't remember it. And she said she and her husband (also in my YL club) still have that set, though it's falling apart now. They read them to their kids, then bought the CDs and listened to them on car trips. All because an 18 year old, who barely knew what she was doing, and wouldn't remember it later, took an interest.
But that's how it works. Just taking an interest. That's what Sam and Colleen did for us, my friend reminded us today as I sat with his wife and talked about our summer plans to spend a week together. Sam and Colleen took an interest. Opened their home to us. And allowed us, trained us to learn to do the same. And we did. We learned to take an interest. To give our lives away without counting the cost, without thinking about it later. So that those we gave our lives to would give their lives away too. And so it goes. And so it goes.
Man, I'm grateful for Young Life. I'm grateful that it was my people group, my first pulpit, my social group, my proving ground, my home for so many years. I'm grateful for the people, starting with Sam and Colleen who raised me up and trained me in the way that I should go...so that in the end I would not depart from it.