This is the beginning of a strange week for me…one that I felt coming on for the past couple of weeks. This week will mark a year since I had to leave Newton and move back to Richmond. A year ago was my last sermon, my last Sunday and my last visit with the youth. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it and still not sure really. My emotions are on a roller coaster. Today, I share some of those emotions with the youth.
The above photo was taken exactly a year ago today (Tuesday). It brings back some cherished memories that I had with these beautiful youth. Most importantly, it brings back a personal memory of when they ministered to me, a moment that I will be forever grateful, humbled and proud to remember. This photo was taken on the last night the youth and I were together. They were remarkable. Most all of them came. The one person who couldn’t be there wrote me a beautiful note, one that I still have with me. The others, all of them, were there to celebrate five years together and to say goodbye. We joked and we played games. We laughed and we cried. We shared some meaningful moments that night, treasured moments between them me. I can’t help but remember a night seven months before this when they ministered to me.
It was November 5, 2011 and we had our church business meeting with the proposed 2012 budget. It was this day the church body made the decision to cut my position, a decision made without one word of discussion or concern shared in the meeting and a “quick gavel” to move the motion along. The only word that came happened afterwards when I was criticized for how awful my clergy robe looked due to my weight gain. Yeah, that was my morning. I do remember one report I gave in that meeting. It was a report about our youth, my youth, who participated in a wonderful homeless ministry the week before. In the meeting, I shared that I saw Jesus Christ in the youth; in the way they reached out and touched many lives to help the homeless. They made me proud.
That night, I saw and felt Jesus Christ through the youth again. I was the one who had to tell the youth of the church’s decision to cut my position. I asked the parents to be there too, I just asked that they waited outside until I talked to the youth first. They waited patiently in the hall while I talked with them and shared the news. Do you know what the youth said? Do you know what were the first words out of their mouths and hearts? I tear up when I think about it now. These beautiful, spirit-filled youth asked, “How are you, Linda?” It was the first time that question was asked. These precious souls who in the real world are called immature, not ready, and selfish, etc., these precious souls asked me how I was doing with it all. Yes, I saw and felt Jesus Christ through every single one of them that night.
I wrote my last newsletter article for the youth. Here is an excerpt from that article.
If the time we’ve had together is any indication of your future potential, the opportunities are endless. You will exceed all of my expectations for who you will become. God has given you a voice and a heart to do all that you desire from the depths of your souls. Don’t ever let anyone take that away from you.
And you have given me the greatest gift that will never be taken from me. You gave me the gift of seeing and feeling the love and compassion of Jesus Christ in every one of you; through your spirit, your prayer, your laughter, your love, and your life. Never let Christ go and know that He will never let you go. Remember all that I have told you over these years. Remember all that you have done. Remember that I believe in you and know that you will always have a special place in my heart.
To the youth, one year later….I have another message for you, a message of thanksgiving. You have made me so proud. I can’t believe six of you are graduating in a few weeks. Thank you for allowing me to be me. Thank you for accepting me for me. Thank you for reminding me what it means to care for people. I am serving as a chaplain now, with a future still unknown. However, you reminded me how to be there for people and meet people where they are. You reminded me of the voice and spirit I have within me. I could not ask for a better gift.
Yes, I saw and felt Jesus Christ through you then and I see Him now. Thank you.