Joe Rodriguez, religion reporter with the Wichita Eagle, was the invited speaker at a UCC pastoral gathering in Wichita this past Tuesday.
He shared a little about himself and his career at the Eagle, gave his unique perspective on the spiritual life of Wichita, and recalled his most favorite story in 15 years of reporting.
That story reminded me of an important principle.
I can't recall all the details, but here's the jist:
Joe had this certain friend while growing up in Wichita, but lost touch with him after high school. Years later, the two ran into each other and the old friend told his story. After high school, he was so strung out on drugs he tried to commit suicide. He failed, but ended up in the hospital. As he lay in the hospital bed, wondering who he could talk to, he remembered a youth pastor from his junior high school days. The pastor took a genuine interest in his life. The man called the minister and later gave his life to Jesus. Eventually, the man became a youth minister himself.
Last night, my church and the neighboring Methodist church had its monthly junior high meeting. We eat, play games, sing songs, and have a Bible lesson. We had a mixture of church kids and non-churched kids. As we were singing, I noticed one of the non-churched kids was really enjoying it. He even complained when we cut short one song.
Whenever this group meets, you can always count on this kid showing up. He never comes to any other church activity, but he does come to this meeting. I wondered why that was so. And then something from Joe's story hit me:
How you love is how you're remembered.
Isn't that the reason the bottomed-out kid thought of his old youth pastor?
Isn't that why the non-churched kid keeps coming to our junior high meeting?
Isn't that why people still think about Jesus today?