“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
While I don’t remember the exact date that my friend Anna told me she and her youth Pastor husband Larry were moving, I do remember the feeling of loss and dread I felt at the thought that someone whose friendship I valued was moving away.
But, I remember being even more surprised when Anna shared with me where God was taking them on their journey. For the third time in Larry’s ministry, God was taking them back to a church where they had already served.
Their story and God’s grace is one that constantly reminds me that while we think we should always be moving forward and away, sometimes God’s design can be that we move back and return to places and people He has put in our lives before.
Larry and Anna have been in youth ministry their entire married lives. It always will be the call on their lives and they have willingly followed God’s call wherever that meant they would be. When Larry and Anna came to our home church in late 1996, I knew immediately that they would have a profound impact on the lives of my children. What I didn’t know is what good friends they would become to my husband and me. Having them along side us as we guided our sons through their teenage years was definitely a God thing. I truly don’t know how we would have made it without them.
For Andrew, Larry was a strong hand that taught him about commitment and being the man of God he professed to be all the time not just while on stage. With AJ, Larry was the one person who could get through to him when his anger was the only thing he could see and feel. For Dave and me, they were a couple that honored God in all they did and yet who were real and honest in a way we had never known.
And now, just as quickly as they had entered our lives, they were leaving.
Following God to the next place where He would use them.
Funny thing was, it was somewhere they had been not once, but twice before.
I can remember talking to Larry and Anna about their decision and how even though to them it seemed improbable that they could serve at the same church three separate times, that was exactly what God was leading them to do. They would be going back to serve the children of students they had ministered to in the early nineties and would watch as some of those former students stepped up to be leaders serving alongside them in ministry. What an honor and a rare privilege God has given them.
But this story could just as easily not happened.
What a testament to the endearing grace of God that He would make Himself known to His servants and that they would see the opportunity to serve Him not once or twice, but three times at the same church.
Today the thriving youth ministry they began almost thirty years ago is still the passion of their hearts and the city where they are is where they would want to be to serve out their final days in ministry. The verse from Matthew at the beginning of this chapter has always been one of Larry’s favorites. He often quoted it to the kids in youth group and the middle school ministry even bore the number 33 in its name. To see him live out that verse in his own life has had a huge impact on the lives of young people who have been in his youth group over the years and who are still impacted by the life he and Anna live today.
Not only does Larry and Anna’s obedience change young people, the parents of those young people are changed as well. My husband and I are examples of that. Because these two servants of God choose to go where He leads and do what He commands, lives have been changed and will continue to be changed for many years.
The path to the church where they now serve is worn. They have traveled it many times before, and they will continue to travel it and the paths leading back to “their kids” as long as God allows.