This article marks the last month I’ll be writing to you as I wind up my ministry at Lakeview the end of June. I’ve been thinking about some of the famous “farewell” discourses throughout history. Eh, this probably won’t be among them.
You have “Luckiest Man on the Face of this Earth” by Lou Gehrig in 1939, or “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop…” Martin Luther King in 1968. I appreciate Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 farewell address to the people of Illinois when he left for his inauguration; “My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting…Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
Perhaps the most important of all was Jesus’ farewell discourse in John 14-17 which left us with hopeful messages of forgiveness, freedom, salvation, and mission.
It was May of 2005. Our driveway and garage were full of the treasures (stuff!) of 23 years in that home, soon to be treasures of the yard sale-ers scouring our plunder. We were headed to my first appointment, Hope, in Tucson. But the journey began much, much earlier in life. In the spring of 1972, even as I looked forward to high school graduation, my mentor, Dr. Beal, and my youth pastor had encouraged me to consider full-time ministry and, indeed, I did feel a call. I had led various youth groups and Bible studies already.
Fast forward to 1997 when I found myself pulled back into ministry in new ways, praying for others, leading retreats and studies again. God, through miraculous means and the guidance of several trusted Christian brothers and sisters also encouraged God’s call.
Now, 16 years after that May garage sale, we’re preparing for another move. Our original plan was to retire in June 2020, but God had another plan. In October 2019, I felt God leading me to stay one more year. God had not released his call on me yet. Once again, hindsight is so clear – I was to remain through the pandemic. As last year was winding down, I believe God was once again speaking, now releasing me from full-time ministry.
We plan to travel, spend time with grandchildren and more quality time with dad but beyond that, I will be listening for God’s direction on future ministry. I don’t believe retirement, means leaving this vocational calling from God. It will be exciting to see where he leads.
Friends, I truly have made some wonderful friends here at Lakeview. We have cried together, laughed together, shared meals, shared ministry, shared Holy Communion – shared life. If you have learned anything from me, I pray it is the knowledge and assurance that you are God’s beloved – no matter what. Jesus, God’s divine Son, lived for you, died for you, and rose again for you.
So it is, even as Valerie and I step into new adventures of life and ministry, we give thanks for you and your ministry. Parting is not easy, and I grieve that parting though the pain of separation for a time in this world will be healed in the next.
Thank you for welcoming us into your lives. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for forgiving me when I made mistakes. Thank you for your love and support. You have touched my life and made me better. I will forever carry with me the blessings, learning, and the gifts of moments with my Lakeview Family! You have been a gift of God to me. Please know, I will hold you in prayer and I ask that you pray for me.
Now, I commend you to remain steadfast in the faith. Hold onto Christ, who first loved you and who has given you new life. Listen for God’s call in your life each day, give thanks, and seek his will. Remember the hungry, tired, and naked who so desperately need your care and love. Reach out for the newcomer and welcome the stranger and remember when you do, you are God’s voice, hands, and feet in Sun City and beyond. If you do these things, you will be truly blessed. May the grace and peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ be with you always.