Wednesday nights (with the exception of Friday Family nights) are probably one of my favorite nights of the week. Every Wednesday I work long hours to make our student ministry a success, along with a great quality team. However, tonight being Wednesday, was a bit different. It was off for me.
We had a great turn out.
It was our first Parent Open House where parents can get a taste of what we do.
The games were a hit.
There was laughter.
The message was well received.
But something was off.
A couple days ago on a Monday night, while sitting in a hotel room the night before a conference, I found out that my first youth pastor had passed away.
(Paul had a very rare disease, called Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. He was diagnosed less than a year ago and was not given long by the Doctors once the diagnosis was confirmed.)
Paul left behind a wife and a 13 year old daughter. It was Paul that had a huge impact on me serving in youth ministry. It’s one of the reason I’m still in youth ministry to this day.
I remember specifically riding my bike on a busy HWY when I didn’t have a ride, just to go to youth or some event.
I remember Paul and Tammy taking me home, which wasn’t even in the same city where he lived.
I don’t remember a single sermon.
I vaguely remember our events.
Camps are a distant memory.
…….But I remember him.
I remember being at his house playing games.
I remember laughing over Round Table pizza.
I remember playing basketball with him.
I remember wresting with him.
I remember watching the 49ers with him.
20 plus years later and I’m doing what Paul use to. He knew that it was about relationships, not the program. We who serve in any capacity of ministry can get lost in the program. We often feel that we must have the best small groups, the best games, the best message, the best videos, the most twitter followers, the most Facebook likes, and the list can go on and on. But if you don’t have the relationship with the people you serve, then you’re serving the program itself.
Serving the program instead of people will end badly. People don’t remember programs, they remember people.
On my 30th birthday, my wife and sister in-law (Amber) threw a surprise birthday party. They all met in the fellowship hall of a church I was serving at.The church, old friends, new friends all came to visit. They even worked hard to make a video of old pictures, which also contained a video recording of Paul. I hadn’t seen or heard from Paul in 8-10 years. It meant the world to me!! I was sitting there and there was a man, my first youth pastor that took the time to record a Happy Birthday video…for me. I felt honored.
Fast forward 6 years and I had the opportunity to meet up with Paul as we were driving through Washington. He had actually found me on Facebook.
Been thinking about you guys for a long time and wondering how you are doing! Glad I finally found you! Drop me a line, K?
I introduced him to Rachel, and Isaac. GREAT re-uniting. I felt like we were able to speak encouragement to each other.
James! I’m so glad we were able to reconnect and get together for a few minutes today! It was great to see you and meet your wonderful family… I was trying to remember – how long had it been?
Move forward another 1.5 years and I told him I was thinking about accepting an offer at a church in Oregon. Chatted back and forth via Facebook.
It would be wonderful to have you in the NW (Rainy side;)I’ll be praying that God would give you peace and this is God’s will for you life and ministry!
Paul had helped me navigate the decision to c0me to the Northwest. I remember us chatting about hanging out again.
Once coming to the Northwest the sickness began to overtake his body, his functions, and his ability to communicate. I was told it wasn’t looking good. So I made the hour drive to visit my youth pastor.
One of the hardest things to see was a guy who was extremely outgoing and a role model in a sense, not being able to communicate like he had before, and worst, his body not working at all. We chatted and talked memories. We laughed. He would take every muscle in his body to try to smile with the biggest grin.
After visiting him I walked to my car and wept for God to heal my youth pastor.
I don’t remember his sermons, or the program. But I remember Paul Hansen. My friend. My Youth Pastor. and my role model.
His last comment to me via Facebook:
“He trusts us sometime to use our “sanctified” choice – cuz He knows that whatever we choose He can make something with it.”
This has been one of the most hardest post to write.
Goodbye Paul. I love you and will miss you!!