Friday, June 5, 2015
That same week, the church in Topeka decided to delay calling a full time staff person and instead try to find a college student to serve as a summer youth minister. Doug called the campus minister at William Jewell College while I happened to be sitting in his office. An interview was arranged and the next week I moved to Topeka.
Doug Beyer was a gifted pastor with a PhD from Baylor and a wealth of experience. He was writing a discipleship manual for new Christians that was later published and widely used among American Baptists. By contrast, I was 19 years old with one year of college and no experience. Nothing but enthusiasm really. I showed up on my first day in cutoffs, a t-shirt, and sandals. It took me about fifteen minutes to move into my office. I had about six books to put on a whole wall of bookshelves. Didn't take long.
Doug stuck his head in and said, "Get yourself a cup of coffee and come on in my office." I thought, I can't be in trouble already. I haven't done anything. Doug's office was the opposite of mine, with books and files and stacks all around. We sat down in one corner by a little table. "I'm so glad you are here, Drew." He put me at ease with his big smile. Surprisingly, Doug didn't have any agenda for this conversation, just fellowship and the beginning of a growing friendship. I remember him saying, "Ministry is a piece of cake, Drew, and this is the icing on the cake, the time we spend just as brothers in Christ, just enjoying each others company and the fellowship."
And so this became the pattern of my summer at West Side Baptist Church in Topeka. Every work day began with thirty minutes of coffee and conversation with Doug. Sometimes we talked shop. Other days we never touched on ministry stuff. Sometimes we prayed, sometimes we celebrated what God was doing in the church. I knew he was busy, that he was anxious to get to his studies, that he had a far more demanding job than I did, but every morning there was his smiling face. What a gift he gave to me.
I have lots of wonderful memories of my summer in Topeka, great times with the youth, a camping trip to Colorado, a couple of terrific retreats, leading Bible studies, starting a drama team, playing a lot of football and basketball with the kids. I also preached two Sundays. It was a great summer of ministry.
But what I treasure the most is the memory of those first thirty minutes each morning with a gifted and busy pastor who took the time to befriend and encourage a eager young kid just getting started.
So, yesterday I took out some stationary and wrote a note to my friend, Doug, who now lives in an assisted living facility in California. I caught him up on where I'm serving now and thanked him again for his encouragement and kindness to me so long ago. I also wrote that we had welcomed a new summer ministry intern last week here at Memorial, Ross Tarpley. I told Doug that I would do my best to welcome and encourage Ross as he had encouraged me, paying it forward, and I will. It's no trouble really. Actually, it's the icing on the cake.