I have been thinking about the biggest influences in my life. Sometimes those people did not even know the impact they had on me. Others I have had a long relationship and their impact is undeniable. But I have put together a short list of the people who have had the biggest influence on my life and especially my walk with Christ.
1. My Parents – they taught me about Jesus, took me to Church and have encouraged me every step of my journey. They have not only had an impact on my life but also the lives of my children. I am thankful to have been raised in a Christian home by two wonderful people. I am also thankful for the unconditional love they have shown me through my unbelievably stupid teenage decisions and my failures even as an adult.
2. Virginia Vannice – She was my 5th & 6th grade Sunday School teach at Woodland Heights Christian Church. She scared me to death but taught me to trust my Bible, read my Bible and memorize it. Many of my foundational beliefs were formed in that tiny room downstairs by a woman who taught with an iron fist and a marshmallow heart. I thank God for women like her who teach children week after week, month after month and year after year.
3. Dan Booth – One of my high school youth group sponsors. He taught me that it is okay to laugh as a Christian. He was the perfect balance to Virginia. She was strict and serious and he was happy and fun. I watch him as an adult suffer through the loss of a teenage daughter and still hold onto his faith. I have seen him make bold decisions for Christ while continuing to teach and lead. I am thankful for anyone who helps to serve with teenagers in youth groups all over this country. Teens are not always an easy group to love and serve and I am thankful for those who do it.
4. My Preachers through the years. – Jack Austin taught me a love for great preaching. Ben Wilson taught me to love the words of the Bible. Larry showed me a huge heart for Christ. There were others through the years who preached and impacted my life. For some it was one sermon while for others it was a little longer, but they also had an impact on my life. I continually thank God for the preachers I get to hear in person, on the radio and in podcasts. They have shaped my faith with their words and their lives.
5. An Unkown Woman. – My best friend died on a Sunday morning in 1990. After I received the phone call I drove to Church and told my parents. Everyone quickly heard the story and tried to comfort me. Most people said really stupid stuff. Some of it was almost hurtful. One woman, who was the wife of our youth ministry intern, came and sat down beside me. She wrapped her arms around me and kissed me on the check and sat quietly. Finally she whispered in my ear. “Jesus loves you and I love you.” Those words carried me through a funeral that ripped my heart out, then through a year of near depression and finally into a faith that I still have in dark times today.
Later I found out that when she was in Bible college a van wrecked and killed her best friend. She knew the pain and quietly calmed my soul. I do not know her name but her words still help me to remember the basics of faith – Jesus loves me and other people care about me too.
I thank God for the people He has sent into my life that have touched me in a profound way through a word, a card or some small way.
Andy Stanley tells of the Church he leads surveying numerous people to see what they felt helped grow their faith. They came up with 5 similar responses with one of them being “Providential People.” Those are people God sent into our lives who shaped and molded in one time acts or through years of teaching. I know this to be true through personal experience. I thank God for the people He has sent into my life. I hope you would take time to thank Him for the people in your life. I ask God for more willing parents and servants who would impact their world. I pray that you would “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” Finally, I take comfort in knowing that the impact of our lives will never be fully known until eternity. Like George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the world would be a different place without people who sacrifice and give selflessly. I thank God for them and hope that I am one of them.