This is part 4 of a series honoring men who have made a great impact on my life. God used them to help shape the man that I am today.
Back in 1991, my friend Nate and I were at a graduation party when the new Sr High Director made his first appearance. Before leaving, he approached us and said, “I know these guys.” Pointing at me he said “You’re Rick,” and pointing at Nate, “You’re Jack.” Nate and I didn’t know what to think about this guy but responded, “Uhhh…sure.” His reply, “Hi, I’m Bob.” From that day on he was always “Bob”. And thus began the relationship with another man of God who would have a huge role in my teen years.
Although I thought that possibly our relationship would be short lived after my first outing with him. The first event with Dave was to Six Flags Great America, an amusement park outside of Chicago. It was the golden years of the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan…Scottie Pippen…John Paxson. The Bulls had just won the NBA championship and Da Bulls mania was in high gear. Walking into the park, Dave said, “I heard that game was rigged.” Now mind you, Dave did not say it only for the few of us who were with him to hear. There was a group of “natives” in front of us who quickly and rather excitedly countered this ridiculous assertion. Then at the height of this group’s reaction, Dave pointed to me and exclaimed to them, “He said it.”
My thoughts were a cross of, “I’m dead,” and “Who is this guy?”
My time with Dave brought about many great memories. There was the David Letterman show where his golden retriever, Buddy, ate meat out of another staff guy’s mouth. Backpacking in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and trying to apply first aid to a guy’s bashed up knee while a bear was roaming around our campsite at dusk. Introducing a group of guys to Francis “Psycho” Soyer, “You just made the list, buddy.” Fleeing to his office after my friends and I were being chased by a “Harley dude” (although I must confess it was provoked). Playing ding dong ditch on him only to end up having him chase us in his pajamas. That didn’t end so well. Running full speed through his backyard, I ended up being clotheslined by an unforeseen dog lead. I was horizontal before I even hit the ground. Lying there, flat on my back with the wind knocked out of me and gasping for breath, he nonchalantly walked up knowing his game had been caught. I’ll never forget his laugh.
Looking beyond the peaks of sentiment though, Dave continued to build upon the foundation in my life. I appreciated the weekly gettogethers at the north side Taco Bell (Sheboygan only had two, north & south). Not only did it allow me the time to get out of school for “mentoring”, it provided a weekly opportunity for discipleship. Dave was one that I had the opportunity to share my hopes and heartbreaks with. When I felt like my teenage world was falling apart, he helped me to take it in stride. He helped me place my confidence in the bigger picture God had in store.
Through him, I had the privilege of taking part in some first time ministry opportunities – leadership teams, service events, leading Bible studies or giving a talk at an event. They were opportunities that helped cement what I wanted to do after high school. His role in my life helped me see the kind of person that I wanted to be. The kind of ministry that I desired to have. He was strong in character, loved his wife well and faithfully pointed to Jesus.
It was a prodigious opportunity, when years later as youth pastor, I had the opportunity to sit under his training through Youth Specialties events in California and Ohio. To see him impacting so many more lives, and now not only teenagers, but as a guy who could equip other youth leaders. I remember proudly thinking, “That’s MY youth pastor.”
Dave, thank you so much for your role in my life. I appreciate the time, wisdom, patience and love you gave. I appreciate how you helped develop my abilities and entrusted me with opportunities that shaped me. Thank you for pointing me to Jesus. Your part cannot be understated and will never be taken for granted. Love ya, bro.