On a misty, dark, early morning twenty-two years ago, I was starting on a trip to Kansas City for a meeting. As I turned on 21st street from Andover Road and drove east toward the Andover Turnpike entrance, the foggy and cold February weather closed in. Peering through the darkness I saw, in the distance, a blue light. As I drove closer the light gradually came into focus and the word “HOPE” cut through the night.
This was the Hope Community Church sign. I thought, as I drove by, how unique that sign really was. Here I was, a traveler on his way, and that sign beckoned me with a positive message. I thought it was a cool message in the early morning winter mist.
Twenty-two years later I am wrapping up my time on staff at that very same Hope church. I have seen Hope shine over the years as a beacon to many people in need. Hope has been an inviting place, a place of refuge and healing. It has been a spiritual family for many people, a place where faith begins and is found to be real. Hope has helped many who were struggling, such as survivors from the tornados in Andover and Joplin, floods in Augusta and Wagon Wheel, the Siri Lanka tsunami, refugees in Syria, and many other life calamities.
Hope has been a beacon to many because it is a church founded on unashamed love of Jesus and the teachings of the Word of God. The centrality of the Bible has marked Hope, and helped it remain strong in the always changing spiritual climate. As a result, Hope has welcomed the needy and broken, and shepherded so many toward Jesus.
I came to Hope so many years ago as a former senior pastor who had left his church exhausted and burned out. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to return to a church ministry. But Hope welcomed me in even though I was far from what was probably needed, and allowed me to heal and eventually contribute. Over the years I was involved in a number of roles here: fathering ministry, small groups, adult ministries, administration, executive pastor, and teaching ministries.
So, as I now exit, I want you to know how thankful I am for the time I spent as one of your pastors. Thank you for allowing me to teach and be part of the sweet spirit of Hope. Jennie and I are not retiring, but are looking toward the next chapter in our life pilgrimage. We wish to be active for the Lord in the time left that he grants us.
Allow me to say this to you: Always choose to trust Jesus. Hold fast to the word of God, and always treasure it. Continue to build Scripture into your lives, let it light your paths, and keep your pastors and leaders accountable to what it teaches. Pray for Nick and the other pastoral team members. Pray for their wives, husbands, and children. And please be a faithful people, drawing closer to Jesus.
As for me, I will continue to pray that the Lord will allow Hope to shine on as a beacon in this society’s dark and misty night.