Throughout my life God has blessed me with strong mentors. Each has exercised influence in different ways, at different times and on different aspects of my life. Some have taught me about life, some have taught me how to treat others, some have helped me with my professional development, while others have taught me the simple joy of fly-fishing. Each have helped make me who I am. In some cases the mentoring involved a deliberate process of instruction, practice, evaluation and discipline. Examples include my father and my research advisor in graduate school. Other mentoring has been much more informal--learning by osmosis as I observed the actions and reactions of my mentor.
Although my father has been the most influential person in my life I want to talk about a more informal influence. One that occurred at a critical juncture in my life. Within a few days of getting married, I whisked Penny off to Tucson to start graduate school. We knew no one. But upon visiting Mountain Road Church of Christ we were quickly adopted. Ed and Joann made a practice of gathering up young students and providing a sense of extended family.
It all started with simple hospitality. Ed and Joann opened their house on a weekly basis for bible study and fellowship. Although they were empty nesters, they were in the practice of collecting kids. Most weeks saw 20 plus students descending on their house. It was warm and welcoming with goodies to eat. In fact, there were times when Ed and Joann were traveling and would just give one of us the keys to open the house.
The focus was on the Word of God. The ultimate purpose for our gathering was to study God’s Word together. Every week we worked from the Bible. Ed would have a prepared lesson. Lessons were designed to evoke discussion. Through the discussion he would challenge us to dig deeper, exercise our understanding and confront disagreements and misunderstandings. Although an elder and able-bible-scholar he was slow to force his knowledge on us, rather he encouraged us to think, question and discover.
That which was not spoken is what spoke most loudly. I learned a lot from Ed and Joann’s teaching, but I learned more just observing their actions. They spoke with their time. Ed and Joann genuinely cared for Penny and I. They cared enough to invest their time and talent in us. This got my attention. They spoke with their marriage. They modeled a marriage grounded in God. How they talked about each other, how they responded to one another, their funny and serious life stories all provided a model that Penny and I could relate to and wanted to emulate. They spoke through a servant’s heart. Although a vice-president of a very large defense contractor, Ed was much more comfortable serving in the church and community. Most importantly, he and Joann spoke through their faith. Their faith was evident in every action they took, in the way they treated others and in the priorities that they set for their lives.
God placed Ed and Joann in our lives at a critical juncture. It wasn’t so much that Penny and I were just married and away from home; rather, it was this point in life that we were left with the decision to make our Faith our own. Would I just go through the motions of being a Christian or would I commit my life to my Lord and Savior. Ed and Joann provided a tangible model beyond that of my parents. I liked what I saw and wanted that for my life. Not that I wanted to be like Ed and Joann; rather, they taught me to want to pursue a relationship with God. Although Ed passed many years ago his passion and commitment continue to encourage me to this day.