Looking Back in Gratitude and Forward in Faith

May 22nd 2014

May 22, 1994. It doesn’t rank up there with worldwide famous days (though for a certain Balogh it was somewhat important). Elaine Crosby won an LPGA tournament in Oregon and the Toronto Raptors unveiled their new name and logo. But it was a big day for me. 20 years ago on this day, I was preaching my very first sermon as Calvary’s lead pastor.  On May 13th, 1994 Lynn and I rolled into State College with all our stuff in a UHaul. It was a Friday. Yep our first official day in town was Friday the 13th!  We only had three children then and we moved into the Christan Church’s parsonage. I’ll never forget our first night outside….no mosquito’s…thought we were in heaven.

I had that first weekend off, so the following weekend, May 22nd was my first weekend to preach. I preached from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. Here’s a quote from that very first message,

 Do you know what excites me about being a Christian? God, the almighty King of Kings, the creator of the universe has a dream. He has a vision for each one of us. He has plans for our congregation and the church in State College. I don’t come this morning saying, “I have a plan. I have a dream. Just follow me and everything’s going to be great.” I come saying, “God has a plan. God has a dream. We need to be on the lookout for God-drawn-dreams. God-ideas, not just good ideas.”

20 years later, at the start of a new chapter of Calvary’s story, I still believe those words. With all my heart, I still believe those words.  God has a plan. God has a purpose. God has a dream for each of our lives.

It’s been a good 20 years filled with laughter, tears, good times and difficult days. I shouldn’t even mention names because there is no way that I could include every name that has been part of that journey.  But when I think way back, names like Bill, Steve, Theresa, Cathy, Bob, Pat, Joan, Kay, Dan, Stacy, Wendy, Herb, Christina, Kim, Kendel and many other staff, leaders and friend’s names always come quickly to mind (and some of those names represent more than one person!).  As people who have partnered with us, loved and supported us, you are such an important part of who we are now and where we are headed. In the last few years God has added more names to that list…and I am anticipating that it won’t stop.  That’s one of the amazing themes of the last 20 years, the people that God draws to Calvary. So amazing.

As I look back I remember our first unity service at Eisenhower. 12 congregations packed the place out and it was so good. I remember Bless the Fest, and Lighthouses of Prayer.

I remember people sitting in the aisles at 1250 University Drive and the first Sunday we were at the North High School auditorium. I remember mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Estonia and Myanmar. I remember packing a semi with food for Muslims in Somalia. I remember praying with people to receive Christ and praying with people to receive grace in the midst of hard times. I remember preaching at Stacy Yackeren’s funeral filled with young people from State High. I could go on and on.  I really could.

For me most importantly, I remember the way that my family has grown, my kids have met God, grown and been loved here. Even though Calvary has grown from 300 to 1500+, you have been our family.

The last twenty years have been filled with God-stories of live’s changed, people served, and people coming to know Christ.  Today as I look back I can’t help but wonder what God will do in us and through us in the next 20 years? Whether you were here years before I came, or you came years after I was here… thank you. It’s one thing to go hard after a great cause. It’s one thing to be part of a great community. But there is simply nothing like being part of a great community that goes after a great cause.

Lynn and I can’t imagine being part of a greater community or a greater cause.