Many years ago I remember being bummed out that I couldn’t go with my youth group to the Wilds for camp that year. My family just couldn’t afford it. Then my friend Steve invited me to a different Christian camp. It was much more affordable, only $35 and a can of vegetables (which would be used in a hobo stew that to this day gives me nightmares). Little did I know that camp would change my life forever. The people I met there would turn into life-long friends and mentors. I cannot begin to tell you how God used that little camp in my life. I started off as a camper, but would one day become the camp director.
So, it was there at Galilean Baptist Church Camp that I met a young Ed Jesanis would about to become the pastor of Galilean Baptist Church. At that point my friend Steve and I had become councilors known for running skits during the evening chapel service. One Pastor Bernard Whitney had stepped down, I found myself working with him.
If there is one thing to know about Ed is, he is organized. If there are two things to know about Ed is, he is a hard worker. I think we hit things off pretty well. I think he saw in me someone he could train and disciple. We formed a friendship mostly over matters pertaining to camp, but it grew to be much more than that. After leaving North Baptist Church during that transition year, Ed was willing to give me a shot at a pastoral role. Ed hired me as a his youth pastor.
The two years I spent at Galilean Baptist Church proved to be incredibly formative years. Yet, at the beginning, I wasn’t sure how things would turn out. There we were, Ed and I, working side by side in a little church in a little town. But, we got off to a rocky start. Though I truly believed we had a good working relationship coming into it, it soon became clear we had two different set of expectations. Communication was difficult and led to disappointment and miscommunication. It was rough.
However, Ed was not willing to give up one me. Though he was certainly frustrated with me, he dug and was determined to break through our issues and serve Christ’s church effectively. Instead assuming things about me, he began instructing and mentoring me. For one example, I knew very little about any sort of outdoor, manual labor. I was city boy who had never even been asked to do chores around the house or mow the lawn. Ed began to teach me little by little how to do these things. He became not just a mentor, but a father-figure. Not only was I inexperienced, I was lazy. Ed wasn’t afraid to call me out on this and push me to limits I didn’t know possible. I began to learn simple life skills that would stay with me even today. As a young Timothy, he was my Paul. We soon began to overcome our earlier difficulties and rekindle that friendship.
Ed was also a great encourager. He rode me pretty hard but also gave praise liberally. Any progress I made was noted and appreciated. in the midst of discouragement, he was a listening ear and a great fountain of practical wisdom and advice. Ed just had a way of making things happen, even when I didn’t think it possible. I think we made a good team in that respect. I had these crazy ideas and he had the wisdom to know how to make them happen, and even more importantly, if to make them happen. He also always spoke well of my preaching and gave me plenty of opportunities to get behind the pulpit. He was truly equipping me for the work of the ministry.
The memory that will forever live in my mind involved my first birthday away from home. There I was living in the church parsonage, feeling incredibly lonely. It was my birthday, and no one had remembered (this was before facebook). No card in the mail. No phone calls. No one at work even had a clue. I just felt depressed. What made it worse was that I was sure I did something stupid and would soon get in trouble with Pastor Jesanis. I left work early that day and ran into Ed. He was surprised to see (thinking I would be a work) and told me to stick around the house later. He needed to talk. I naturally assumed I forgot to do something he had told me to do earlier (unfortunately, that would not have been abnormal…). So I felt like a prisoner in solitary confinement awaiting my sentencing. Finally the doorbell rang. There, waiting for me at the door, was the entire Jesanis family singing happy birthday with cake in hand. They then took me out for ice cream. By far, it was the greatest birthday I ever had. He cared about me.
So, Ed, I thank you. I thank you for the years of effort you put into my life. I thank you for not giving up on me when I’m sure it was a very tempting idea. I thank you for making me a better servant for Christ. Thank you for everything.