Sunday, March 27, 2011

A life changed

We recognized our youth pastor today for serving 25 years in the church...amazing accomplishment!  It would be difficult to imagine how many lives he's touched within that time, but through many surprises and tributes, our church tried to show him. 

Even arriving to church early this morning, it was a task trying to find a parking spot.  Noah commented that it looked like Easter Sunday with the crowd we had!  We ducked into a seat near the back and watched as the pews quickly filled to capacity.  The choir soon mirrored the crowd, as it overflowed with past and present youth choir members. 

As Doug stepped into the baptismal and looked out into the sanctuary, I hope the large number of supporters was evidence of the impact his service has made.  The rest of the morning was filled with a sweet mixture of laughter and tears, as former and current youth led the service.  A most touching moment was when they called Doug and Jennifer up to sit in front of the church and signed to the song "thank you" which tells a story of a man gone to Heaven and seeing all those who's lives he touched.  As the chorus sang, "Thank you for giving to the Lord...I am a life that was changed.  Thank you for giving to the Lord.  I am so glad you gave,"  dozens of former youth lined the walls.

I must admit some of my tears were bittersweet, in wishing Austin had been there with us in this celebration.  I know he would've been right there among the others, with that big beautiful smile and would've had one giant bear hug to share with Doug afterwards.  Though Austin only had him as a youth leader a little over two years, Doug certainly made an impact in his life.  He looked up to Doug and truly, there isn't a much better role model out there.  They both shared a love of baseball, for God, and of giving wonderful hugs.  I am ever grateful Austin had the opportunity to know Doug and have him in his life because I know he was a great Christian influence for him.

Doug and Jennifer have been so supportive to our family through the years, especially the past six.  Not being steady regulars to his Sunday school class it was a loving shock to me when the group took such great care of us after our wreck in 2005.  From fully cooked meals, to offers to mow the yard, they were there.  Most importantly they prayed with us and for us.  And this support came again just a few years ago when we lost Austin.  In fact, Doug will always hold a very special place in my heart because of his love for our family during that time.

Our pastor had recently retired before Austin's passing and we struggled with who to ask to lead his service.  Tim and I both instantly thought of Doug, because both as our Sunday school teacher and as Austin's youth leader, he held a special place in our family's lives. 

It bothered me though when I learned that Austin's would be his first funeral service to lead and I worried that we'd placed a burden on him that maybe he wasn't prepared for.  And although I know that service was most difficult for him, he could not have done a better job.  He spoke so lovingly and eloquently of Austin and shared more than I could ever have envisioned.  It was a beautiful eulogy that captured the essence of who Austin was.  At the end, Doug shared about the great hugs that Austin was known for and challenged the room to "Hug Somebody" for him.  You can click on the link to see what an impact that made. 

This morning, when a youth led the children's message and sent them off with the same phrase to "hug somebody" my arms were covered with goosebumps and tears once again filled my eyes.  I couldn't help but feel that was a sign Austin was in the room, cheering on Doug, just as he will be (much like the song) when he greets him in Heaven someday.  His life, as well as our entire family's, have all been changed because of the service and heart of the King family.  And we, are joyfully, so glad they gave!


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