Last week, I had lunch with a good friend of mine, Kitty.
Kitty is someone that has had a hugely important role in my life since about 1990, when she came to First UMC Park Ridge as our Associate Pastor. During her tenure at First UMC, part of Kitty’s job was to oversee and develop our youth ministry, something I’m pretty sure she initially wanted no part of. Yet, over time, we “trained” Kitty & she also trained us – loving us, discipling us, & challenging us.
In so many ways, Kitty taught me what it means to live a Christian life by loving people. Kitty taught me that pastors are human. Kitty also taught me what it truly means to be in relationship with someone else; She taught me how to be present in people’s lives. Kitty walked with my family during one of our darkest times – as both my uncle & my grandma were dying of cancer. In fact, she was at my house the night my Grandma passed away. Beyond that, Kitty has played a significant role in my life since. Overtime, Kitty has become an important mentor in my life who’s advised me on family situations, job difficulties, marriage, faith, and life. In a lot of ways, she’s been the most tangible example I’ve had of Christ in my life.
For as long as I can remember, Kitty has been someone who has quietly and reassuringly spoken belief into my life. Even as an arrogant, outspoken, opinionated junior high youth, Kitty saw leadership potential in me and did all she could to develop it. Today, she still speaks that belief into my life. In fact, even as we said good-bye last week, Kitty told me, “I’m so proud of you, Jen.”
It’s because of Kitty’s presence in my life that I’m in ministry today.
It’s also because of Kitty’s constant and on-going presence in my life (for nearly 20 years now!) that I believe so strongly in the importance of mentoring as a part of my ministry. Each year, I try to mentor 1-2 girls in my ministry who have a desire to grow in their faith and who I see leadership potential in. My goal in this relationship isn’t to train them to be Youth Pastors. It’s simply to walk through life with them, speaking belief into their lives when no one else does it, and helping them to wrestle with the tough things they face and to spot God in the midst of their daily life. Because I know how significant this kind of relationship has been in my own life, more than anything else I do in a week, I believe it’s these relationships that will have a lasting impact on people’s lives and on the Kingdom of God .
Thanks, Kitty – for investing in me as a Jr. High student and for continuing to do so today.