Tonight at church we celebrated Epiphany since we missed it last week due to the weather. Again, I love the light breaking into darkness images of Epiphany. Stars hang from the ceiling in our worship space. I love the image of the magi: wise men from various parts of the world who read the signs and came to worship the God who came to earth. And of course I love the manifestation of God becoming one of us in an ungodly way.
In this season of Epiphany we're also going to be going through the book of II Timothy. The apostle Paul writes the letter to Timothy with advice on pastoring a church and encouragement in his faith. In the introduction he also recognizes Timothy's grandmother and mother who instrumental in his faith.
I am mindful of the people who shaped my faith. Some are around, but many have passed away. There were a number of older members of my church growing up who played a part in encouraging me and my walk with Jesus. There was Avery Shold, Clifford Shold, Bill Shold, Arlyn Youngberg, Maurice Peterson and other men with whom I sang in the church choir in my teen years and who taught me songs in Swedish as a child. There were my Sunday School teachers (most of whom I won't remember) including Betty Nordine and Ebba Youngberg. Bible camp was a huge part of my faith formation. The DeVries family were the camp managers when I was young--and I was lucky to stay connected with them as I entered in to camping ministry myself. I remember some of my counselors when I was in grade school: Mark Samuelson, Kyle Welander, John Gambs (who was my counselor several times I believe), and Adrian Wolbrink (who after my first summer at camp sent me a letter later with a card with the "Cross in My Pocket" poem and a little cross to keep in my pocket--that follow-up was special to me at a young age). Though I don't remember the speaker's name, the woman who shared at camp my first summer helped me verbalize my commitment. Each of these people (and many more!) invested a little bit in my life and showed me what faith could look like.
I had a few pastors who were influential, but Dave Wells was the one who taught my confirmation class and encouraged me to think about ministry. I had several good youth group leaders along the way: Robert Johnson, the Sunblads, the Linds, the Kischers. As I grew older our denomination's national youth convention was important to me. I witnessed several thousand other students worshiping God freely without inhibition. Speakers like Tony Campolo and Duffy Robbins challenged my walk. At the end of high school I started spending my summers working at Bible Camp where Joel Rude (with whom I later worked full-time), Dave Cairns, Bruce Peterson and many other staff members encouraged and mentored me.
As I entered college, seminary, ministry, and living as an adult, hundreds of people of been important in my faith walk. I can't even try to name them all: various professors, colleagues in ministry, church members, and friends.
And of course, my family has been the most influential. My great-grandparents, grandparents and parents passed on so much said and unsaid faith as did uncles, aunts, great-uncles and -aunts, and cousins of varying degrees.
I thank God for each of the people (and I know I'm forgetting to name some other mentors) who have played an important role in my faith walk, and for those whom I'm learning from today.
Please share in the comments the names of people who have played an important part in your faith walk. I'd love to hear those stories.