True story, circa 1986:
Allan was a high school student visiting the big youth group in town by himself one night.
He got there late and the program had already begun. He opened the door, saw the huge crowd with their backs to him in the dark room, and he got nervous. He didn’t know anybody- he didn’t know where to sit- and he hadn’t grown up in a youth group so he didn’t even know what to expect.
I imagine he felt very lonely in that moment. He didn’t know what else to do, so he turned around and walked out. He had given it a shot, but it was just too much.
As he was walking away from the building the door behind him flew open.
“Hey! Are you leaving?“, the stranger asked.
Allan muttered something like, “Yeah, I um… I don’t know anyone and um… I’m just gonna go.”
“Oh really? Are you sure? I know it’s a big crowd, but if you come back in you can sit with me and my friends.”
Allan goes back inside
Allan comes back the next week.
And the next week. And the next week. And for the next few years…
Allan meets my cousin Nicole.
Allan marries Nicole.
Allan and Nicole let me move in with them ten years later when my dad dies and my world spins out of control.
Allan and Nicole don’t kick me out even though I do drugs in their house, steal from them, lie to them, and never show an ounce of gratitude. They even bail me out of jail once in a while.
Allan and Nicole let me move back into their house 3 years later after I was evicted from mine.
Allan and Nicole invite me to church one Sunday morning, even though I’m hungover. I say no. They offer to buy me lunch if I come, I say yes.
A year later I give my life to Jesus. Eventually I become a volunteer in the youth ministry, and eventually I become the pastor.
Allan and Nicole become volunteers in my High School Ministry.
And now I’ve been in youth ministry for about seven years… and I owe it all to some stranger who I’ll probably never meet.
His simple invitation to come and sit down changed the course of Allan’s life, Nicole’s life, my life, my wife’s life, and my students’ lives.
I hope I get to thank him some day.