I did something this past weekend that I have wanted to do for 11 + years! I visited with one of the most influential people of my life after not seeing him since my high school graduation. PJ was the youth pastor at my church in Virginia for only a year, but he made a HUGE impact on my life that was and still is life changing. I have not shared much about my childhood here on this blog, but lets just say it was chaotic and I was raised by a single mother who had many psychological issues, and I did not know who my father was. At 14 I was court ordered away from my mother and adopted by my grandmother.
So as you can imagine, as a teenager, i had some issues. I started attending the church youth group once I moved in with my grandmother and we all got very close to our interim youth leader, Vanessa. She was so amazing- and took an interest in me. I had the pleasure of going with her, her husband, their 2 year old (who just started college- wow, i AM old), and 3 other girls to Philadelphia for a mission trip that was honestly one of the best things I have ever done. We all knew Vanessa was not here to stay, but we hoped she would be!
Eventually the church began looking for another pastor. I was very vocal about the fact I wanted it to be another woman. But, it being a strict southern baptist church, this was not necessarily an option and i was shot down. I’m not really sure what happened next, but suddenly we were visiting with a prospect in the fellowship hall as a sort of meet and greet. It was Pastor Moore and his family, up from South Carolina on sort of a trial basis. I honestly do not remember much from that day, but i do know i thought he seemed really nice.
Fast forward a bit and he was officially our youth pastor. His family stayed in South Carolina (his wife and 3 younger kids), while he lived in an apartment in Virginia. All the while they were trying to sell their house so they could reconnect as a family.
I am not sure exactly when it happened, but it was early on. PJ and I got very close. I soon realized that he was someone I could trust to talk to. He was someone that I could ask bible questions to and he would give me honest biblical answers. He took an interest in me and mentored me during his time there. Many wednesday nights it would be just he and I going to visit people who were going through hard times- so we got a ton of time to talk with each other.
On Wednesday October 29, 1997 we had gone and visited with some friends who had suffered the loss of a child. We were in his van driving back and a DC Talk song came on. I told PJ that I liked that song, and he asked me what I thought it was saying. The song, Between You and Me, was basically about not going to bed upset with someone. Here are some of the lyrics :
Since we've parted ways I've been wrestling with my conscience And I found myself to blame If there's to be any resolution I've got to peel my pride away Just between you and me ]I've got something to say I wanna get it straight Before the sun goes down Just between you and me Confession needs to be made Recompense is my way to freedom (now)
When we discussed the lyrics, i told PJ that I was really angry with my mother, for the abuse that I had endured, and that I did not know if i would be able to get over it. He told me to just listen to the words of the song and see if it spoketo me. The next morning PJ left for North Carolina to visit with some family.
At 11:45 on Thursday October 30, 1997 the phone rang at my grandmothers home to say that my mother had been hit by a car, and she was in the hospital, but they could tell us no more. My grandmother and I rushed to the hospital but it was too late, she was gone. The first person I wanted to talk to was PJ, but he was unreachable (this was prior to the days of everyone having a cell phone).
So many other amazing people stepped up and helped me through this difficult time. In true teenage fashion I sort of pretended it did not even happen. Very quickly we had a funeral for my mother and I had to deal with the fact that just the day before she died, God was speaking to me, through a DC Talk song and PJ. I could have righted my wrongs with her, and I never did.
After that I felt so much guilt. PJ came back after the funeral and such were over (it all happened very fast) and he quickly became someone i could talk to in a very raw fashion about death, forgiveness, etc. Even though he was not there for me exactly when she died, he still was the person that got me through her death afterwards.
A very short time later PJ was called to leave our church. I was absolutely heart broken. He was the only male that had ever taken an interest in me. He showed me more "fatherly" love and guidance then anyone ever had and I absolutely hated that I was losing this.
He took an interest in me, and girl from a pretty grim situation, and he built up my confidence. He taught me to play softball, and even though i was terrible at it, he encouraged me and continued to teach me. I ended up playing softball for an entire year because of him. He encouraged me to do drama things in our church.
This was huge for me because I was really shy, but he encouraged me saying i had a talent and I should not just forget that. The time I felt closest to PJ was during a youth group trip to Centrifuge, an amazing week camp. I hardly remember the details, but I know the Lord was working in our group during that time and the devil was also trying to tear us apart. Much of the group became very angry with PJ (for reasons i honestly do not even recall) and he was really broken about this.
I can honestly say that during that week I could feel his pain. Physically i could feel what he was going through. That week was the best and the worst of my life.
When PJ left our church, I was broken. I could not believe that the one person that had truly believed in me was gone. I understood why he needed to go, but I was still heart broken.
That was in 1997. Throughout the last 14 years he and I have kept in touch through emails. Sometimes they have been only once or twice a year, other times they have been weekly. But we have always stayed in touch. He has always let me know how much he has been praying for me.
He kept a promise he made to me when he left and he came to my High School graduation. It meant the absolute world to me!
Fast forward 11 years. I am now married, I have a child, I am a military spouse, I have moved more times then I care to count. We have still kept in touch. Little notes here and there encouraging each other, thanking each other, etc.
As you know, John is currently deployed and I have had many ups and downs during this time. A few weeks ago John suggested i go visit PJ since he is only 3.5 hours away. I was unsure at first, but decided to email PJ (who I had not spoken to in several months), and ask. Without hesitation, he said absolutely Amy, you come down any time.
So this past weekend Owen and I drove down to South Carolina and I was able to visit with the most influential man in my life- after 11 years. It was absolutely amazing. I realize it is something that no one can understand. But he and I have this beautiful connection that is just beyond words. I am so thankful for him and for the fact that the Lord brought him to me in a time when I needed a positive male influence the most.
In fact, PJ is now a pastor of a church, and he preached on this sunday. Acts 27 talks about how the Lord brings people to our lives at just the right time, to carry us during the hard times, to be there through the struggles. Boy did this speak to me. This is what PJ was for me.
We spent the weekend eating, fellow-shipping, and reconnecting. Owen absolutely fell in love with PJ and his family. It was amazing to me to see my boy run down the isle to give PJ, who has been more of a dad to me than anyone else in the world, the biggest hug ever. It was a beautiful beautiful thing to see.
At the end, Owen, PJ, and I went to Cracker Barrel for lunch. I left to come back to NC from there and we had a very tearful goodbye. We promised not to ever go this amount of time without seeing each other. We thanked God for each other. And I cried the entire 3.5 hour trip home.
I am so thankful he took an interest in me, a trailer park kid that had no idea what her way was. And currently his encouragement about how happy he is where I have ended up, means the absolute world to me. He honestly touched my life 14 years ago, and continues to do so today.
I currently feel amazing. I feel recharged. I feel like I am getting out of my funk I have been in for a while. I needed this. And I am so thankful that 14 years ago, God brought this wonderful man into my life to lead me and guide me. And I am so thankful he has cared enough about me to keep in touch through all of these years. I feel so lucky!
John and I are planning on going to visit him again soon. I am so thankful for a husband that knows how important this is to me.
I feel like the luckiest girl in the world! And would you believe I did not take even 1 picture?!?!? Come on Amy!
And it was an amazing trip, even if my IPAD DID GET STOLEN!