Expressing personal gratitude to God’s servants that influenced my life

Recently at New Joy Church the Pastor started a sermon series on the book of Philippians. Click here to access the sermons online. At the end of the sermon during the first week, we were encouraged to make a list of people to express gratitude for their impact in our lives and spiritual development. Part of following up with that list for me is to write a post about some people who impacted me who have no way to get a hold of or what happened to them. These are people I think God for and helped make me the man I am today.

Sunday school teachers: I recall no names or specifics related to the assorted Sunday school teachers over the years, but they made an impact. The first church I that I am aware of attending was Calvary Memorial Church. At that church, there is one Sunday School lesson that stays with me to this day. It was a lesson on memorizing scripture. They taught a method of memorization using turning words into pictures. Now the method did not help me memorize but it was in that class that I was exposed to the verse Matthew 5:16. The verse is one that stuck with me easily and really became a central verse to how I live my life. So there is much gratitude to whoever it was that brought the verse to my focus.

On a related note, I spent the first seven years of my education career in a private Christian School, Chapel Hill Academy. The school served as foundational to my growth in understanding God and his word. There were a few individuals that the school that took time to love and interact with a generally uncoordinated, socially inept boy who tried to be himself and be nice to others regardless. I had always known that in terms of body awareness and coordination, I lacked but always felt I could do things to defend. There were people who took time to help me in some of those areas of development as well. There was a guy who took time with me waiting after school showing me how to shoot a basketball. Amazingly, my last year at the school I participated on a 7th grade soccer team, which was uplifting and encouraging as well, in spite of my weaknesses. I remember with sports I always focused on wanting to play defense. Therefore, to all those people I do not recall who loved and taught me as a boy, I express gratitude.

Now we are getting to some people whose names I recall. I remember fondly Pastor Bruce Olson. We moved to his church when I was in middle school. Now his sermons tended to be the kind that made me sleepy and bored. However, he did show a passion for God and life. It was through Pastor Bruce Olson that I was one that really first exposed me to extend periods of group prayer.

Another person I am grateful to is Pastor Dave Stavros who was the youth pastor at Wayzata Evangelical Free. He showed love, spoke truth, and helped me stay on track in relationship with God and in growing up. He also showed an example of someone who listened and followed God’s call because some time after I graduated he felt led to go to Lima, Peru as a missionary.

The last person I want to mention was only in my life a year, but he is a person I am very grateful too. He was a staff person for Campus Crusade for Christ my freshman year in college named Matt Grey (or Gray.) I went to Mankato State University (Now Minnesota State University, Mankato). My freshman year initially I struggled on my own with broader exposure to the ways of the world with little Christian input. He invited me to a Bible Study. I still remember arrogantly stating how I did not want a Bible study that went over the “basics” of the Christian life. I believed I “knew a lot” but actually lived out little. God used Matt to draw me closer to him and set me on the foundation of my Christian walk as an adult. He only was at Mankato for a year but I always remember Matt and am grateful God brought him into my life.

There are other assorted people over the years that have influenced my growth and life in Jesus including authors, musicians, leaders, and teachers. The ones mentioned today really stand as anchor points in my life and development.  So if anyone who is reading this who may have impacted my life, I thank and praise God for how he used you in my life.

Now take time to perhaps recall periods in your life and people who helped you develop as a Christian or person. Take time to thank God for what they did in your life, helping you reach where you are today. Feel free to share if you feel so led.


5 Responses

  1. Tim,
    Some of the things you listed were a pleasent surprise. I wouldn’t have suspected Chapel Hill — you really struggled with some aspects of going there, so since I helped found the school it was encouraging to hear it helped you. I also wouldn’t have suspected Bruce Olson. BTW I have his phone number — I’ve been meaning to call him but just haven’t done it yet.

  2. Yes, there are a lot of struggles, lots of difficulties as you well know. But there is always God working. God had is hand on my life throughout. THere was good, there was bad. There was pain, there was light. It is often far easier to focus on negative. I recall one class in college. It was a class I think was called recreational counseling where we wrote opinions. My opinions were often critical, as it is far easier to write about what we disagree with, and there were many. The professor even talked to me about my “negative comments” and I explained that to him. It is important to both remember the good things God has done and to act on it by expressing gratitude.

  3. This is interesting, I have sought out many people who had influence on me. These days with the internet and facebook it is a lot easier to contact people where you remember their names.
    I cannot say that Chapel Hill would have been on my list. But, I did several years back run into a person who went there at the same time we did. This was the last trip to London on short term missions.
    Apparently, her family were good friends with the Olson’s.
    The influences for me stem from WEFC and up. Although, there was probably a lot of foundation laid I do not remember in other churches.


  4. i used to attend New Life Church in Wayzata~ the pastors name was Bruce Olson~ is this by chance the same person~ he and i were good friends and i would love to reconnect with him~
    thank you~ sincerely ~ tori 🙂

  5. yes, it was

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