So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already… Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus… – 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 16-18
– photos courtesy of David and Karin Dale
Twenty-three years ago (October 1996) Rebekah and I packed up our household in Pensacola and moved to our new home a few miles east of Tampa, where Rebekah had been called to lead the First Presbyterian Church of Brandon.
Our children – Andrew and Naomi – were both in Middle School and our family was new to the wild ride of having teenagers in the house.
So we did what we have always done – we designed a ministry tailored to our own greatest passion and deepest need. We invited other clueless parents to join us in a small group for support, encouragement, and accountability.
We met Sunday evenings and we called ourselves POTs (Parents of Teens). The youth gathered at one end of the church and their parents got together at the other. Sometimes we just prayed, shared a few stories, cried together, held hands, and prayed some more. Other times we did more deliberate Bible studies together. Always we surrounded one-another with care, and understanding, and love, and prayer, and the powerful ministry of presence.
We grew as the youth group grew, and we grew spiritually as regular people struggling to practice our faith in the context of raising children.
People came and left the group as their children grew and their needs changed. Later we trained new leaders for POTs because most of us were now POGs (Parents of Grads).
Make no mistake, these amazing people literally prayed our children into adulthood. Parenting is not easy, but when Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” he was talking as much about the beauty and strength of life together in Christian community as he was the more individual blessing of knowing Jesus in our hearts.
So yesterday (November 7), when we saw these photographs from Dresden, Germany, Rebekah and I felt our hearts overflowing with gratefulness and love. Four of our POTs and POGs group – the Dales and the Pabsts (Karin, David, Lynn, and Ben) – met up with the teen who started it all (Andrew) while they were cruising the Elbe on the 21st Century’s more civilized version of the traditional Viking river excursion.
Andrew, Alicia, and our grandson (the anonymous Mr.T.) met them at the boat and they all had dinner together at one of our favorite Dresden restaurants.
Let me say this again: These beautiful people loved and prayed our children through their teen and college years, and they did it with such passion and such faithfulness that they are still reaching out to them today!
Done right, nothing in this world has the power to love and to heal and to encourage like the church.
It may look like a brief meet-up for dinner, but this was so much more. This is another generous serving of love, another example of the fruit of the presence of God and the power of intentional community.
We are blessed – Derek