On the final evening of Urbana, I joined the presidents of several other student ministries to publicly pray for one another. The warmth expressed on stage was not feigned. Rather, the heartfelt prayers reflected deep friendships developed over many years.
Twice a year, Mary and I have the privilege of gathering with a select group of couples who lead college and high school ministries. A different ministry hosts each time. We consider these times together to be among the highlights of our year. Who better understands the stresses and strains of our lives? Who better to share and pray with?
The group was founded in 1986 both as a place of refuge among peers and also to exemplify Christian unity. As original member Jerry White of the Navigators notes: “The ground rules have always been: no business; personal sharing and prayer; confidentiality and openness.”
Our special friends include (years in the group in parenthesis):
Jerry and Mary White (18): The Navigators
The Whites exemplify true partnership in ministry. They are co-authors of several books, regularly appear as conference co-speakers and enjoy 11 grand-children. Prior to becoming President, Jerry served as a General in the Air Force and taught for six years at the Air Force Academy. He remains an active (and highly competitive) handball player. I prize their wisdom and pastoral instincts.
Roger and Jan Cross (12):Youth for Christ
Roger and Jan have spent over 35 years on YFC staff, serving in Kansas City, California and Denver. Jan operates a successful music academy in the Denver area. Roger, a very youthful 60, is a wonderfully vulnerable, kind and engaged leader. They have been very gracious in making us, the new-comers, feel welcome. I admire their love of family and desire to hear God’s voice.
Denny and Marilyn Rydberg (11): Young Life
The Rydbergs embody the Young Life spirit – fun, outgoing and inclusive. Denny and I share several Seattle commonalities— graduating from the same university, attending the same church and succeeding Steve Hayner (he followed Steve as campus pastor two decades ago). Marilyn is a former Crusade staff worker and, as such, brings many insights to our discussions. I am blessed by their contagious humor and commitment to unchurched kids.
Dal and Barb Shealy (11): Fellowship of Christian Athletes
“Coach Dal” spent nearly four decades in organized football as a player, coach and motivator. When he talks about FCA’s ministries, he uses terms such as “huddles” to describe chapter meetings and “time outs” for prayer sessions. A former marine, Dal combines toughness and gentleness in a very disarming way. He and Barb have 11 grandchildren upon whom they love to dote. I appreciate their love of athletes and their gracious southern manners.
Steve and Judy Douglass (3): Campus Crusade for Christ
Steve and I became presidents of our respective ministries on the same day- July 1, 2001. As such, we are able to discuss a common growth curve. Our experiences differ, though, in that he had served with Crusade for over 30 years. Judy is also deeply involved with the ministry, focusing on communications and the development of women staff. I prize their global vision and zeal for the Kingdom of God.
As Jerry White observed in an email message: “We have truly grown to love one another. The example to our staff has been incredible. It has been a wonderful statement of the Body.” Amen.